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Confused about Eating on a Diet

I am confused about what one is actually eating when on a diet and how this differs from eating when not on a diet. So many articles I read talk about sticking to healthy choices and how food brought into offices, such as bagel Fridays, or pizza lunches makes it difficult for people to stick to their diets. I consider myself to be on a lifestyle diet, exercise frequently, eat tons of fruits and vegetables but also frequently have bagels and pizza. What do you change when you go on a diet? What are you eating to maintain it?

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  1. The only time I actively "dieted" (as in following a strict calorie and ingredient plan) was the year I decided to follow the same NCEP diet that the subjects participating in the clinical trial I managed had to do for 28 weeks. Now I know why so few patients manage to stick to it.

    I consume a wide variety of things, understand portion sizes, and generally prepare and eat smaller quantities of higher-quality ingredients than larger quantities of pre-processed foodstuffs. However I don't obsess if I'm staring down at something like a bowl of Chef Boyardee mini-ravioli or a bagel. Physical activity does wonders too.

    1. The answer to this question will vary by person. Technically a diet is what you eat but I think we all understand what people are implying when they say they are "on a diet" however what exactly they are trying to eat while on a diet presumably to lose weight is different probably for every single person. My usual diet is a very low carb, high protein diet and has been for decades. It's the way I have always been and my body runs best that way so for me it's often not a choice but I will choose meat over carbs nearly 9.9/10. It's frustrating when some assume I'm on a low carb weight-reducing diet ala Atkins and I have to explain that it's just my diet.

      15 Replies
      1. re: fldhkybnva

        Agree with this. So different from person to person. What I might consider "dieting" might seem indulgent to another person even.

        IMO the best way to eat (dieting included) is with the "everything in moderation" mentality. At least as far as the different food groups are concerned. I really don't understand the whole "I'll NEVER eat starchy carbs" or "I'll NEVER eat sugar" thing, unless it's done out of necessity due to food allergies or serious health concerns. Or, of course, vegetarians/vegans who completely avoid meat/animal products. That one I get.

        My best friend is constantly doing "no carb" diets. She will very quickly lose 10-15 lbs. but obsesses about starches the whole time and is fairly miserable. After a few weeks, she'll go back to eating carbs and she'll gain back the 15 and sometimes more. I've been watching her do this for a long time and it seems kind of awful.

        Unless you're like fldhkybnva and simply gravitate toward a low carb, high protein diet, then all the power to ya! I just think when we deprive ourselves of the things we want the most, it doesn't necessarily help to curb the craving, and often (in the case of food) only makes that craving worse.

        Life is too short to eat sh*tty food.

        1. re: nothingswrong

          "My best friend is constantly doing "no carb" diets. She will very quickly lose 10-15 lbs. but obsesses about starches the whole time and is fairly miserable. After a few weeks, she'll go back to eating carbs and she'll gain back the 15 and sometimes more. I've been watching her do this for a long time and it seems kind of awful."

          Exactly! I always stress to others that my diet is my body's choice and not my conscious choice and that it does not work for everyone because most people thrive on carbs and it's very hard for them to limit them. However, it's also annoying because I do enjoy and indulge in some carbs on occassion I just have a lower satiation threshold. When I do I have to deal with comments of "oh, I thought you were on the low carb diet." To which I respond, "I'm not on any diet, today my body would like carbs, I would like this piece of pizza and that slice of cake so I'm going to eat it. Most likely I will have had enough of carbs after that and really want some meat and veg." It's amazing how confused they look as if I'm breaking the rules but for me there aren't really any rules. So yes, if I'm craving Cheetos, I eat them but the amount needed to make me full and to make me sick of them is probably is lower than others but doesn't mean I don't eat them. Same with ice cream. I definitely eat ice cream but after 4 bites I've had enough. I can't imagine why this is so confusing to others. I've learned that if I eat more just for the sake of doing it, I don't feel well.

