Diet: What does it really mean?

We have all heard the word diet; we hear it every day.

But what does it really mean?

There are two definitions in the dictionary:

  1. The kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.
    “a vegetarian diet”
    synonyms: selection of food, food and drink, food, foodstuffs, provisions, edibles, fare; More
  2. A special course of food to which a person restricts themselves, either to lose weight or for medical reasons.
    “I’m going on a diet”
    synonyms: dietary regime, dietary regimen, dietary programme, restricted diet, crash diet;

In the first example the key word is ‘habitually’, i.e. making it a habit. The word ‘diet’, we believe at Body Happy should refer to the food we eat, meaning we all eat a balanced healthy diet with the correct proportions of carbohydrates, fats and proteins for our needs. However, we’re constantly being fed (excuse the pun), the second meaning in the dictionary – and this is problematic.

The word that jumps out at me in the second example is ‘restricts’. When we go on a ‘diet’ we generally have to restrict ourselves from eating certain foods or food groups. We are therefore cutting the amount of calories that are entering our body. This infographic on Bio Layne Instagram sums up all diets

‘’Diets’’ are essentially a restriction in calories, meaning we take on less calories than we are using throughout the day. The recommend guidelines for men and women for energy intake (calories) differ. Men should be consuming around 2500 calories per day and women 2000 calories per day.

Of course this will vary depending on what you are trying to achieve, however diets in one way or another cut out calories by restricting the intake of a food group – *fats, carbohydrates or protein.
*Per gram fat contains 7 calories, carbohydrates 4 calories and protein 4 calories.

Let’s say your weight has gone up recently and you are looking to lose a few pounds healthily. The following gives examples of food quantities for:

  • an additional 500 calories (2500 and 3000 calories)
  • the correct amount (2000 calories and 2500 calories)
  • 500 too few calories (1500 and 2000 calories).

The tables give the recommend health eating guidelines per gram, per day for carbohydrates, protein and fats. The example gives a healthy eating plan of carbohydrates, making up 40% of your calorie intake, protein 30% and fats 30% of your daily calorie need.

As mentioned, and evidenced by the table above, if you want to lose weight all diets will restrict calories. In order to lose 1lb a week, you’ll need to cut out/burn 500 calories a day from your diet. These 500 calories a day could be a combination of food and exercise, exercise alone or food alone. Research does show that healthy eating alone in the best way to achieve weight loss, followed by healthy eating and exercise combined.

Different diets will work for different people and – surprise, surprise – this is because we are all different and our motivation and ‘will power’ to restrict certain food and food groups are different. There is interesting data being published at the moment around protein consumption and calorie restriction, which we might discuss in another blog.