T Nation

Diet woes


Hello everybody,

Just some background info. I've been dieting and trying to lose bodyfat since March 12, 2003 and progress has been good. I've gone from about 207 lbs to about 178 lbs in this 5 month period. I know I have lost no LBM.. in fact all my muscle groups have gained significant strength. I have 2 questions.

1) This past weekend I decided to allow myself to relax and cheat all I want since I haven't done that in 5 months. So for 2 days I literally ate anything I wanted to with no limits. Afterwards on Monday, I went from 178 up to 185 (always weighing myself in the mornings). I said to myself, ok it's just temporary water weight and it'll go away. But now it's Thusrday, and I'm still 182.. 4 pounds higher than my low from prior to the binge weekend. Surely all the water weight has to be gone by now? Did I seriously gain 4 pounds of fat from 2 days of cheating? If so, that is seriously depressing and I vow never to cheat like that ever again while dieting. I am so frustrated that 3-4 weeks of progress has been lost. Or does it simply take longer than 3 days to lose all the water weight gained from binge eating?
I consider myself to be someone with slow metabolism.. perhaps I'm not someone who can get away with cheating while on diets?

2) How long is too long for dieting? It's been over 5 months. While progress has been steady (with the exception of the situation explained by my last question), is dieting and being in a constant caloric deficit good for me for extended periods? I have not yet reached my goals, but should I lay off the diet and resume it later.. or should I simply continue until I hit my goals no matter the duration of the diet?

Thanks in advance for any advice guys!



Congrats on your progress so far.

What type of dieting are you doing? If you've been doing low-carb, then some of the weight that you gained is probably replenished muscle glycogen as well as water. Give it another week, but don't worry too much. A 2-day cheat isn't going to backslide you that much. How do you look in the mirror?


Oh, yeah, one other thing... try not to worry too much about what the scale says. Use calipers, use the mirror, use a camera once every couple of weeks, to gauge progress. It's even possible that you've put on some lbm?



Thanks for the kind words.

For the first 3 months I kind of just didn't have any diet plan. I was getting back into shape (from not working out consistently for at least a year and putting on tons of fat).. so I figured I didn't really need any "diet plan." As long as I did resistence training and reduced my calories to below maintenance, progress has to occur.. and it did.

After that I started doing T-Dawg 2.0 since by then I had gotten into much better shape in terms of muscle strength and size and much fat had already been dropped. I figured I had to start being more anal and methodical in order to continually see results. Seems to have worked.

But yeah, the past 2-3 months have been low-carb diet. I didn't know that aside from water weight, there was weight gain from replenished muscle glycogen as a result of diet cheating. Hopefully this explains my crazy increases in weight rather than it being fat.

In terms of looking at myself in the mirror, I honestly can't judge. I see myself everyday and I think I look exactly the same now as I do prior to the 2-day cheating frenzy. But who knows..

If only I could learn to get friggin' consistent readings with the caliper.


I agree with kong. No way can you gain that much fat over 2 days of cheating, just isn't going to happen.

Do you have any idea what BF you started at and are at now? You lost a lot of weight, you must be looking a hell of a lot better.

Anytime you diet hard for that long you aren't really at a "real life" weight due to repleted supplies of water/glycogen and so on. You will see a gain due to that, and it will slowly recede.


Oh and steihl about the caliper readings what I would suggest is just take your highest readings you can get at a site and use those to figure your change from.

That is what I do, I check each site daily (yeah im nuts) and I do each spot several times to try and pinch the highest number I can. I figure that way it removes the problem of precision in measurements and at least will show you change over time. Accuracy may be off (on the high side) using that method, but since I'm not being paid for accuracy I don't really care.



I really don't know what BF I started at. But people who hadn't seen me at all during the 5 months and saw me afterwards were rather shocked at how much better I looked. A lot of old clothing that I was no longer able to fit in now all fit quite well and even feel loose. When I started I wasn't like insanely fat. People would describe me as "on the chubby side." Now it's more like "I look big and strong." In general I feel as though I look a lot better. I can see my abs but they are not ripped. I would probably estimate that I went from 25% bodyfat to about 15% bodyfat. It's good progress, but I want to get down to a lower bodyfat before I start trying to put on muscle since I know if I try now, I will simply get fat again with my damned slow metabolism.

Yeah I know that crazy weight gain is expected after long bouts of dieting.. especially low carb dieting. It's just hard to live with since the scale has been my main measure of progress (along with ensuring that in the gym I don't have any strength loss). I really should start using calipers and cameras more.

I like your suggestion about calipers though. I will definitely try that out and most likely become as obsessive as you are.. taking measurements all day long :slight_smile:


Steihl, you're in need of a plan. AND...you're in need of some hard numbers to measure the effectiveness of what you're doing. Not day-to-day effectiveness, but month-to-month effectiveness.

Go ahead and pay someone if you have to, to take your BF percentage, someone that's experienced and someone who will be there month after month. You need the same person taking your BF, and you need to take it in a pre- or unexercised state. Alternatives are contacting a university to see if they have a hydrostatic tank or DEXA to measure BF (highly, HIGHLY accurate).

With hard numbers you can look at how much LBM is increasing and how much FM is dropping. You're making the HUGE mistake of using the scale as a measure of your success/failure.

Honestly, keeping your metabolism STOKED and rev'd up should be a priority. Long-term dieting tends to slow down your metabolism. It takes a while to work out the details, but honestly, you need a cheat meal, for sanity, to ensure that you're able to follow your program for the long-haul (i.e., for the rest of your life), and more importantly to optimize and enhance your metabolism. Start studying cheat meals/afternoons. There's plenty here on the forum.

