The Differences Between a Diet and a Lifestyle

January is the time of year when everyone and their brother (or sister) goes on a diet. February is the month everyone stops that diet, and goes right back into the old habits. The reason for this? They hopped onto a diet, rather than adjusting their lifestyle. There is a difference in diet vs. lifestyle, and we’ll dive into that today, as well as helping you determine which one is more beneficial.

Diet vs. Lifestyle

Interestingly, the origin of diet is a “prescribed way of life”. Kind of sounds like a lifestyle, doesn’t it? If you believe that, you’d be right. The modern meaning of diet, however, is much different.

what is a Diet in 2019?

A diet in 2019 is entirely centered on food. What should you be eating? What should you absolutely not be eating? These are the questions which encompass most of our thoughts about food. The purpose of a diet, and the way it is used, is to effectively answer these questions.

In 2019, the biggest diet trends are easily the ketogenic diet, macro counting, and still the paleo diet.

All three of these answer the questions about what you can and cannot eat.

Ketogenic Diet 

The keto diet tells you to eat almost no carbohydrate, little protein, and at minimum 70% of all your calories from fat. Therefore, grains and fruit are almost entirely off the menu, chicken breast is not recommended (too high in protein) and even vegetables have to be eaten in small amounts. Butter, oil, and fatty meat is preferred above all else.

Macro Counting 

Counting macronutrients, or “macros” as it is known, is less about WHAT you eat and much more about HOW MUCH you eat. You are prescribed a very specific number of grams of each macronutrient (carbohydrates, protein, and fats) and are allowed to fill those numbers with whatever you choose. Want your carbs and fats to come from donuts? Protein from powder only? Go for it. Just hit your numbers.

Paleo Diet

The paleo diet became popular with the CrossFit crowd, originally, and prescribes eating the foods of our caveman ancestors. This means you are not going to eat grains of any type (rice, white potatoes, bread, oats, etc). Additionally, you are not supposed to eat legumes so peanuts, all types of beans, and garden peas are all not allowed on the strict paleo diet. Meats, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and some fruits are the recommended foods of choice for the paleo crowd.


In the diet vs lifestyle debate, a lifestyle falls in contrast to the above diets. In short, this is because a diet dictates your life, while a lifestyle is a sustainable way of living which works across years and seasons of your life.

Here’s where things get confusing however, in the diet vs lifestyle topic. When a diet is easy for you to follow, fits your life easily, and can be done in the WORST conditions, it ceases to be a “diet” and becomes a lifestyle.

Let’s use macro counting as an example.

Macro Counting as a Lifestyle

In the CrossFit community (of which we’re big fans, and enjoy participating in) macros are very popular. For many of our friends, macros fit their lifestyle extremely well. These people enjoy preparing their meals for the week on a set day, can consistently enjoy similar foods day-to-day, and usually do not eat out at restaurants very often.

In fact, the people who know who have the most success on macros have lower stress levels when they follow macros than when they do not. The process of knowing what they are putting into their bodies is in line with their goals is simply relaxing to them. This diet improves their lives and even though at one point they had to change their life to fit their diet (starting to count in the first place is a shift) it is now an integral part of how they live day to day.

Diet vs Lifestyle: Which is better?

For our money, we always choose a lifestyle over a diet. This is because a diet can negatively impact our relationship with food, make us over-stress, and turn the normally enjoyable process of eating into an obsessive part of our lives.

How do we know?

Because we’ve seen this happen with friends, and in our own lives. It takes experimentation to find a lifestyle which works for you, and normally it begins by trying a diet. In reality, a lifestyle is simply an upgraded diet. One which you no longer have to stress about, or seriously struggle through following. It provides consistency and assurance to your life that you are moving toward your goals, and it can be changed at any time without you feeling guilt.