Patience: A Key Tool for Diet Success

Sands through the hour glass exploring patience

Patience. When to wait and when to make a change? As a coach, this is the hardest part of the job. Everyone wants results now. There’s pressure to make the change, but you can’t bow to it. You have to stay objective. Have to choose the right moment. – That’s what the client pays for.

Lack of patience leads to rushed decisions. Left to their own devices many do stupid things. Throw in a couple of 24-hour fasts, add in some “metabolic conditioning” work, throw in some more lifting days, go “all Paleo” for carbs. The list goes on.

  • Patience, unless on a strict competition deadline, is your friend.
  • Rushed decisions can cost you hard earned strength and muscle mass, at the minimum.

I can’t give you definitive rules on when to make a change. Regarding the value of patience, all I have for you is a client story of mine and a quote from a coach with way more knowledge and experience:

Martin Berkhan, on patience:

“Getting that lean was the easiest diet I ever experienced. It was only testing in terms of patience; but even though the diet was easy, I longed for it to be over so I could try something, anything, else. It was a waiting game, but not a fight against hunger. Many clients have told me the same. If they don’t tell it to me straight, I notice it when discussing what to do after the diet.

“Sure, I got the usual neurotic thoughts once in a while. More frequently towards the end. Most do. “Am I really losing now or have I stalled?”, etc. Water retention tends to screw with your head and you’ll sometimes see that your weight isn’t moving for 10-14 days. That’s when people are very likely to do something stupid. That’s when it becomes very hard to resist cutting calories and adding extra cardio. So most people, including coaches, do that and it backfires.

“They lose strength or just get ravenous, whatever, something happens and they break their diet, binge for a day or two, attempt to get back to where they were by doing another stupid thing once again, and then they are stuck doing that. Or they just give up. It’s like domino bricks falling one after another after a tiny little wind dust moved the first piece. It gets a lot easier when you have someone else, a coach, giving you orders, of course.” (From this post.)

Client Andrew’s Story

When the consultation period was over and when discussing what to do next the topic of patience came up and we had an interesting exchange. Andrew’s words really struck me and I asked him if he’d share his e-mail. Noting how the comments of others had helped himself so much, he kindly agreed. The bolding is mine.

Weight: 170.4lbs -> 166.3lbs, Body-fat: 12.7 -> 7.9% – (via DEXA scan)

Note: You are an individual, your results will vary depending on genetics, adherence, and effort.

I wanted to send you a quick note of appreciation and let you know how you’ve helped me. I considered myself a fairly rational, methodical person. I had read all the Leangains and articles – that’s sort of how I found your site. I put all of that information to use for most of 2011 and I did see some results, but around August of last year, I completely cratered strength-wise. I was yo-yoing way too much on the rest vs. lift days and generally just applied all the rules with no sense, because I didn’t have any experience. Also, I was not tracking the numbers regarding lift stats or weekly body measurements.

Taking measurements just once a week has been one of the biggest mindset changes for me. I’m finally able to relax and just let things happen and more importantly, I got to learn your system for making objective decisions about my own progress and the counting rules helped me to relax the OCD. I’ve splurged almost every weekend, drinking and/or the occasional crap food and I’ve still lost on the plan and that’s been an eye-opener. But beyond splurging, I feel much more comfortable just eyeing food and knowing roughly what I’m eating – no more fears about vacations!

From the DEXA scans I’ve had done, I’ve dropped from 12.7% BF to 7.9% between July 18th to October 26th. At the same time, I’ve gained 1.95 kg lean mass (4.3 pounds). I’d echo some of the other people who’ve written you back – people just need to relax and let it happen. People, especially us modern folk, are incredibly impatient – I was and still fight it, but if they just stick to the plan, as everyone says, they will get there. I spent nearly 6 weeks at a stagnant point, then one weekend, boom, 5 pounds dropped and I was just cut all of a sudden – it was crazy!

Keep on spreading the truth!”                                                

Add to your knowledge toolbox

It can be tricky to know when to make a change, for sure. Is the stall one that’s natural or is there a need to adjust things to keep things moving? There are many variables that don’t fit nice and neatly into a blog post. For the coach, it comes down to being able to look at the whole picture and make a decision, for people to trust in your ability to spot the patterns. For you, the individual making your own decisions, all I can say is that just because your tracking method isn’t showing progress, doesn’t mean that nothing is happening.

As I gain experience I hope to share those lessons learned in a meaningful and useful way with you. For today, let’s add “Patience” into your diet toolbox.

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About the Author

Andy Morgan

Hi, I'm Andy, co-author of 'The Muscle and Strength Pyramid' textbooks and founder of This site is my sincere effort to build the best nutrition and training guides on the internet. Some readers hire me to coach them, which I've been doing full-time, online, for the last seven years. If you're interested in individualized, one-on-one coaching to help you crush your physique goals, let's start the conversation. (You can read more detailed bio here.)


  1. Nick says:

    Andy hi,
    I’ve been cutting based on the calculation I’ve made from your site for almost a month now. Progress is good and I plan on doing this for 12 weeks before I have a diet break. Do I need to recalculate my macros based on my new measurements (weight & BF) sometime during that 12 weeks period or complete it with macros as calculated in the beginning and recalculate them after the diet break ? Thanks a lot for your great advice and info they are really great.

    1. Andy Morgan says:

      Hi Nick. Just make adjustments relative to your current baseline of progress to keep you going. Check out the adjustment articles.