          1. re: fldhkybnva

            Yep, me! I thrive on carbs. I've done very low carb diets before (back when I used to diet) and it never worked for me. I was never satisfied. I went out to dinner last night. I think I had 5 pieces of bread before the meal, along with fries to go with my crab cake sandwich. :)

            1. re: SaraAshley

              Beautiful, when I go out I don't count. There are no calories on food at restaurants, right?

              1. re: treb

                And there are no calories on the road, either.

                I've got dozens of these! Did you know that if you break a cookie in half before you eat it, all the calories leak out?

                1. re: treb

                  Not in my world! :D but if I were to go out every day, I think they'd start to appear.

              2. re: fldhkybnva

                That makes sense to me. My boyfriend calls it just "being in tune with your body." He's like this too. Half the time he eats my cookies and pastries or will stop for McDonald's or a slice of pizza for dinner, and the other half the time you couldn't pay him a million bucks to eat anything but greens and kale salads. He will tell me "My body needs something healthy today" and he'll eat fruit and carrots for several hours and feel great.

                He has this whole theory about our bodies needing certain foods at certain times, that one diet never fits all, etc. He likes to talk about this a lot, lol. But I do get what he's saying and where he's coming from.

                I think you are lucky in that you can satisfy your craving in a few bites. I'm usually the same way. I don't think most people have that--if they go out to the store to get a box of cookies, they have to eat several servings to satisfy the craving.

                P.S. Cheetos rule.

                1. re: fldhkybnva

                  Several years ago, I bought a book by David Kessler, the former commissioner of the FDA. Turns out he's been struggling with weight/overeating all his life. About 2 pages in, he was talking about giving in to temptation and eating A cookie. A single cookie.

                  I still have the book and I've tried to read it several times but I've never been able to get past that paragraph. That's not a food problem to someone who can inhale an entire package of Pepperidge Farm cookies.

                  I'm an all-or-nothing kind of person. I just don't do moderation very well. Much easier for me to not start than to stop. I guess that gives credence to the addiction theory.

                  1. re: Just Visiting

                    "About 2 pages in, he was talking about giving in to temptation and eating A cookie. A single cookie."

                    This. It drives me nuts. I had a very close girl friend I've known since kindergarten... A couple years ago she began obsessing about food, calories, sugar, fats, etc. She'd entered eating disorder territory. All she would call me to chat about was food. How she "SOOOO WANTS TO EAT A COOKIE BUT OMG I'LL GET FAT."

                    It was like that all the time. This is an Ivy League educated woman... I just couldn't take it anymore. I spent several months dodging calls and occasionally urging her to seek help but she just didn't get it. It was unfortunate but I felt like I had to end a 20+ year friendship over this.

                    And yes, I told her often to just "eat the f*cking cookie."

                    1. re: nothingswrong

                      As long it is maybe once a week, I'll have a cookie or two, or maybe a scoop of ice cream. I drink soda maybe twice a week.

                      1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                        Interesting, I get a craving to eat some ice cream about once every 3 months. The thing is I'll eat it knowing I'm going to get sick as a dog, a lactose thing, then be satisfied. Although, my guts need to recover for at least two days.

                        1. re: treb

                          Just keep some Lactaid pills around for those occasions.

                          1. re: kitchengardengal

                            Lol, yes, this.

                            Although I was very lactose intolerant from age 13 to my mid-20s, and Lactaid didn't necessarily help. It would help with some of the cramping, but not with the *ahem* other side effects.

                            The other obvious option would be non-dairy ice creams. I never particularly liked the soy-based ones, though Tofutti Cuties (the little ice cream sandwiches) are really good. I know people who eat them voluntarily over cow-based ice creams.

                            Rice, almond, and coconut-based ice creams are superior IMO.

                            And the BEST non-dairy ice cream substitute I ever found in 10+ years of testing was Haagen Dazs Chocolate Sorbet. It is so rich and to me, very creamy. There were a couple years where I'd eat a scoop on a sugar cone every single night after dinner. If you ever see it in the grocery store, give it a try.

