Organizing Theory & Artistry

The Dieters Dilemma: Eat What You Want or When You Want?

" A dilemma Dinner at Ikea... Meatballs are for me. Dessert for him, after some veggie of course."  Photo by Mo Riza.  From the Flickr Creative Commons.

A dilemma
Dinner at Ikea… Meatballs are for me. Dessert for him, after some veggie of course.” Photo by Mo Riza. From the Flickr Creative Commons.

This month, I have been experimenting with various weight maintenance strategies to attempt to retain the 13 pound weight loss I achieved last month.

I have never had to be an active dieter before so I had no idea how to even go about this. Lately, I have been reading just about every diet and exercise tip I can get my hands on. There are so many different types of strategies and it can be very confusing seeing all this advice.

Maintaining weight is slightly different than dieting. In some ways, I think dieting is easier to plan because you generally have very strict rules to follow. But of course, no one can be on a diet forever. It’s too physically and mentally exhausting! Weight maintenance requires having more flexibility in your eating patterns and adjusting to different scenarios.

As I have been thinking about weight maintenance strategies, I have decided that it comes down to a choice between one of two general strategies:


Eat When You Want

Most dieting advice seems to focus on the “eat when you want” strategy. If you follow this strategy, your body is more driven by eating at specific times (or all the time!). So, the great thing about this strategy is that you never have to go hungry! But there is a catch . . . and it’s a big one. You have to monitor everything you eat!

Dieting strategies that focus on a “when” strategy include:

  • “graze throughout the day”
  • ”substitute healthy foods for the foods you normally eat”

Eat What You Want

If you watched Dr. Michael Mosley’s videos, you saw that the latest research in dieting advice is fasting. In this strategy, it is literally possible for you to eat whatever you want. Fried food, dessert . . . whatever you crave you can have! But there is a catch to this too . . . you can only eat at certain times and at other times you can’t eat anything at all!

Dieting strategies that focus on a “what” strategy include:

  • 5-2 fasting and other forms of fast dieting
  • calorie bunching (i.e. not eating all day then having a big dinner)

What kind of person does fasting appeal to? Me!! When I was dieting last month, I found it really sucked a lot of the joy out of life to restrict my eating to just vegetables. Yes, I got incredible results and that provided joy too but if there was a food that everyone else was eating and I couldn’t eat it ever, I could get very grouchy.

I can handle not eating if I just plan enough projects to keep myself occupied. Also, having a time limit on the fasting, really helps you get through it. It is easy for me to say to myself, “I am not eating during X time period but after that is over, I can have whatever I want!” We know that willpower is an exhaustible resource and the fast strategy puts a time limit on how long you have to exercise that willpower.

With the “when” strategy, you have to exercise willpower all the time to eat only the right foods. For some people, that might not be as difficult so long as they are getting other joys from the “when” strategy. As a mom, it is tough to do fast dieting because you end up making snacks for your family all day long. You have to keep your willpower as you smell and touch all the delicious ingredients that you cannot taste. That may be why you often hear of moms insisting on only healthy foods in the house. They don’t want to be tempted and derail their own dieting efforts.

How do you know which strategy works better for you? Look at the lists below and see which lifestyle statements apply more to you:


Are you a “when” or a “what” dieter? Please share in the comments.