Diet Doesn’t Have to Be a Four-Letter Word

The word “diet” can feel so loaded.  It has multiple definitions, the first being simply the foods a person usually consumes. However, for most of us, the word diet can be negative - something restrictive, punishing, and of limited duration (because you just can’t do it another day!). As a nutritionist I often use diet in context of the first definition, the foods you eat habitually, but many clients come in thinking about diet framed by the second meaning.

I do think there are different kinds of diets, and I am not referring to keto, the cabbage soup diet, or raw foods.  Instead I like to look at diets as therapeutic, experimental, or habitual. The Institute for the Psychology of Eating has described a similar breakdown.  There is a good chance in the course of working with me you might try all three. 

Therapeutic diets are used as part of a treatment for a medical condition. It could require increasing or decreasing certain foods or nutrients, changing the consistency of food, or using a different pattern of eating. For example, following oral surgery you may be required to consume soft, liquid, or pureed foods until your mouth heals. Or if you have iron deficient anemia you may focus on increasing your intake of iron rich foods. For sodium sensitive individuals with high blood pressure a therapeutic diet could be one that reduces in the intake of salt.  Therapeutic diets could be used for a limited amount of time or it could become a part of a habitual diet.

An experimental diet is something that is done for a limited amount of time in an effort to learn or gain information.  The experimental diet I use most frequently with clients in an elimination diet. The idea is to remove several foods that could be problematic for a period of time.  Eliminating foods and then carefully re-introducing them one at a time can help us determine if food is causing things like brain fog, fatigue, joint pain, or skin issues.  Again, like therapeutic diets, this information can be used to inform the habitual diet.

A habitual diet is how you eat the majority of the time. All of us have a habitual diet and this diet can change over time.  It can evolve as you try new foods that you decide to eat more regularly. It can also change based on what you learn during an experimental diet or based on needs as outlined in a therapeutic diet.  Habitual diets can also change based on food availability and the seasons.  It is natural to want to eat more fruits and raw vegetables in the summer when they are plentiful and the weather is warm. My goal for clients is to find a habitual diet that supports their healthiest and happiest self. The exact make up of this diet can vary from person to person. Sometimes it takes healing with a therapeutic diet or eliminating some foods in an experimental diet to find the mix that works best for each individual. 

Amber Hanson