                            1. re: nothingswrong

                              I'm non-dairy as well (small tastes, fine, bowl of ice cream = problem)
                              And Coconut Bliss ice cream is my weakness.....i swear its better than regular ice cream! And if you can find talenti gelato brand their blood orange sorbetto is to die for.

                              1. re: Ttrockwood

                                I will look out for the blood orange sorbetto. That sounds delicious!

                                I somehow "outgrew" my severe lactose intolerance. Today I can do small amounts of dairy but a bowl of ice cream, a milkshake, or heavy cream sauces would kill me.

                                I can do some whipped cream if eaten with something bready (like with a cake). Or some lower-moisture cheese with crackers. Something about eating it with starch seems to sit better (???).

                                My gastroenterologist is lactose intolerant and told me that good aged cheddars are naturally low enough in lactose that they pose no problem. I haven't had the balls to try it, but just passing the info along :)

            2. I'm not a big fan of "dieting" because that implies you are just doing it temporarily. Which I guess you are to lose the weight. When I decided to make a lifestyle change and lose weight, I restricted calories.... not to a crazy amount... 1200-1300 at first, then 1400-1500 a bit later on. For me to maintain my weight (not lose, not gain), I'm in the 1900-2000 calorie range, not counting exercise.

              While in "weight loss mode", I didn't cut out much, but weekly pizza lunches weren't really an option if I wanted to lose at the rate I wanted to lose at. Now that I'm maintaining where I'm at (well at the moment trying to lose the few pounds I gained over the holidays, but not in any hurry), things like pizza and bagels are fine to eat occasionally.

              If you think of it like a bank account... when you're "saving up" for something, you can't spend as much, right? But once you've saved up what you want, you can spend a bit more again. Exercise is sort of like having a second source of income... gives you more money to spend. So if you exercise a lot, you can eat more things like pizza or bagels or whatever.

              ETA: People who approach losing weight as a temporary thing, are the ones who gain it back. They try these crazy restricted diets, lose what they want, but when they got back to a normal lifestyle, they gain it all again.

              1. I don't eat anything differently on a diet- except I do try to eat more of those pesky fruits and vegetables.

                It's all about calorie control for me and I swap out things that don't "add" any pleasure or nutrition to the meal, like a protein style burger instead of regular. But it's not about carbs, it's just about how little flavor a plain bun adds. I still have fries. :D

                2 Replies
                1. re: WishyFish

                  I do try not to eat a ton of carbs. I rally watch my bread and pasta intake. I eat white carbs some, but try to watch. They make me gain weight.

                  1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                    refined grains are trash, really.

                2. I don't "diet" and I pretty much eat what I want, as in no food is off limits, but I count my calories the best I can, and try to keep myself at 1200 a day, not including any alcoholic beverages I may consume. Some days I might go a little over, some days I might be a little under, but I feel even trying to adhere to a certain limited number of calories a day makes you much more mindful of what you're eating, so you end up eating less and better regardless. I have my days where I know I'm definitely going over and don't even try to count (holidays, special dinners out, etc) but I let myself enjoy these times and don't worry about it since they're not an everyday occurrence. It's all about moderation.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: SaraAshley

                    Oddly enough, moderate alcohol consumption helps me lose weight. When I don't drink, I gain. So strange.

                    1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                      Very interesting. I will say in the past year I have definitely increased my alcohol consumption, but decreased my food consumption, and I've lost 10lbs.

                  2. "Diet" simply refers to the things you eat. You can have a poor diet (processed food, salt, and sugar), you can eat a healthy diet (fruits, veggies, and whole grains) -- the word diet in and of itself doesn't really mean much of anything. (not picking on you, but 'diet' doesn't mean anything more than 'lifestyle' -- both are generic catchall terms that don't mean anything specific.)

                    But "diet" usually refers to whatever it is you're trying to attain by eating a certain selection of foods -- low fat, low carb, low gluten, low sodium, low sugar -- there are diets for sufferers of gout, for heart patients, for blood pressure...

