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Having a Diet vs. Being on a Diet

One of the questions I am asked most often is, “can you have THIS on your diet?” This topic is near and dear to my heart because I think people are often confused by it. People tend to categorize food as “good” or “bad” with no in-between and with an all-or-nothing approach that leads to the inevitable sabotage of one’s own health goals. I am sure you have heard that 20% of our physical results come from exercise and 80% come from our food so nailing our nutrition is pretty important!

When you are ON a diet we tend to think of restricting our food intake, going fat-free, carb-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free and whatever other limiting tactic is necessary in order to achieve our desired results. What we really should be looking for, though, is a diet we can live with for the long-term that not only makes us happy but keeps us healthy.

Let’s face it, diet programs sell and everyone is looking for the next revolutionary breakthrough that will help them meet their goals. Take a stroll down the aisle at a book store and just look at the number of diet programs out there all claiming to have THE method that works and all of them contradicting each other. No wonder we all can’t get it straight as to what works and what doesn’t work! At the end of the day, we all have different bodies, different tastes and different health histories and what works for one person may not work for another but to truly have success you need to have a diet that you can maintain for the long haul – you must HAVE a diet, not be ON a diet.

Signs that you are ON a diet:

  • Restricting beliefs about what you can and can’t eat.

  • Feeling the need to deprive yourself of certain foods in order to get the results you want.

  • Labeling foods “good” or “bad” so that pleasure in food does not exist.

  • Constantly worrying and focusing on the foods you can’t eat and how to avoid them.

  • Having an all or nothing mentality about what you are eating.

Signs that you HAVE a diet:

  • Consistently eating clean, healthy foods in a manner that is habit, not obsession.

  • Everything in moderation: while some foods might be an occasional treat, they are not completely banned.

  • Enjoyment in meals that provide nutritional value – eating should be fun, not stressful.

  • Knowing when enough is enough – portion is everything.

  • An awareness of how your day is stacking up and knowing when you can afford an indulgence and when it’s time to call it quits.

What a typical day of eating should look like: 3 meals/2 snacks

I have to admit, it took me the better part of my teen’s and 20’s to figure this all out. Ultimately, what we are striving for is BALANCE. Simple, manageable fitness combined with clean, healthy nutritional habits – knowing where your food comes from, making sure it doesn’t have an ingredient list a mile long that’s loaded with preservatives and additives and that provides you with the fuel you need to get through your day. You can make the transition from being ON a diet to HAVING a diet by educating yourself on the food you eat and deciding to make better habits. What you eat shouldn’t be a daily obsession, it should be a natural habit of making smart choices. Learning how to eat for life is a primary focus of my monthly health and fitness challenge groups. If you are looking to make a change and are feeling overwhelmed as to where to start, shoot me a message and we can work together to get you on the right path!


Simply Sarah is about making simple changes in our habits to live a happier, healthier life. Food and fitness go hand-in-hand and my goal is to help you find that balance. I strongly believe you are what you continually do and never so much as with how you take care of your body both inside and out. I want to show you that there is a difference between having a diet and being on a diet (clearly you know the one I support!). Want a more personalized food plan and workout schedule? Drop me a message for information on my monthly challenge groups!

Need something more? In addition to my coaching services, I also offer pantry clean-outs, personal market tours and custom meal planning. Reach out to me with your requests!

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