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How to Survive Pizza Night on a Diet

How to survive pizza night on a diet

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The fam wants pizza, but you’re concerned about the “pizza-rolls” around your hips and waist.

Is it possible to lose weight without giving up pizza night?

For that matter, what about cookies, ice cream, or a glass of wine? If healthy eating means nothing but kale and rice cakes, count me out.

By the end of this blog, you’ll have a better idea of how pizza can stay in your life without getting in the way of your weight loss goals. (And you’ll see how the strategies can be applied to other foods, too.)

Eating Pizza and Losing Weight

I once ate half a family-sized pizza which, if I’m being honest, isn’t all that impressive. I don’t remember the date of the occasion I’m thinking of, but we might as well just call it a Tuesday, because there was nothing special about it.

The only reason this particular instance stands out is because I was in the middle of a long season of weight loss. And while I don’t recommend devouring half a pizza as a conventional weight loss strategy, it didn’t get in the way of my goals.

In fact, even though I did make some other mistakes during that time, I still managed to lose 30 pounds when it was all said and done (you can read about that here).

So, yeah, I’m living proof that you don’t have to cut pizza out of your life to lose weight.

Having said that, my success wasn’t magic. If you want to reach your weight loss goals without giving up pizza night, there are 5 things to consider…

1. How Strict You Want to Be

The first step to deciding how to do pizza night on a diet is knowing how quickly you want to lose weight compared to how much you want your life to suck (or not suck).

The more restrictive you are with diet and exercise during weight loss, the harder your body will push you into eventually just sitting on your butt and stuffing your face. It may happen before you make any progress at all, or it may be after you lose a bunch of weight (causing you to gain it all back).

If I’m being honest, when I ate half that family-sized pizza, I was only planning on having a slice or two. The reason I lost control and ate so much more was because I’d been restricting myself pretty hard and had given up pizza (among other things) for too long.

Had I given myself more flexibility in my diet and allowed my rate of weight loss to be a little slower, my body wouldn’t have created as intense a feeling of needing to indulge.

In other words, having pizza every so often would have been GOOD for me.

If you want to lose weight quickly enough to stay motivated, but not so quick that you can’t enjoy “normal” life stuff — like family pizza night — losing around 0.5% of your body weight (i.e. your weight x 0.005) per week may be a good target. (Read How Fast Should You Lose Weight for more details on this.)

2. How Lean You Want to Get

If you were a bodybuilder getting ready for a competition, pizza wouldn’t even be an option. But that’s not who you are, and it’s not who we want to be either.

We get much more enjoyment out of our lives from having a semi-regular pizza night than we ever would by having a chiseled six-pack to show off at the beach.

Since most “normal,” everyday people feel the same way we do, pizza can definitely stay on the menu. You just have to decide what level of leanness you’ll be happy with. The leaner you go, the less realistic it is to think you can have pizza whenever you want.

For me, I have no desire to maintain a clearly defined six-pack, but I do like being able to see my abs just a little bit, even if only under good lighting. I can do that and still destroy some pizza a couple times per month (and other treats once a week or so).

Megan, on the other hand, would rather have the freedom to indulge (on pizza or otherwise) more often and simply maintain a healthy waistline for her height and build.

Neither approach is right or wrong but, when you’re on a diet, it’s a good idea to keep the end-goal in mind so you can set your expectations accordingly and balance what’s important to you.

3. The Type of Pizza

The problem with pizza is that it’s not super filling but it tends to be high in calories. In other words, it’s easy to eat way too much of it.

When you want to lose weight, it’s easier to stay on track if you’re intentional about your choices for the meal. Some quick tips:

  • Use lean protein and veggies as your toppings

  • Make it at home to avoid “extra” ingredients

  • Eat a giant side of veggies to help fill up

  • Avoid liquid calories — let pizza be the treat

If we’re being honest, it may be wise to steer clear of deep dish, stuffed crust, everything-on-it pizzas for a while. But don’t be fooled by “healthy” pizzas either. Even some cauliflower crust pizzas can be high in calories and are even less filling than normal pizza.

I won’t tell you specifically what pizza to buy (or make). That defeats the purpose — you should eat what you like. But if there’s a slightly better option that you’ll still enjoy and it won’t feel like a crappy substitute, go for that.