                    What you change and what you eat all depends on what the goals are of changing your eating habits.

                    1. I've been in Weight Watchers for a couple of years, and was surprised to find how many of the members never eat any fruits or vegetables. The average daily diet was fast food, prepared foods and big restaurant meals. To switch to a healthy lifestyle like yours is difficult for some people - WW suggests that they try a new vegetable each week.
                      To me, it's not easy to try *new* ones because I already eat a wide variety of vegetables. For others, it's frightening to go out of their comfort zone and eat good real food every day.

                      1. When I'm dieting the only thing I do differently is to cut of massive carb bombs. That means no meal where bread/rice/potato/noodles are the centerpiece of the dish. No sweet desserts, and only having small tastes of fruit. No liquid calories.

                        Other than that I let myself eat pretty much unrestricted. I've increased my fat consumption enormously but I find cutting the carbs more than offsets it. I've made my choice - I'd rather have fat than carbs!

                        15 Replies
                        1. re: joonjoon

                          I find that fat helps me immensely. Carbs fatten me up.

                          1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                            Yeah people are so conditioned to avoid fat at all costs - I find at least for me that's not the case at all. I have probably increased my fat intake at least 5 fold over the last year or two and I've only lost weight. I literally drown almost everything I eat in fat now...delicious and extremely satiating. I even butter my bacon some times. LOL

                            If you find low carbing works for you you might want to go hang around a place like reddit.com/r/keto for a while...great community.

                            Most important thing for me is that excess carb intake seems to induce hunger and lethargy. I find I feel much better and more alert when I eat less. And the best way to eat less and stay satiated has been to load up on the fat. Seems counterintuitive but it works...

                            1. re: joonjoon

                              From reading the other posts on this thread, it would appear that I'm the only person on here that doesn't really watch their carb intake to lose weight. I'm not entirely sure how healthy this is, but I too don't pay attention to fat content and literally the ONLY thing I pay attention to is caloric intake. I don't know, I've lost weight, though. On a 1200 calorie a day diet, this doesn't allow me to stuff my face with any type of food, but it certainly allows me to have a sandwich with 2 slices of bread, and I do this often. It also allows me to have an English muffin for breakfast, or whatever. And like I think I already mentioned, I have my occasional outings where I eat whatever I want, and I've been known to gorge the bread bowl in those instances.

                              1. re: SaraAshley

                                Well, 1200 calories a day (not knowing how tall you are) is about half of what is generally rec'd for adults with an active lifestyle, so you are practically on a permanent diet. No surprise about any weight loss here....

                                1. re: linguafood

                                  Consuming 2400 calories a day would result in me gaining a slow amount of weight every year. I'm pretty certain of it. I'm only 5 feet tall and currently weigh 115lbs, so this of course makes a difference. Before losing 10lbs, I was actually on the cusp of being considered "overweight" for my height. Now I am in a good range, and I hope to lose 5 more lbs, and after that maintain. I aim for 1200 calories a day, but I'm not obsessive over it. Shit happens. Like I said, I don't include alcohol, and with alcohol, every now and again comes the 2 am Taco Bell run. This is not counted for either.

                                  1. re: SaraAshley

                                    With only 1200 calories a day those slices of bread are really wasted calories. With such a restricted diet wouldn't it be better to eat things with actual nutrients in them?

                                    1. re: MVNYC

                                      I don't find my diet restrictive, though. I had 2 4 piece chicken nuggets from McDonalds yesterday that clocked in at under 400 calories. It was enough food for me for lunch and still left me with 800 calories for the rest of the day. A turkey sandwich on wheat bread would be about 400 calories, as well. A turkey sandwich is plenty filling for me. I'm curious how much food other people need to fill up. What would leave me filling deprived and hungry would be no carbs. I've tried it before.

