When most of us think of the word, “Diet,” we cringe. It congers up thoughts of hunger and deprivation, and it suggests that we need to make some often unpleasant changes. Yet, millions of people go on diets every day. The diet industry is a multibillion-dollar one, and it continues to grow. What is it that keeps us so tied to diets? There are many benefits to dieting, some of which are obvious. But there are a few “hidden” benefits of dieting that might explain why we love diets … and why we keep going on them.

One of the obvious reasons to go on a diet is for health reasons. A physical condition might require a change in eating habits. So, our doctors prescribe a diet, often an eating plan that may reduce the intake of certain foods (usually the ones we love the most!) and include a few food choices that we haven’t tried before. If we stick with it, over time our health should improve and that makes the diet successful.

Another obvious reason to diet is to be more attractive, look slimmer, and wear more stylish clothing. All forms of media bombard us with how important it is to look thin, young and glamorous. So, when we diet and lose weight, we often feel better about our appearance.

One of the less obvious benefits of dieting is setting a goal and working toward it. As we lose weight, we have tangible, measurable evidence to assess our progress. It gives us a feeling of accomplishment, which can boost our self-esteem.

Another less apparent advantage of dieting is the confidence we feel in taking control of an area of our life that may have become a bit unmanageable. Whenever we adopt a course of action toward self-improvement, our confidence soars. We become the mistresses or masters of at least one part of our destiny, and that is empowering. This new-found faith in ourselves can easily flow into other areas of our life, such as in relationships, career, finances or any other area that is important to us. We feel in control, and that feels good.

Probably one of the least obvious, yet most beneficial, benefits of dieting is that we are practicing self-care. We are “parenting” ourselves, tending not only to our physical needs but to our emotional needs, as well. We care about what happens to us, and we are looking after ourselves as a loving, concerned parent would do.

Healthy eating should be a lifestyle choice, not a one-time endeavor. Regular dieting is not advisable. But if we do follow a diet to learn better choices, we can enjoy the benefits that we gained along the journey.

• Kathy Brown is a local life planning consultant. She has a Master of Counseling degree from Arizona State University, a certification with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition as a certified holistic health coach, and she is a certified personal trainer and certified health coach with the American Council on Exercise. Reach her at www.Reach4YourSpirit.com, (602) 320-7325 or kathybrown4@hotmail.com.

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