  2. Ark says:

    Hi Andy,

    Not sure where to ask this and I have decided to try it here. Would you recommend short cut cycles 2-3 weeks?
    My current life doesn’t let me commit to the long cut regimen? Will appreciate your advise!


    1. Andy Morgan says:

      “Would you recommend short cut cycles 2-3 weeks?”
      No. I’d recommend getting your life priorities straight first, then if this is one of them, chase it with zeal instead of half-arsing multiple things and struggling to get ahead with any of them.

      1. Ark says:

        Thanks! Makes sense!

  3. […] da sua frustração com a sua própria falta de resultados e entendimento nutricional? Ter paciência obviamente não é tão legal quanto ficar bolando planos […]

  4. Matt says:

    Hi Andy,
    Found a typo for you: “add in come “metabolic conditioning”” (some?)

    1. Andy Morgan says:

      Thanks, appreciated Matt.

  5. Chris Seah says:

    Hi Andy, I have been following your plan for awhile but due to the late arrival or the measuring tape, I have to push the update back by 3 weeks? Nevertheless it seems that my waist measurement have not dropped since my first measurement and has actually increased between the week I got my proper measuring tape! I know I might sound abit impatient but it is worrying me that I am doing something wrong

    1. Andy Morgan says:

      Chris, if you are comparing with the 4 weeks ago with the different tape then bear in mind that I’ve given you a free four week extension exactly because the data of the first four weeks wasn’t comparable with the new measuring tape you’ve decided to buy. If you are comparing this second week of data with last week, then there is nothing that can or should be read into four weeks of data due to the initial fluctuations. Please stick to the plan.

      1. Chris Seah says:

        Hi Andy, just wanted to apologise for coming off a little doubtful or anxious. Thanks for taking the time to calm me down 🙂

      2. Chris Seah says:

        Right Andy, I panicked for abit there. All good now, thanks!

  6. Joe G says:

    Hi Andy,

    Great site very good information and well presented. This may be a separate but related question on sudden weight loss from likely water retention. What is your opinion on daily water consumption? 1 Gal/ day? Does this help for initiating those sudden losses? I’m chilling at about 10-15 lbs above my ‘ideal’ weight for around a week now and I honestly feel thirsty all the time.. Roughly 11.4% bf. lost 11 lbs since I started 1 month ago. Thanks

    1. Andy Morgan says:

      Hi Joe. See either the latest article, or the section in the FAQ on water.

  7. Sean says:

    Hi Andy.

    This post has proven valuable not just for diet and training, but life in general. I have been prone to being impatient with many things in the past (physique, martial arts, being a musician). This post has helped me cut down on doing stupid shit and staying consistent in the pursuit of all my goals. Oh, and my diet has improved substantially 🙂

    Just wanted to share my appreciation. Thanks for your site, keep up the fine work.

    1. Andy Morgan says:

      Sean, thanks. Glad it’s been so useful. Welcome to ask anything in the comments if you need help at any time.

      1. Sean says:

        Cheers Andy. Will do.

  8. Mike DD says:

    Hey Andy.

    Hope everything is well on your end.

    Just wanted to send a quick update. As you suggested, I’ve been incrementally increasing macros every two weeks. When we last spoke, I was at: Training: 200g pro, 280g carb, 40g fat Non training: 200g pro, 0 carb, 60g fat.

    I’m now at: 200g pro, 400g carb, 40 fat and non training: 200g pro, 30g carb, 105g fat.

    I have started gaining a little weight (3-4pounds) so everything’s going well.

    Problem is I injured my back doing deads on sunday. I’m off for 3 – 5 weeks. Would you keep macros the same as we’re rebuilding metabolism or should I do something different?

    1. Andy Morgan says:

      Mike, thanks for the comment.
      Just 3-4lbs gain for such a large increase in calorie intake is excellent, and good news for your metabolic health and will make cutting from here much easier. People don’t want to hear that they need to diet up first before dieting back down and they rarely do. You listened and took a leap of faith and now you’re going to reap the rewards Mike.

      It’s unlikely you’ll be off completely for the 3-5 week period, more like 1-2 weeks and then gradually making weight increases from there. (Check this with your doc.) So I’d consider taking a complete diet break till then (is as simple as it sounds, details though in the next article coming) and then get back on with your current macros.

  9. […] Patience: A key tool for diet success […]

  10. Jason says:

    Hey Andy,

    I have a question about the diet break and wasn’t sure where to address it on your website.

    So I’ve now done my second diet break. I experienced roughly a 10lb gain in weight like your guide below said but my waist measurement went up 2″ as well (basically all the stomach/hip measurements are up while legs and arms stayed the same). I had the exact same thing happen on my last diet break. Is gaining 2″ on the waist normal for a diet break or did I blow it?

    The first diet break I went crazy with the food but this time around I was more careful with my eating and still ended up with the same results? It took seven weeks last time to get those 2″ off. I’ve only been back on the diet for almost a week now and lost 5lbs of the weight gain but only 1/4″ off my waist.

    Is it likely that I just ate too much on the diet break or is there something else wrong? I’m beginning to think that my body over reacts to carbs. Perhaps I should cut future diet breaks back to 10 days.

    Any insight you can give would be much appreciated!

    Thanks Andy

    1. Andy Morgan says:

      If you think about it Jason, the 10lbs of water has to go somewhere right?
      It could be that you ate too much, or it could be water. The next couple of weeks you’ll know as you resume your diet and you’ll see if the weight comes off again.
      Don’t cut back to 10 days for the reasons Lyle said. You may consider cutting back the carb intake, but you’ll want to keep to Lyle’s 100-150g guideline.

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