An emerging approach that has come to fruition over the years has been one that allows for more flexibility when it comes to eating patterns. As such, flexible dieting has become an adopted strategy for many of those whose goal is weight loss. What is it and how does it work? Simply put, flexible dieting is picking periods of time during the week or for certain situations to consume fewer calories on certain days of the week in order to have more “flexibility” on days where you want to eat above your deficit or maintenance calories. This means if someone wants to still have their favorite foods and drinks on their weight loss journey, it is quite possible that they can still enjoy these as long as they’ve accounted for the number of calories that come with these in advance or after.
To illustrate this point, consider someone who works out they need to be averaging 2000 calories a day to maintain a deficit over a week. While they could just adopt a rigid approach and stick to 2000 every day, they choose to adopt a flexible approach by switching from high calories to low calories.
Approach Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri Sat Sun Weekly Total
Rigid 2000 2000 2000 2000 2000 2000 2000 ~14,000
Flexible 2500 1500 2500 1500 2500 1500 2000 ~14,000
As you can see, the weekly total works out the same and this is just one-way flexibility can be incorporated in to suit a person’s lifestyle.
One of the key success factors with this approach is that with less rigidity being enforced, it helps people avoid the “all or nothing mindset”. In other words, people using self-talk like “I’ve followed the diet, so I was successful” or “I didn’t follow it, so I failed”. This type of thinking is known for derailing progress among dieters. For example, if someone decided to grab an ice cream because it was a hot day and wanted to enjoy it with their family outside in the sun, one ice cream isn’t going to be the be-all and end-all. However, if the same person self-talked themselves into thinking they’ve failed because the ice cream wasn’t part of the diet plan then this can easily end up in a binge whereby they jack it all in and plan to start all over again next week. In contrast, if they plan by
budgeting, thereby putting some calories in the bank for later use then their progress isn’t affected.
The takeaway here is that you do not need to be rigid with your approach all the time.
Structure will always be needed to some degree, but dieting does not need to be treated like a prison camp.