4. How Much You Eat

If you’re really concerned about pizza night messing up your weight loss goals, you should know that if you can stick to just one slice (probably two at the most), you’ll likely be able to stay 100% on track.

It takes the right type of pizza, a firm grasp on how much you need to eat the rest of the day, and a decent amount of willpower.

It’s not easy, but it IS possible.

It won’t be a very filling meal (definitely have a giant side of veggies with it). Plus it’ll mostly be made up of carbs and fats. Not that carbs and fats are bad, but it’ll be difficult (also not impossible) to get enough protein that day, too, without going overboard on calories.

On top of that, for many people (myself included, clearly), 1-2 slices can become 3-4 slices in a hurry.

If you do pizza night a lot, restricting yourself to one slice can make the process of losing weight suck the life right out of you. But there’s still hope, you just have to consider one more thing…

5. How Often You Have It

Far more realistic — and less stressful — than sticking to your weight loss goals on pizza day, is to let it be a day where you hit “maintenance calories” (you’ll still be intentional about not OVEReating, but you can have enough to actually enjoy yourself).

It won’t actively promote weight loss in the short-term, but it does promote keeping your sanity, which facilitates better weight loss in the long-term.

And it’s just one day.

Even if you do it weekly, that means you’ll still be losing weight 6 out of every 7 days.

Of course, those other 6 days can become a problem. If you “only” have pizza on Friday nights, but you also “only” have margaritas on Saturdays, and “only” have ice cream on Wednesdays, and so on… weight loss can become 0 out of 7 days real quick.

To allow room for ALL of the foods you enjoy, a full-on pizza night like I’m describing here is probably more realistic as a monthly occurrence. But again, that comes down to personal preference.

If pizza is your one true love and it doesn’t bother you to have things like adult beverages or ice cream less frequently, you may be able to have pizza night weekly with no problem. Just remember to take all 5 of these factors into consideration when you decide how often to have it.

(Side note: Even if you do “maintenance calories” perfectly, your scale will reflect an increase in water weight the next day. Don’t let that scare you. Watch for the trends in your weight over the course of weeks, not from day to day.)

What About Other Foods?

Whether it’s pizza or any other type of food you wouldn’t typically think of as part of a weight loss diet, the strategies I laid out here can all be practically applied:

  1. Give yourself freedom to enjoy the foods you love, even if it does mean a slightly slower rate of weight loss.

  2. If you don’t want to live a life without (insert your favorite food here), embrace that and set your expectations accordingly. You may not get a six-pack (honestly, who cares?), but you can still look and feel amazing!

  3. Losing weight is about making slightly better choices. If you can improve your favorite foods just a little bit without feeling restricted, do it!

  4. If you want to indulge without going over on calories, you’ll need to plan your day accordingly. Just don’t do this too often or your diet won’t be sustainable.

  5. Get a good balance of all the foods you love, even if that means you have a “maintenance” day here and there. As long as you’re consistent about your efforts (including on maintenance days — those aren’t “eat whatever you want” days), you can still be successful.

Keep in mind, the amount of pizza (and food in general) that you can eat when you’re trying to lose weight will be less than what you can eat once you hit your goal and just want to stay there — that’s the nature of weight loss.

But the idea that you have to completely give up certain foods on a weight loss diet is a myth.

In fact, it’s 1 of “5 Weight Loss Myths” you need to ditch. <—Check out our free guide to see what those other myths are and how to REALLY lose weight.


Sticking with pizza night can be GOOD for long-term weight loss. Here are 3 options for how to handle it:

  1. Have it as frequently as normal, but be extra diligent about the type of pizza you choose, the toppings you put on it, and fill up with veggies rather than more pizza.

  2. Have it less frequently, eat your normal pizza in the normal amount, and know that one isolated non-weight loss meal will have almost no effect on your goals.

  3. Have it as frequently as normal, eat your normal pizza in the normal amount, and just know it will slightly slow your rate of weight loss (but only by a little bit if you’re consistent about what you eat the rest of the time).

The idea that you have to completely give up certain foods on a weight loss diet is a myth.

In fact, it’s 1 of “5 Weight Loss Myths” you need to ditch. <—Check out our free guide to see what those other myths are and how to REALLY lose weight.


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