Diet: A Way of Life

Estimated read time... 5 minutes

Did you know that diet comes from the Greek diaita meaning “way of life”, the Latin diaeta meaning “prescribed way of life, a day’s daily food allowance”, and related to the Greek diaitasthai meaning “lead one’s life”? In other words diet is a person’s gastronomic way of life.


In the early 13th century, diet simply meant “regular food”. What happened? Sometime in the 14th century, the word diet changed from a “way of life” to a restriction on food intake. Dieting was more narrowly defined in the 1650s as a means to reduce one’s food intake in order to reduce the body. A friend tells me that in Italy, most of the Slavic world, and the Northern countries of Europe, the word diet is still used akin to the original Greek and Latin definition.


Why do we continue with the definition of diet and dieting from the 17th Century?

Regardless of why we may be restricting our food intake in order to reduce our bodies, join me in using the word diet as a descriptor, shorthand if you will, for your food way of life. I’ve been using the word “diet” as a descriptive word for my food way of life and plan to continue to do so for the foreseeable future. I am not “on a diet”, I have a diet. A diet is not eating cabbage soup for an entire week barely able to function at work. A diet is what you eat every day to nourish yourself.  I have enough problems as it is, I don’t need to create one with crazy food restrictions! And, frankly, I have a pretty freaking good diet, thankyouverymuch.  I’m stepping out on a limb here and revealing what I eat, what my “don’t” list includes, and what my “do” list includes.


What is My Typical Food Way of Life, My Diet?

I shop at the farmer’s market as often as possible. I often buy more vegetables than I can consume in a week (which, frankly, is a lot of vegetables). I cook at home for most of my meals. I purchase meat and fish from local farms and markets. I buy organic as often as possible. I buy humanely, pastured, free-range, grass fed meats. I adore cheese, and butter, and yogurt. Sweets, at this point in time, mean a bit of super dark chocolate and berries, or fruit salad – though I do love my flan, ice cream, macarons, etc. on occasion.  I love corn, asparagus, and potatoes absolutely drenched in grass-fed butter. I adore rice, quinoa, amaranth, and sesame seeds.  I have coffee or tea every morning; I adore honey, and (because I’m from upstate NY): maple syrup!  I do my best to have a wide variety of veggies and fruits every day, and eat well balanced meals. I really love food, and it is something that my family (like many) bond over.  My husband and I cook together, we love having dinner parties.  I love eating well.


What is Your Food Way of Life? Your Diet?


What is Not Part of my Life?

  • I don’t starve myself – I eat what I want.
  • I am no longer a member of the clean-plate club, well most of the time anyway.
  • I do not practice cleanses, detoxes, or the like, with the intention to lose weight rapidly. In fact, with the exception of the cabbage soup debacle, I had not done a cleanse/fast/detox in over 8 years.
  • I don’t feel guilty for having ice cream, wine, cheese, or anything else that tickles my fancy.
  • My diet is not about eliminating entire foods or food-groups. Though truth be told I have a very hard time with wheat (my recent migraine in response to a mediocre at best bagel with cream cheese that I had been craving for well over a week is proof of that), I also struggle with un-cultured dairy, so yeah… I have to watch it because of sensitivities, but I don’t say “I don’t eat X because it makes me fat…”
  • I do not count calories to try to lose weight (because a calorie of sugar does not affect the body the same as a calorie of broccoli), but I do count calories/foods/portions to see where I’m at with my habits. I see where the pitfalls are (ie that late afternoon snack, or two), and can figure out what to change and identify to help make my diet (my way of life) that much richer and better.  If I am ravenous one day, I don’t say “oh well Pam, you can only have 1500 calories today, so too bad, you’re going hungry”. It doesn’t work like that in my world. I eat if I’m hungry, and I don’t if I’m not.
  • Junk food is something that I do my best to avoid.  However, if it is served at a party I will have some and not feel guilty about it because the rest of the time it is simply not part of my dietary way of life. I cannot remember the last time I had fast food.


Some of my “Gastronomic Way of Life” Guidelines:
(Guidelines are subject to change, because they are guidelines and life has a way of changing us and our needs.)
1. Fill half of my plate with vegetables, and eat those first.
2. Remember that if I fill my plate full of food, I will finish it. It’s the way humans were designed, and as a member of the clean plate club or not, we will always want to not waste food by finishing our meals, and our eyes will tell our stomachs that we have plenty of room left for the rest of the food on our plates -even if we don’t!
3. Practice the art of eating until almost full, or 80% full (hara hachi bu). This means slowing down, taking a little less than you think you’ll need, and waiting a good 20 minutes before going back for seconds because you think you’ve taken too little.
4. Keep healthy snacks nearby. I’m a desk-worker, so the afternoon slump that hits around 3.30pm from sitting all day is typically rectified with something like a walk around the office and: chocolate/fruit salad combo, celery sticks (crunch = no more physical boredom), hot herbal tea, a hard boiled egg and veggies, yogurt (Greek, plain), or miso broth. I find that having a more protein packed snack is longer-lasting than a sugar-based one. If you have the choice of celery and nut butter vs fruit, see how the celery/nut butter works out. In short: find something that you like to eat that’s healthy, and keep that in the office fridge for easy and no-guilt snacking.
5. Eat breakfast! I am not a breakfast person, so this has been hard to swallow for me. I’ll make breakfast (eggs, yogurt, cereal, etc) and will eat it over the course of an hour or so. That, to me, is better than eating nothing in the morning.
6. If I’m going to have something that I normally don’t have (like pizza), I wait until I can get the best pizza I can find. I don’t settle for less. (PS – I thought I was getting “the best bagel” around, and boy was I disappointed – I ate less than half of the bagel. It acted as a carrier for the cream cheese, salmon, tomatoes, and onions! It was NOT worth the migraine.)
7. Serve myself at family functions. If I let someone else decide my portions for me, those portions are going to be too big and then I overeat and feel gross afterward.
8. Try different things! Try a new type of cuisine, a new ingredient, a new recipe, a new restaurant, a new vegetable, a new spice – trying new things keeps you and your palate engaged.

I eat what I want, in moderation, with pleasure.

Life’s too short to eat food you don’t love. Life is too short to hate yourself for eating. Life is also too short to not nourish yourself in a way that makes you feel good, thriving, healthy and strong.

Some things to think about:
What are you eating?
What is your diet way of life? How does it make you feel?
Do you have rules that you follow that aren’t working for you, that make you feel bad about what you are feeding yourself?
Do you have guidelines that you live by that make you feel great about yourself, your choices and your body?


In the wise words of Anton Ego from Ratatouille, “I don’t like food, I LOVE it”, and Remy, “if you are what you eat, then I only want to eat the good stuff.”


How are you deeply nourishing yourself?