What is a Diet? Does a diet really help you lose weight? Are they healthy? Why does anyone want to go on one?

These are questions that almost everyone is asking these days.

First, despite my normal advice on “diets,” I must admit that in some cases, for some people, they can help a person’s weight loss program. However, let me explain a few things.

People today get confused when they hear the word “diet”. They usually think that it always applies to a special eating plan designed to help people lose weight. This is not always the case and there was a time when the word was simply used to indicate a list of what a person was eating. Scientists would, and still do, talk about the “diet” of a tribe, nation, or cultural group. Doctors compiled a list of foods intended to achieve a goal other than weight loss and the word would be applied to that list of foods. Heck, I was placed on one as a toddler to find out what food might be causing an allergy I was having at the time.

Today, the word means a special list of foods you may or may not eat if you want to lose weight. Many of these have achieved almost mysterious status and many have their own consequences. Just witness how far Atkins and South Beach Diets have extended in our community.

Before Dr. Atkins followed along and South Beach was discovered, I’m sure you remember such exciting diets as those centered around specific foods that practically guaranteed success for weight loss. You could eat grapefruit, cabbage soup, or you could enjoy the promised effects of the negative calorie diet. Most have disappeared for three basic reasons:

1. People got tired of eating the same meal after the meal.

2. They were unrealistic in their expectations. How could you get cabbage soup when on vacation or at a business dinner.

3. Most of the time they simply did not work.

While “going on a diet” for a short period of time can cause little loss for some people, dieting is not the answer to a lifelong weight loss problem. If you are just a few pounds overweight and want to drop a few dress sizes at the wedding in two weeks, a diet might just do it, and for the short period you will probably be able to stick with it as long as you keep your goals in sight.

The disadvantage of a diet is threefold:

* The effects are not permanent or life changing

* It does not contribute to health and vitality

* It can actually contribute to weight gain

I’ve covered these topics in more depth in other articles I’ve written, and due to limited space, I just want to give a quick overview of these topics.

Most people will not stay on a diet for a myriad of reasons, and it usually cannot be adapted to a new eating style – a lifestyle change. Admittedly, some people have inherited or genetic situations that they cannot overcome, but which cause them to become obese. However, for everyone, at least part of what made someone overweight is part of their life choices, and it is these choices that need to be changed for permanent weight loss to take place.

Limiting nutritional intake or restricting access to a wide variety of nutritional options, such as in grapefruit or cabbage soups, also limits individuals’ access to nutrients needed for normal health. Eating some foods or types of foods in excess can contribute to other health problems in some people.

Our bodies are designed to function and respond in specific ways, and this includes how they react and function when changes in our diet occur. One of the effects of a failed attempt is that the body can actually put on more weight than it initially had to contend with, and may even continue to gain for an extended period of time after the program came out.

True, permanent weight loss for health and fitness hinges on three key points:

* Regular physical activity

* Residual periods

* A sensible diet

Diet if you must, but realize that for your health and for permanent weight loss, you need to do more. One last point. If you choose to go on a diet, take a daily multivitamin to help replace the nutrients you lack.