Something I often hear when working with clients on a particular lifestyle or food change is “Okay, I’ll start that Monday.” Fair enough. Monday’s the start of a new week and it’s nice to connect our beginnings together. Feels fresh and appropriate. But it gets me wondering, why wait until Monday? What about today? What about starting now?

I’ve been having a lot of these conversations lately, and I think I’m sniffing out some of the key differences between a diet and a lifestyle. We nutrition and health types throw these terms around liberally. How many nutrition books start off telling you “This isn’t a diet, it’s a lifestyle”? (Confession: mine does.) What is the real difference between the two? Is it just that “diet” has a bad rap so we’re swapping it out for the word “lifestyle”? Is it really just another name for the same thing? Or is there something deeper here?

A diet is something you start and stop. A lifestyle is continued, evolving.

A diet is different from your normal everyday; it’s the exception, not the rule. A lifestyle is your normal everyday. It’s the rule, with exceptions built in.

A diet is something you do for a reason: weight (most often), to resolve a health issue, or to meet a very specific body-related goal. Lifestyle can be for all of these and it tends to transcend many more elements of our lives. A lifestyle is something you include the whole family in. When you diet, you tend to go solo.

A diet has a list of “good” and “bad” foods that may leave you feeling like a “good” or “bad” person for consuming or not consuming them. Lifestyle is more all-encompassing and inclusive. It has fluidity and flexibility to it. Exceptions, as a necessity, are built in. The cookie is as much of who we are as the nice big salad we had for lunch. And that’s not only okay, it’s exactly as it should be.

In a diet there are a lot of things to count: calories, grams, points, pounds. In a lifestyle those numbers don’t matter quite so much. It’s how you feel in your body that counts – healthy? happy? energetic? – rather than some external and ultimately random number that we try to mold ourselves into.

Fundamentally what underlies a diet is fear. Fear of unwanted pounds, jiggle, cellulite. Fear of getting sick. Fear of a particular food. Fear of not being accepted. What underlies a lifestyle is love. Love of feeling good. Love of vitality. Love of food. Love of movement. Love of the act of nurturing and experiencing true nourishment. Love of our bodies, and thus the impetus to take care of them in such a way that they can really thrive.

So, then, my thought: why wait until Monday?

[click_to_tweet tweet=”Why wait for Monday when you can start today?” quote=”Why wait for Monday when you can start today?”]

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