The word “diet” conjures up all kinds of negative connotations in our minds: deprivation, bland food, measuring, weighing and counting calories are just some of the unpleasant practices this word depicts. The 2014 version of Merriam Webster defines the verb form of “diet” as:
“to eat and drink sparingly or according to prescribed rules.”
But if we go back to 1828, Merriam Webster gives us this definition:
“To eat according to rules prescribed.”
The word sparingly isn’t mentioned. Didn’t the writers of the 1828 version know the mantra “Eat less, move more?”
And what about the noun form of the word “diet”? Both versions have some commonality in their definitions: “habitual nourishment” (2014); “food or victuals” (1828). This one is much easier and more pleasant to think about. Or is it? What is “diet” for us? Is it low-fat, low-carb, high protein, South Beach, Atkins, Vegan, Vegetarian, Paleo or fruitarian? Should we pull out the bacon, flaxseeds, or Special K for breakfast? With so many options to choose from it’s no wonder we’re confused, frustrated and, in many cases, fat.
Do other animals have this problem, too? Does the lion ask himself, “Should I eat the gazelle or should I just have some nuts and berries since I feel a little heavier this morning?” We know the simple answer to that question. But why do we find ourselves asking the same types of questions? We’ve lost our way when it comes to eating; some of us have just given up. Eggs are okay, but only the whites… or is it the yolks… or was it the ones in the carton?
Food is our source of nourishment. The 2014 definition of food is “something that nourishes, sustain or supplies.” The 1828 version states, “something that sustains, nourishes and augments.” How has something so basic to life become so confusing? Has the human body changed so much throughout the centuries that it now prefers man-made food substances created by scientists and marketers rather than the food provided us by nature? Let us put aside the modern verb form of diet and focus on what really matters – simple sustenance.