Rose: Diet Terminology

Yesterday, I wrote about how I navigate dining out. We received a comment on Facebook, and I thought I’d address it via the blog. I feel that “diet terminology” or how we talk about food and exercise plays an important role in maintaining a balance. I also feel that a lot of the words used in today’s society just aren’t helpful or have negative connotations. Here’s part of what was said:

I struggle with the word “cheat” because it implies that you’re doing something bad/wrong/unfaithful to yourself (your diet?). I also struggle with rationalizing a “cheat” meal with qualifiers like “I always exercise that day.”

Before I address this note, here’s the nutrition guide I’m following (for the most part). It’s called the “Eat Clean Diet” by Tosca Reno.


Let’s break this down.

I don’t consider this a diet. I’m assuming that Reno used that word because she was encouraged by a publisher to do so. It’s catchy, and most people associate what they eat with the word “diet.” I don’t really like that word, so I’d never echo the phrase, “I’m on a diet.” This is just a good way for me to live.

In her book, Reno uses the phrase, “cheat meal,” which refers to one meal a week in which you eat whatever you want. You could call that a splurge or whatever. Basically, you don’t have to follow “the rules” for that meal and you can indulge. However, I don’t really consider this meal “cheating,” and I see why the commenter had issues with this word. Because of our society, the word cheating implies guilt. It implies that you are doing something wrong.

I never feel this way about this meal. And sometimes, it’s more than one meal – and that’s okay. Life happens. Instead, I look forward to this meal and really make it count. I don’t eat crap. I eat something well prepared and often something I couldn’t make myself. Sometimes, my cheat meal stretches into three separate glasses of wine on three separates nights. Like Jenna, I refuse to give up this small joy, and I know I don’t have to.

I exercise on the day of this meal because I want to exercise. That’s it. If I’m consuming 1,000 calories of grease, I might need to move afterward to feel better. But I am always sure to take a day off per week. I don’t overdo it. I know when my body says stop. This is the perk of being a former athlete; you can tell when you’re breaking down.

In the end, I follow this plan because it just makes me feel better. It helps me stay in check physically and mentally. I might not follow it forever. It might be a “just right now thing.” And I’m okay with that because, for now, it’s working.

In the end, you have to find what works for you. It’s cliche, but that’s it. What will help you maintain a healthy lifestyle? What will keep you motivated? What words will help or hurt you? If you don’t like the word “cheat,” then just don’t call it that. In the end, it’s all about the mindset.

How do you feel about diet terminology? What works for you? What doesn’t? Let’s open up this discussion.