Dieting vs. Lifestyle Changes
Dieting is generally viewed as a quick way to lose weight and is often adopted weeks before a special event. The problem is, the weight you lose with fad diets inevitably returns once you resume your regular way of living and eating. On the other hand, when you commit to making long-term lifestyle changes, you create a healthy nutrition and exercise plan that you can follow well into old age. Positive lifestyle changes help you to set up health-promoting strategies so you can live your best life every day.
Weight loss and fad diets
While dieting might serve a purpose, like teaching you about portion control and how to plan and prepare healthy, balanced meals, it’s often not sustainable. Restricting calories and avoiding certain food groups like carbohydrates can lead to nutrient deficiencies and health issues. Weight loss diets are only intended for short-term gains and often at a great cost.
Healthy, long-term changes in diet
However, not all diets are created the same. The DASH Diet and the Mediterranean Diet, for instance, are healthy examples of how to change your way of eating to incorporate more wholesome and nutritious foods into your daily eating habits. At the same time, these diets teach you how to create heart-healthy meals and show you how to keep track of your daily nutrient intake. Eating the right foods in the right proportions is the key to good health.
Regular aerobic activity
Dieting is just one component of adopting a healthy lifestyle. Regular aerobic exercise is also recommended to keep you in shape. To keep your joints and muscles supple, doctors also advise incorporating strength training into your workout routine at least two days a week.
The Surgeon General recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week. Here are a few examples of how you can break this down:
- 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate intensity; or
- 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity; or
- an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous intensity aerobic activity.
To help you get started, read our blog on How to Start a Heart-Healthy Exercise Routine.
Lifestyle changes need to be meaningful and pleasurable
The important factor in sticking to your healthy lifestyle change is learning about all the many benefits you will gain from it. When you start experiencing more energy and see your waistline shrinking, it will help you to stay motivated. On top of that, choosing foods and activities you love means you’re more likely to enjoy your new lifestyle change and commit to it.
An added benefit of exercise is stress relief. It can also improve your mood, as well as your quality of sleep. Just a few more reasons to keep you enthused about your new lifestyle habits. Reducing stress and incorporating relaxation techniques, such as meditation, is equally important to living a long and healthy life. Stress is known to have an adverse effect on the state of your health, so keeping it in check is key. Just one minute a day of meditation is all you need to find instant calm.
Connecting with people
One other vital ingredient in changing your lifestyle habits for the better is nurturing your social connections. Experts agree that being socially active and maintaining relationships with friends, family, and people in your community, is as important to longevity as diet and exercise.
Loneliness and isolation can affect your mental health in a negative way. Humans are social animals and need familiar connections to enrich their lives and make them meaningful. Look for support groups online and engage in social activities with other people, like joining a walking group. It all helps to keep you accountable while you develop new friendships.
It’s not just your physical and mental health that improves from positive lifestyle changes, but your social aspect as well. So ditch the weight loss diet. Real lifestyle change takes a multi-tiered and holistic approach that starts with a heart-healthy diet and regular cardio exercise.
Harvard Health Blog: Intensive lifestyle change: It works, and it’s more than diet and exercise
- Blog Contributor