by Hannah Alderfer, BA, CPT, FMSC

You’ve no doubt heard the ominous statistic: Two-thirds of people who lose weight gain even more weight back within 4 or 5 years. That in itself is enough to discourage even the most determined among us. What’s the answer? What is the secret to not only losing weight but keeping it off? The good news is that you do not have to be one of the statistics. You can be in the minority—part of the group who successfully masters their weight for life. And it’s all about how you view your journey.

You see, what makes the difference is whether you are trying to change your lifestyle or whether you are just on a diet—the two words are worlds apart.

Understanding the Difference Between Diet and Lifestyle

By its very nature, a diet is temporary. Usually, people view diets as short term with a conceivable end in sight. The whole nature of “diet” is to persevere to the end—to hold out just a little longer until it is finally over and you can get back to your normal life.

This teeth-gritting exercise, however, makes the diet feel like a punishment. It’s uncomfortable. It’s unpleasant. And the expected end result is that once the diet has been endured for the prescribed period of time, the weight will come right back on.

A person on a “diet” views food as temptation and talks to himself/herself life this: “That looks so delicious. I can’t have it now because I am on a diet. But after a few more weeks, I will be able to finally eat that again! I just have to be strong for a little longer.”

A lifestyle, however, is permanent. When you decide to lose weight by changing your lifestyle, there is no end in sight. A lifestyle change, as its name suggests is for life. You are not constantly thinking of escaping, as though you are serving a prison sentence. Rather, you are in it for good and realize the good in making that change because it’s not just about losing the weight but being healthier.