My message board members have once again raised an interesting issue, and I thank them for keeping my head well stocked with bloggable subjects. The topic this time is the difference between dieting and healthy or nutritious eating. How can you distinguish them? How can you make healthy food choices most of the time and not feel as if you’re on a restrictive diet?

As one board member points out, we’re all on some sort of diet. The problem is that diet has two meanings: the way we eat and a way to eat to lose weight. Stop and think about that. When you use the word, which definition do you mean? Can’t you follow a way of eating without being on a diet? I believe you can. It’s all in your perspective. You can follow formal or informal food guidelines—eat whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, eat small meals often throughout the day, stop eating when full or satisfied, enjoy occasional treats—without being on any kind of diet.

The problem is that if you don’t have clarity on the issue, when you eat more healthily, you may feel as if you’re on a diet and can’t eat “unhealthy” foods. Be careful not to fall into the all-or-nothing trap, ie, healthy means eating only nutritious foods. No, no, no! Better to think that because you eat mainly nutritious foods, you can enjoy some that aren’t and still remain healthy! That’s the “normal” eating mindset to aim for.

If you begin to make more nutritious food choices (especially if you used to eat a good deal of unhealthy food), people may remark that you’re dieting. If your head is on straight, you won’t get hooked into or triggered by their comments because you’ll know that you are most certainly not dieting. How other people view your eating style or choices is totally irrelevant. All that matters is how you view your eating. If you buy into the idea that eating nutritiously means you’re dieting, you’ll most likely want to rebel and you know where that will lead you. However, if you consider that you eat for health and pleasure—without counting calories, carbs or fat grams or focusing on weight loss—then you’re creating your own food agenda, which is what “normal” eaters do.

This is a tricky issue for those of you who’ve spent a lifetime dieting or rejecting diets. You will have to come to terms with healthier eating as not dieting before you can be comfortable with it. That means developing your own definition and description of how to eat. Take a minute right now and write down a description. Remind yourself that you’re not dieting even when it feels that way. Create your own path and follow it.