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An Award-Winning PhD Explains Why You Shouldn't Diet On The Weekends

Hannah Frye
mbg Assistant Beauty Editor By Hannah Frye
mbg Assistant Beauty Editor
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more.
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The word "diet" can be triggering for many people given the context it's often discussed in—a restrictive, rigid, and less enjoyable way of consuming food. However, eating for your well-being has an entirely different ring to it, and it may encourage better, more sustainable habits. 

No matter which term you use or specific goal you have in mind (longevity, weight management, more energy, etc.), you probably assume that the quickest way to meet said goal is to subscribe to an ultra-strict regimen seven days a week. Well, what if we told you that you might benefit from a little more freedom? According to behavioral sustainability scientist Michelle Segar, Ph.D., author of The Joy Choice, on a recent episode of the mindbodygreen podcast, flexibility is key.

Why you should practice flexible restraint on the weekends.

Here's the thing: When it comes to nutrition and eating plans, there isn't a real place for "shoulds" and "should nots." At the end of the day, do whatever feels best for your health and happiness. That being said, research indicates that robbing yourself of flexible eating on the weekends might not be the key to sustaining a healthy weight. This may come as a surprise, but as Segar says, it's all about "flexible restraint." 

Research backs Segar's point: In one study, participants who reported dieting more strictly during weekends had a significantly higher chance of regaining the weight they had previously lost over a year's time, compared to those who reported less strict dieting on the weekends and holiday periods. 

In another study, flexible restraint was associated with more weight lost and better weight loss maintenance, while rigid restraint was associated with less weight loss. 

So does this mean you should completely abandon healthy eating habits on the weekend? No, not quite. However, researchers speculate that practicing flexible restraint on the weekends may decrease boredom when it comes to food—something that often precipitates lapses in diet. Translation: If you treat yourself on the weekend (in moderation, of course), you'll be less likely to get bored and fall out of your diet altogether. 

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The takeaway. 

While it may seem counterintuitive, keeping a strict diet seven days a week may actually backfire in the end. Studies show that those who practice flexible restraint on the weekends and through holiday periods may actually lose more weight over time and sustain a healthy weight, compared to those who practice rigid restraint 24/7. As always, eat in a way that fuels your body and makes you feel your best. And if you want to learn more from Segar, check out more of her healthy eating tips, or tune in to the full video below.

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