                                      1. re: SaraAshley

                                        It's just to me bread is a waste, I'd rather eat meat or vegetables and get all of the accompanying vitamins, minerals, etc

                                        1. re: MVNYC

                                          I eat meat and vegetables and also bread. I eat everything. I have no problem admitting that from a strictly nutritional standpoint, my diet may not be the best. I like vegetables, but probably could have more. I eat plenty of meat, though. I crave meat like I crave carbs. Vegetables not so much. The only time I find any food to be a waste is if it's a calorie bomb and I'm still hungry after eating it. Or if its a calorie bomb and I don't enjoy it, but I generally avoid these types of meals.

                                        2. re: SaraAshley

                                          1200 calories a day is starvation level for me, but I'm a foot taller than you are and I lift weights pretty regularly (I'm a woman, btw). I low-carb so I don't count calories, but when I put a normal day's worth of food into a calorie counter, I usually come up with 1800-2100, sometimes a little over but very rarely under.

                                          1. re: biondanonima

                                            Yeah, the height def makes a difference. I try to stay around 1400 when I really want to be serious about losing weight, but for maintenance alone I just drop starches for a few days (of which I don't eat a lot anyway).

                                            1. re: linguafood

                                              When I need to drop a few, I cut back on carbs as well - to Atkins induction levels. This has the added bonus of reducing my appetite as well - I tend to eat closer to 1600-1800 cals when I'm in ketosis, although I don't count or worry about it if I feel like eating 3,000 cals some days. I can't imagine how petite gals do it, but then again, they have a much smaller engine to fuel!

                                              1. re: biondanonima

                                                That's the real benefit of low carbing IMO is the appetite control...when I'm in full keto mode I eat like, 4ozs of fat drenched meat and some veggies 2x a day, work out, and never feel especially hungry.

                                            2. re: biondanonima

                                              It's true about height. Even adhering to my 1200 calories, I sometimes get full at meals before I've finished all my food. My body has actually adjusted to eating less food because before I started this, I used to be able to pile the food in.

                                            3. re: SaraAshley

                                              Maintenance calories for 115 is somewhere between 1500-1700 depending on who you ask...so yeah, on 1200 calories a day you'd have no trouble losing weight no matter what you ate! :) I don't have that level of self control unfortunately....hell, I can easily throw down 1200 calories in a single meal, and I'm 5'8 170lbs.

                              2. My regular diet is healthy - lean protein, lots of veggies & fruits, complex carbs.

                                Where I get into trouble is (a) portion control (b) adding "junk" food - not stuff like chips (although occasionally I do indulge in chips or pretzels if I want salt&crunch) - but stuff like cheese, pizza, cookies. I never believed the carbs thing until I decided to greatly reduce the carbs and bam - weight dropped and my aching joints felt a whole lot better. It took less than a week. So even though I ordinarily don't buy these faddist claims (I am a microbiologist), and maybe there is no cause-effect here, or maybe it is the placebo effect, hey, I feel better.

                                So for me, "diet" means return to my normal, healthy way of eating. I drop the junk and watch portion size. As you said - a lifestyle diet.

                                For most people, though, I think DIET means a radical departure from their normal eating style. It usually means adherence to a specific eating regimen for the sole or primary purpose of losing weight. Calorie restriction is the common feature and/or a particular health claim and then you have an overlay of whatever theory appeals to them - paleo/Atkins (high protein), Zone, South Beach, etc. Some like coaching/pre-packaged meals that eliminate decision-making (Jenny Craig, for instance). Then there are the crazy diets - cabbage, grapefruit, blood type diet.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Just Visiting

                                  I think that everybody has a different metabolism for carbs/proteins/fats, and some people would NEVER be satisfied on a high carb/low protein diet and some people would NEVER be satisfied on the reverse. I know for me, I do better on low carb but I also have a strong tendency towards sugar addiction (and it doesn't help that I'm a great home cook and baker) so being pretty restricted about sugars and starches in general is the only way to stay off the sweet stuff.

                                  1. re: Savour

                                    So true. I also find that what most people can eat in terms of calories/quantity without gaining, is too much for me. Even with an hour of exercise 4x week and several hours on each day of the weekend. I'm one of those people who can look at food and gain. As Rhoda Morgenstern said to that toothpick, Mary, "I don't know why I bother to eat this. I might as well just glue it to my hips."

