Are You Eating Healthy or Dieting?

Dieting and eating healthy. Is there a difference between the two, and if there is, what is the difference between them? Find out more about the implications of these two terms with Blueprint.

Only a few years back, the word “dieting” was completely fine to use; in fact, it was ubiquitous. You would see in-your-face commercials for weight loss programs and dieting pills all over the internet and on television. Over time, however, dieting itself has gradually developed into a taboo of sorts in the online community, and in America, and major diet companies like Weight Watchers watched their member-recruitment rates decline sharply even though more than two-thirds of American adults continued to be what public health officials called “overweight” or “obese”. Cue the entrance of “politically correct dieting”: wellness, otherwise known as eating clean, eating healthy, or getting fit.

So how did this change happen? Well, simply put, people decided dieting wasn’t cool anymore. It was anti-feminist because it put pressure on women to become size 0s and look like the stick-thin models seen in fashion magazines or advertisements. Women, concerned about their weight, often resorted to health-risking dieting practices, sometimes leading to the development of eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia. Weight loss companies were bashed for negatively impacting the self-esteem of people who were perfectly fine the way the way they were.

These anti-dieting sentiments sparked the beginning of the positive-body-image/love-yourself-the-way-you-are/everybody-is-beautiful movements that everybody praised but very few wholeheartedly believed in. Yes, people wanted to love themselves for who they were, and they wanted to not judge others based on their appearances. The conventional (and almost instinctual, subconscious) idea of a “perfect, slim body” that had been ingrained in us since our childhood, however, could not be dismissed at will. But nobody would dare open up about how they truly felt. Instead, they started to hide their shameful desires to lose weight by changing “dieting” to “eating healthy.”

“Inspirational” quotes like this one can be found all over the Internet. But are they really true? And most importantly, are they positively impacting the body image movement?

People in the social media groove didn’t want to “lose weight” anymore; they wanted to “eat clean” in order to become “fit” and “strong.” They believed that wanting to change one’s body in some sort of way was a sign of giving to societal pressure that showed a lack of self-acceptance because all body types are beautiful and deserve to be accepted. People didn’t want to change their appearance, but they did; they wanted to be thinner (not that there’s anything wrong with being fat), but dieting wasn’t the word to go for anymore.

“Dieting” and “weight loss” were gradually replaced by more politically correct phrases like “eating healthy/clean;” it was now okay to want to develop a healthier lifestyle if the purpose of one’s efforts was to become “more fit,” but not “thinner.” Wanting to become thinner was absolutely unacceptable, so many people (who still wanted to lose weight but didn’t want to seem like they were giving in to societal pressure) rationalized their actions by tweaking the phrasing a little. This change can largely be attributed to the contrast of the connotations surrounding the two phrases, which can also be seen from our fellow KISians’ responses to two simple questions.

1. Anonymous (‘20):

Q: What do you think of when you think of the word “dieting?”

Whenever someone tells me they’re going on a diet, I always imagine salads and vegetables, and for some reason, I think of being malnourished.

Q:What do you think of when you think of the phrase “eating healthy?”

To me, eating healthy would be having a balanced diet (avoiding excessive junk food and sugar). On top of that, I believe that a good balance of protein, carbohydrates, fat is necessary.

2. Alicia Lee (‘20):

Q: What do you think of when you think of the word “dieting?”

To be really honest, when I think of the word dieting, I think: running andnot eating snacks. The reason why I want to diet is usually to wear something that I want to because my fashion style is kind of edgy, but in order to pull off those kind of clothes, you have to be somewhat thin and fit. I’m not very fit, so I try to lose weight to wear what I want to.

Q:What do you think of when you think of the phrase “eating healthy?”

When I think of the phrase “eating healthy,” the first thing that comes to my mind is no ice cream! I always fail my diets because I love ice cream, but you can’t eat ice cream when you’re eating healthy! I try to not eat snacks and bread, and I replace all my drinks with water. If I get a craving for food, I just eat nuts and other relatively healthy things. When I think about “eating healthy,” I become really sad, but then I think about clothes and I become happy again!

3. Hope Yoon (‘19)

Q: What do you think of when you think of the word “dieting?”

I think of reducing meal sizes and spending more time working out.

Q:What do you think of when you think of the phrase “eating healthy?”

I think of cutting out added sugar, eating more greens and less processed foods.

4. Logan Choi (‘20)

Q: What do you think of when you think of the word “dieting?”

When I think of the word “dieting”, I think of unhealthy dieting, like starving oneself.

Q:What do you think of when you think of the phrase “eating healthy?”

When I think of eating healthy, I think of a balanced diet–a diet in which you can eat everything you want and stay healthy through exercise.

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The shift in wording hasn’t eliminated our desire to lose weight, fueled by continuous societal pressure.

Compared to how KIS students thought of “dieting”, the associations they had with the phrase “eating healthy” proved to be relatively positive; “dieting” reminded people of eating disorders like anorexia, but “eating healthy” evoked images of meals that had a balance of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. This stark contrast in connotations is quite ironic because the two are quite similar, if not the same, in actuality. Both want healthier eating and exercising habits, like consuming less sugar and fats, and both lead to eventual weight loss.

So nothing has really changed because of this change in names. In the end, both dieting and eating healthy have the same goals that are simply phrased differently, and the forced political correctness hasn’t positively impacted the body image movement because even though they put up a front of just wanting to become “healthier”, many people still secretly want to lose weight, further complicating the issue. People are more reluctant to reveal their true intentions for making changes in their lifestyle, making it more difficult to determine whether the movement is actually working. This focus on the “war on dieting” needs to be redirected to the “war on negative body image.” The real issue here is not in how we phrase things but how we think about our own bodies, which will not change overnight.

– Kristin Kim (’20)

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