Is there a difference between diet vs lifestyle?

My ugly dieting past brought out so many new thoughts and emotions. One reader commented,

The thing for me with Mark is that technically I feel like with Paleo he is still promoting a diet of is that different than going vegan?

She was right, but since I don’t think Mark feels like he’s on a diet, I responded,

It’s just not so much a “diet” anymore for him because there are no restrictions, his body is happy and he finally feels healthy. It is a lifestyle for him. I think that’s where we all should be. Not diet; lifestyle.

After that dialogue, I thought about this more.

Diet vs Lifestyle

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Diet vs Lifestyle #diet #lifestyle

Let’s break these down more.

What’s a Diet?

Diet, as a noun, means both:

a. the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.

b. a special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons.

The difference between diet vs lifestyle is, in my opinion, 100% by interpretation.

When I think diet, it’s instantly connected to food deprivation (again, due to my ugly dieting past). In this way, then, my personal definition of diet is more in alignment with the b) definition from above.

And in alignment with the b definition are these thoughts and ideas:

  • fad diets
  • fewer calories
  • short term (something you plan to only do – or only can successfully do – for a short amount of time)
  • sporadic eating habits
  • the need for categorizing “unhealthy foods”
  • low fat
  • time frame driven (i.e. “My wedding is in 3 months and I don’t want to be bloated for it.”)
  • completely cutting out various food groups, usually haphazardly

And What is Lifestyle?

First, lifestyle is actually one of A Gutsy Girl’s three pillars. And to be honest, “diet” is not even part of this pillar; it is, in fact, a stand alone pillar.

Lifestyle is, according to the dictionary, the way in which a person or group lives. This definition is in alignment with my 3rd pillar definition of lifestyle as well:

The lifestyle pillar includes movement (exercise, workouts, whatever you want to call it), stress reduction, skin and body care, and all other critical lifestyle factors that may or may not include supplements and/or medications.

So, could lifestyle include diet? Of course, since the way we live includes the foods we eat.

However, when it comes to healing the gut, I chose to keep diet separate from lifestyle because they are both major pieces to the ultimate gut healing equation, but in the equation neither diet nor lifestyle are what we traditionally think they are.

10 definitions of Diet vs Lifestyle #diet #lifestyle

Nonetheless, here are things lifestyle (vs diet) include:

  • small change, day-by-day
  • inclusion of physical activity (though, remember not too much!)
  • something you will work on the rest of your life
  • proves as an aid to increase in overall health
  • made up of a healthy diet that is created uniquely for you (not a template!)
  • hard work – it’s the truth!
  • a daily routine conducive for your healing and health
  • something that produces a positive change in your life
  • the most effective way for long-term solutions
  • a longing for positive daily habits vs quick results

The Quick Fix

Everyone at some point on their gut healing journey is looking for the quick fix and fastest way to “healed.” And yes, I am included in this. It is precisely why my past was made up of diet plans upon diet plans.

Unfortunately, I’m here to tell you that it will NEVER work in the long run.

But old habits will diet hard, so let me walk you through the steps to moving from ugly dieting days plopped somewhere amidst the lifestyle pillar to the bigger picture that it’s not diet vs lifestyle but instead diet AND lifestyle.

The Best Way to Your Main Goal: healing the gut with diet AND lifestyle

First, let me illustrate something for you:

I never went on a gluten-free diet to lose weight; instead I slashed my calorie intake to super low in order to attempt “weight loss.”

And I never went on a chicken, turkey, fats, broths and bananas diet to lose weight. Instead, a diet which cut out all high fat foods (fat in general) to lose weight.

And so on.

Can you see the difference?

I was partaking in a short-term diet only in order to suppress symptoms, which brings me to step 1.

Steps for healing with Diet vs Lifestyle #diet #lifestyle

Step 1: A diet not for the long haul

Depending on your diagnosis (maybe even agonizing symptoms), the diet you choose to follow is typically less about an overall healthy lifestyle and more about symptom management, short-term goals and healing the imminent issue.

This is a very tricky step for two reasons:

  1. What does that diet look like for you? Remember, different diets for gut healing aim to “fix” different conditions.
  2. The words to stress here: “short term.” This is meant to be from 3 days to about 6 weeks. No more (in most cases).

Thus, step 1 should really be guided in some way, shape, or form.

Step 2: The daily basis diet

After step 1, good changes are occurring. You are feeling better. But remember, it’s still not an excuse to stay there for the long road.

Now, you must figure out the best way to “healthy eating” long term for you. The biggest difference between this step and step one is that you’re looking to add in more food. Remember that, ultimately, the most important thing for the gut microbiome is diversity.

And the good news is that once your gut heals you can do this.

It doesn’t mean you would go from step 1 to eating anything and everything. Instead, it means that you will, once again, be strategic based on the diagnosis, how your body responded during step one and any help you might be receiving along the way.

But ultimately, it’s very important that you do add in a wider variety of food.

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Step 3: The long term lifestyle change

Steps 1 and 2 are truly focused on the diet pillar.

