What is Dieting Lingo?

Dieting lingo includes the words and images you see in advertising, that are designed to evoke emotion in you.

Think about it. There are diets to make you lose weight, teas to help you detox, and high protein diets to help you burn fat. Those ads include pictures to drive home the message they’re angling at. And you are exposed to them hundreds of times per day.

All that conditions you to think and respond a certain way, each time you see those words and images.

Does the use of dieting lingo and connotations behind it make you feel manipulated or annoyed?

Behind that marketing is a deeper issue – the fact that dieting lingo usually has negative connotations. Think about how certain words or images can make you feel upset, envious, restricted or downright irritated. Can you relate?

Having worked with over 500 women (and a few men) on mastering the habits of healthy eating and a healthy mindset, I’ve heard a lot of people misusing and misinterpreting dieting lingo because of this conditioning. It really irritates me that we have been conditioned to automatically react in certain ways to certain words.

That’s why I’m writing this blog- so you can think about some common dieting lingo and what it really means to you.

For this blog, I’ve consulted this online medical dictionary for standard definitions, plus additional resources like FoodPharmacy nutrient tables.


Dieting Lingo | Downsize Me

Your first thoughts – counting calories, restriction, missing out, limiting, cutting out, being hungry, sadness.

What it really means – The primary definition is:

Food and drink regularly provided and consumed.

In other words, at the basic level, diet means “what you eat.”

Yes, there are special diets and weight loss diets, too, but these terms often have negative connotations or create unrealistic expectations. 

Healthy eating comes from having healthy habits. Dieting is not a habit. It’s a short-term thing you do to get a result….and then you typically go back to your ‘old’ habits, instead of committing to new habits. 

Maybe healthy eating habits are something to aspire to, because they imply a longer term approach. The key is to look at the habits you do and rewire the ones that are unhelpful. Swapping this for that. Changing the routine. Challenging the trigger.

Lose “Weight”

Dieting Lingo | Downsize Me

Your first thoughts – to become slim, to get thinner, to fit into a smaller size, to feel better, to be happier. 

What it really means – technically, its getting rid of your visible, excess body fat.  

What happens when you look at your bathroom scale – do you get fixated on the number you see? 

A lot of people do. and yes, measuring total body weight is one way of figuring out if you are getting smaller. BUT….. body weight actually means the sum total weight of everything in your body:

  • bone
  • organs
  • water
  • nerves
  • connective tissue
  • cell membranes
  • muscle and
  • body fat.

When you look in the mirror and see a bulging outline, it’s simply excess body fat.

That’s why thinking ‘weight’ alone is misleading, because there are things that cause healthy increases in body weight, and they help you be healthier and/or get rid of those bulges:

  • Drinking 2L bottle of water (you will temporarily weigh 2kg more but be properly hydrated)
  • Gaining muscle through exercise (this increases metabolism and makes you look athletic)
  • Increased bone mass (bone weight which helps stability).

These are all weight increases that are beneficial because they mean you’re getting better hydrated, fitter and stronger. 

If you’re measuring anything, make sure you use a scale that accurately measures % fat, or skinfold calipers. The easiest way to see if you’re burning fat is to feel how your clothes are fitting, and whether your bulges are decreasing. 


Dieting Lingo | Downsize Me

Your first thoughts – bread, pasta, rice and cakes.

What they really are – there are a whole bunch MORE foods that are mainly carbohydrate (at least ~70%) by weight:

  • Grains – cereals, rice, wheat, barley, sago, freekeh, quinoa, breads, biscuits, flour, etc.
  • Legumes – fresh and dried beans, peas, lentils, chick peas
  • Fruit – dried, fresh and juice
  • Vegetables – all, especially root vegetables
  • Sugar, maple syrup, honey, jam etc.

It’s easy to get confused by use of this particular dieting lingo, but remember, fruit, veg and legumes are all high-carb foods.


Dieting Lingo | Downsize Me

Your first thought – meats, fish and eggs.

What they really are – marketers mislead us by talking about certain foods being ‘packed with protein’. But it’s usually inaccurate. Here is a list of foods that are mainly made up of protein (at least ~70%) by weight.

  • Lean red meats*
  • Fish*
  • Poultry*
  • Tofu
  • Eggs

* some types contain nearly equal amounts of protein and fat

You’ll notice that legumes (higher in carbs) and nuts (higher in fats) are not on the list, as protein is present in lower quantities in these foods, by weight. 


Dieting Lingo | Downsize Me

Your first thought – cooking oils and butter.

What they really are – There are many more foods that are mainly made up of fat (at least 50% by weight) – here’s the full list

  • Vegetable and other oils
  • Solid fats (lard, butter etc)
  • Avocado
  • Most nuts
  • Most seeds*
  • Some cheeses**

* some are higher in carbs than fat;  ** a few are higher in protein than fat


Your first thought – this is bad!

What it really means – A desire for food. You get this desire because you have finished digesting your last meal and your metabolism is actively using fuel, and needs some more to keep functioning.

What’s normal? Feeling like something to eat, and your stomach may grumble, every 3 – 4 hours.

If you never feel hungry, there’s a problem. If you’re always very hungry – starving, ravenous – there’s a problem. You’re either not eating enough, or you have faulty leptin levels (the hunger hormone), or both.


Dieting Lingo | Downsize Me

Your first thought – get my body back, get a better body

What it really means – You already have a body. It’s probably the size and shape of your body that you want to change. That typically means reducing body fat and increasing muscle mass.

There are different body types in the world, shaped by climate, geography, hormones and adaptation to food sources. People in hot climates tend to be long and thin with small muscles, and people from cold climates tend to be short and thick-set. Your ancestors and your lifestyle choices shape your body.

If you’ve made it this far, take it one step further. 

Think carefully about the dieting lingo above and think about the new meanings and images you’ll give those words. Rewiring your brain in this way means you can start feeling better and more positive about your health and your body, and less affected by the emotional tug-of-war that marketing is designed to create.

Have I missed anything? Comment below, and let me know.

Melanie White

Melanie White

Chief Inspiration Coach

I'm a quirky scientist and a Health and Wellness Coach who helps 35+ women to understand and eat right for their body type.