Bottom line, sometimes it takes backing up a couple of steps to move forward. Somewhere along the way you've got to stop walking the tight-rope of deprivation and start building your LBM, your metabolism and your day-to-day functionality, strength and energy.

Take care, and good luck. A lot of us out there are fighting the same battles.


Tampa Terry,

Thanks for the reply.

I agree with what you are saying. However, isn't the scale a "decent" way to guage progress PROVIDED THAT you ensure that no strength is lost in the gym? All my weight loss has been accompanied by either no loss in strength whatsoever, or for the most part, an increase in strength. Doesn't that by itself ensure that all of the weight loss could not have been LBM.. otherwise, how else can you account for the maintenance and even increase of strength despite weight loss?

True, if you are losing both strength and weight at the same time, then the scale is a horrible measure. But if no strength is lost and is even gained, then doesn't the scale indicate some forward progress in terms of fat loss?

I know, using calipers in the end is still the better method, and I think I will get my bodyfat tested as soon as I can. But isn't there some logic in what I said above? :slight_smile:

Thanks for the help.


Steihl, yes, absolutely, there is logic to what you are saying. I'm not strong in the area of physiology, but my belief/understanding is that strength protocols and hypertrophy protocols recruit different muscle fibers. (Someone please correct or confirm my statement above).

Strength is not always related to the amount of LBM you carry. Example, a "little" girl I know, 105 pounds, is capable of deadlifting 349 pounds. She has strength, but not mass.

Separate and apart from improving/increasing strength is the issue of how much LBM you carry. The more LBM you carry, the higher your metabolism and the higher your daily caloric requirements.

Let me give you an example of the scale NOT being an accurate measure of success/failure.

I was testing a new dieting/cardio/WO strategy. In 31 days, according to the scale I GAINED 4 pounds on a cutting diet. Yuck! That constitutes failure, right? However, let's look at the rest of the picture. I put on a good amount of LBM, dropped 5 pounds of FM and dropped my BF percentage 3.75 points. I consider those 31 days a stupendous success, even with gaining 4 pounds of scale weight!

The following month I increased cardio and cut calories by about 200 calories per day. I was weak, depleted, overtrained, barely holding on. I lost a pound -- only 1 -- and I lost 1 BF percentage point. I consider the second month's results "disappointing" even though I lost a pound of scale weight. Strength in this case was not indicative of improved body composition.

If I hadn't had my BF tested by someone I trusted, same person, experienced, same time of day, unexercised, I wouldn't have known whether the changes I made were moving me towards my goal or away from my goal.

Once again, if LBM is going up and FM is going down, SCALE WEIGHT IS IRRELEVANT!!!

So are you going to start checking out, reading up on, studying cheat meals? (wink & grin)


Interesting story Tampa, good way of explaining your point


Nice story tampa terry, excellent point made.

I myself am noticing that now also. And now i'm sorta at a crossroads.

I've been going solid on my tdawg for 2 months now and have excellent results. And i've been increasing my size and frequency of refeed days.
Yet, It's still a guessing game as to how much I can increase them and how much I want to increase them when it comes to fat/muscle. I noticed today in my workout that I hadn't gained any strength (ie felt weak) since the 5 days prior of doing that same workout. And then it dawned on me that I hadn't done a refeed of any sort in 5 days, and I was most likely depleted.
Now 5 days ago I just came off a pretty heavy refeed/overfeed period of about 4 days long. And i'm guessing I can't eat like that all the time, yet I really noticed the lack of it today.

It's all one big adventure, and really helps when you keep track of workouts & food along with measurements and pictures periodically.
Workouts especially, since some people (like myself) get so hung up about charting food that they forget/fail to notice that their workouts aren't progressing that well.
That actually is my main indicator now, i've switched from being a primary concern of fat loss with lbm maintenance to a primary concern of strength gain with fat loss secondary.


Thanks for the kind words, Massimo_SPQR.

Great news on your progress, Antiliberal!!! It's always empowering when you use multiple criteria -- criteria that matters to YOU -- to measure success.

How close are you to your goals, Antiliberal, or are you pretty happy where you're at?


Tampa Terry, my strength goals are miles away. After reading that "today's workout" thread and the other ones where people post what they do I feel like an 80 year old grandma with how little I lift. Embarassing thing is i'm decent in my smaller muscle lifts, but poor overall in my big ones (bench/squat). People who are smaller than me can do more with those than I. I will say though that I have increased a nice amount in all lifts over the last several months. I have put legs as a preference with 2 full leg days per week, using rear/front/box squats, plus deads, stiff deads, and gm's.

My BF goals aren't too far off. I really don't have a set number per se, just want to get to the point of not having the obvious middle fat. Took some pics a few days ago and still have plenty of it, especially in lower back. Can't see anything on the lower half of my back, it's all smooth. I'm guessing I'll have to hit about 7% for my middle fat to be mostly gone, that's the last place I store it. I pinch 3-4mm on upper body spots and 15-20mm on stomach/middle areas so it's highly preferential.

It's all in finding the balance. Still haven't found it yet but at least i'm a lot closer than in the past.


5 months is too long.


Antiliberal, cool! You've dropped a good amount of BF and are shifting towards more performance-driven goals . . . AND your strength is improving/increasing.

That's what it's all about -- setting goals, working towards those goals, achieving them, and setting new ones.


As Ike stated, 5 months is too long. I would eat at maintenance or a little higher for at least 2 weeks. The extra calories will allow your metabolism to rev back up again.