                                2. After vigorous exercise, I think carefully about what I put in my pie hole 'cus after busting my A** on the treadmill, I don't want to negate it too quickly. I don't consider it a diet, just a life style.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. I was overweight as a child/teenager and I tried any number of diets/plans (Weight watchers, Fit for Life, Ornish/extreme low-fat, you name it) before finally losing 60 lbs on Atkins when I was in my early-mid 20s. That got me to a healthy weight, and I have maintained a low-carb lifestyle ever since (almost 15 years!).

                                    Does that mean that I NEVER eat carbs? Of course not - I have my moments, just like anyone else. However, my concept of junk food or a dietary "cheat" is very different from what most people's. For instance, pasta and Cheetos are equally "cheaty" in my world, so whereas most people wouldn't think twice about having pasta for dinner but might feel guilty about scarfing a bag of Cheetos, I avoid them equally and consider them equally unhealthy. I can indulge in fatty meat without batting an eyelash, though, so bring on the bacon cheeseburgers, just hold the bun!

                                    Anyway, I never have to worry about weight gain (no matter how much or little exercise I do) when I'm eating low-carb. The pounds do occasionally creep on when I overindulge on carbs, though, so I sometimes go back to Atkins induction-level carbs if I've put on a few pounds. Once I'm happy with my weight again, I can relax back into what I consider "maintenance level" carb consumption. If I am exercising a great deal, I can increase my carb consumption without gaining, but only to a certain point.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. Interesting thread.
                                      I follow Chowhound because I love to cook. And I love to EAT.

                                      I'm almost 50 and I eat what ever I want. I have been a life-long vegetarian, though I recently added salmon to my diet (insert long, drawn out health reasons here....).

                                      I ride my bicycle and/or run for ~ an hour a day. I love both! Probably not so much "physical" as "psychological".

                                      I was once given a limited "diet" by my MDs (health issues) but have slowly weaned myself off of that way of eating. Too sad/ick/restrictive for me.

                                      I suppose my 2 cents is to cook often, play hard, and live well!

                                      1. I try to cut portions of high calorie foods and bulk them up with veggies. If there is pizza, I eat one slice. A bagel, I eat half. I always do this though. I have lost 85 pounds by cutting portions of naughty foods.

                                        1. Well, I'm currently on Weight Watchers (lifetime member)..it was the ONLY way I lost weight after the birth of my kids (along with nursing) and the only way I lost divorce weight. Now, I'm back on from well...just wanting to eat better. It's pretty much based on smaller portions of food cooked without tons of butter and oil and a lot less starch. You can have your sweets and snacks (but I prefer not to). Ex: dinner last night. Zucchini noodles, with a non-fat mushroom pesto I created, topped with shrimp and non-fat parm. Although WW recommends the "non-fat" version of many cheese and mayo, those taste like garbage, so I prefer to either do without or use the real deal. I lost 5.4 pounds last week. Trust me, on the weekends I'm used to an aperitif, an appetizer, main plat, cheese and a digestif (my better half is French). I put my foot down and started cooking differently..he hasn't complained. Yet!

                                          1. Eat everything and weigh yourself daily at the same time and record that weight! If you go over your "magic number", do a bit of portion control/ cut out a snack in the evening!
                                            The key is to weigh yourself DAILY!!
                                            Works for us!

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: RUK

                                              no, not daily -- there are too many variations that are absolutely normal. A little dehydrated, retaining a little water, a little constipated -- all are absolutely normal day-to-day variations that need nothing more than a little time for your body to adjust on its own.

                                              Once a week is plenty -- otherwise you'll drive yourself bananas chasing a number on the dial rather than just being healthy.

                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                Nahh, there is enough wiggle room not to drive ourselves bananas, truly. We do eat well, I would thinkā€¦I enjoy preparing decent meals daily.