Zig Zag Dieting

Did you ever for one second think that your ‘cheat’ day could actually help you lose weight? Well if you subscribe to Dr Fred Hatfield’s Zig Zag theory of dieting then that is certainly the case. Dr. Fred Hatfield became an industry legend when he squatted a record 1,014 lbs at age 45. As a lifelong student and Doctor of kinesiology, Dr. Hatfield also was one of the founders of the ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association.  

The Zig Zag diet became popular in the late 80s, early 90s. Dr. Hatfield suggested doing the “down zag," or fewer calories, for 3 to 5 days and the “up zag," increasing your calorie intake, for 1 or 2 days. Having a high calorie day once or twice a week is the perfect tool to help kick start your metabolism for weight loss.

 Also known as calorie shifting, the Zig Zag Diet involves looking at your overall weekly calorie intake and having lower calorie days for say 5 days a week, and the calories saved on those days are then piled onto the higher calorie days. The belief is that zigging and zagging your calories confuses your body so that it does not become accustomed to the same thing every day and falls into homeostasis, more commonly known as a plateau. Your body is adaptable and becomes accustomed to receiving lower calories when on a weight loss plan. It then produces hormones to stabilize your metabolism and lipid oxidation, which in turn slows down how effectively you burn calories. By following the Zig Zag theory, it allows your body not to become stagnant in its weight loss. A good way of planning the Zig Zag Diet is breaking down what it will take to lose 1lb in a week, the equivalent of 3500 calories. Start by reducing a certain amount of calories a day and then having no reduction on one day i.e. the ‘cheat’ day where you can consume a larger amount of calories. On a sample 7-day plan of consuming 2100 calories a day, you can reduce by 300-500-700-900-700-400-0, making your respective daily intake of 1800-1600-1400-1200-1400-1700-2100. Starting the diet on Monday, by Sunday you can enjoy some extra treats after having limited your intake by varying degrees during the week. And that ‘cheat’ day will mean you don’t feel as deprived. Other ways people zig and zag is by having a cyclical ketogenic low carb diet and eating lower carbs 6 days a week and then having a high carb day on the seventh day. Raising and lowering calories rather than keeping it constant is widely held as a beneficial way to keep the weight loss momentum going.