Step 3 is lifestyle, which if you remember from above, is different than the diet.

In order to have it all come together for ultimate gut healing, permanent changes in the lifestyle pillar must happen. In addition to the things I laid out above, you will need to also focus on:

  • emotional health
  • healthy habits outside of diet (like not smoking, reducing or cutting alcohol consumptions, etc.)
  • an exercise plan that’s not too much and not too little
  • healthier alternatives to skincare, personal care items, body care, etc.

Lifestyle for Healing

Remember…..gut healing is not a diet, but then again, sometimes gut healing is a diet

The truth is that there is no diet out there that was made for me. There is really no one diet out there made for anyone with digestive issues. And you? If you are fortunate enough to not have digestive issues….well, there is also still not likely one perfect diet out there for you either.

The only diet that has ever worked for me includes one that is completely customized for me, by me and has been designed in bits-and-pieces over the past 7+ years.

In fact, I did title it. It’s called….

A Gutsy Girl’s Bible: a 21-day approach to healing the gut

Remember, there will be nothing better for your healing journey than a long-term lifestyle change.

Believe me.

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:

  1. 9 Lifestyle Things I Do Before 9am
  2. 13 Lifestyle Swaps for the Gutsy Girl
  3. 21 Gut Healing Lifestyle Components


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  1. I love this post and really agree with your thoughts – I consider the way I eat, move, relax, and enjoy life to be more lifestyle-oriented than anything else. Never thought of it as a “diet” and would never describe it to others like that because of the connotations of that word too! It’s how you live – congruent with how you think, act, and what you believe – even when it comes to food. 😀 Good thoughts – thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks, Bonnie! I never thought about the difference until yesterday. And when it hit me, it hit hard. Such a great thing! Thanks for sharing, too:)

  2. Great post! There is such a big distinction (at least for me) between a “diet” and a healthy “lifestyle.” To me, I avoid the term diet whenever I can because it sends such a negative connotation (again, to me, it does) – it reminds me of feeling deprived, of having “can have” and can NOT have” lists. Instead, I try to focus on eating whole, real, nourishing foods that satisfy me but also bring me joy. I don’t have a list of things I can’t have or won’t have because to me, that’s a diet (a diet in terms of weight loss, not a way of eating like going gluten-free is). I never want to feel like I can’t have a cookie if I want it – I just know now how to plan for that indulgence versus derailing my eating entirely on any given day. It IS a lifestyle and once you figure out the right one for you, it becomes ingrained, your body becomes used to it and learns to appreciate it.

  3. I completely agree – so much of being healthy is about lifestyle change. I actually found my greatest lifestyle adjustments have been at the end of “diets” like LA Weightloss. It made me drink more water and consume less caffeine. I actually feel ill now when I get dehydrated or over caffeinated, and I have adjusted my lifestyle accordingly, ie I always have water with me.

    It so important to recognize the unhealthy behaviors we allow ourselves to develop and counteract them. That’s the best way to be healthy. It’s not about a number on the scale or your clothing tag – it’s about feeling as good as possible as much of the time as possible. That inspires confidence and relaxation which lead to looking good.

    1. Yeah, the simple cures of water! I am on a mission to 1.5 – 1L a day now. It makes everything so much more smooth!

      Love your thoughts, Rachael!

  4. I absolutely loved your post about Diet vs. lifestyle. I think the same way =) Here’s what I posted on my FB page:

    Something I mention a lot is “It’s not a Diet, It’s a Lifestyle Journey”

    “I’m passionate about helping and motivating others to start their HealthyLifestyleJourney. I call it a Journey because there’s no destination; it’s an ongoing Lifestyle that will come with immeasurable rewards!! There’s no diet involved, it’s not for a limited time period and then back to the old routine. This is about changing your outlook in life and finding the Healthy within you. My goal is to share as much information as I can that has helped and influenced me within my studies and my own personal HealthyLifestyleJourney to give my family/friends/future clients the motivation and awareness to seek their own Journey.”

    “I believe eating healthy can be flavorful; it does not have to be plain and boring. I love finding ways to be creative with my healthy meals and workouts. Your HealthyLifestyleJourney can be fun and exciting too!”

    1. Hey Vanessa! Thank you for sharing. What a great post to put on your FB page. It’s definitely a journey! Love the great thoughts….

  5. great post! i am with you on there is no real diet for me. just a lifestyle. i eat the way i do because i want to and it makes me feel good. i hate the word diet 😉

  6. The only diet that has ever worked for me includes one that is completely customized for me, by me and has been designed in bits-and-pieces over the past 7+ years. And because that diet now includes my primary foods, it has become the most perfect diet ever, which I have titled:

    Sarah, that says it above. Like you, over the many many years I have been at this, I have found what works for me. Yes, I have changed it as well over time depending on my body & hormones & life but it is & always will be my life, my lifestyle.

    I think someone may start a “diet” per se, like Paleo, but at some point, it is not a diet & becomes their life.. living it daily & not thinking of it as a diet but just the way one lives.

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