Though counterintuitive, sometimes a break from dieting is exactly what you need to ultimately be more successful. I strongly believe that lifestyle changes are the true key to long-term success and no one should be chronically dieting (I did name my Facebook group Live Diet-Free, after all). As I mentioned in this article, I can’t deny the appeal – and success – of a lot of short-term diets or challenges.
It’s pretty common to jump from one short-term challenge to another – or even to chronically diet – even though your results have stagnated. This gives your body little time to normalize between efforts. Research shows that dieters are much more successful at losing – and keeping off – weight when they take “diet breaks” during the process.This article will explain why.
What Is A Diet Break?
A diet break is exactly what it sounds like: a period of time during which you are not actively trying to lose weight. A break can last anywhere from one week to several months, depending on your individual circumstances.
Taking a break does not mean reverting back to your old habits. Instead, eat to maintain your weight while allowing yourself some moderate indulgences. This time off gives your mind and body time to adjust before recommitting to another stretch of dieting (aka being in a calorie deficit.)
When To Take a Break
If you’ve been dieting for more than a few months straight, you should consider pressing pause for a couple of weeks.
Those of you who can’t remember the last time you weren’t on a diet, you should definitely take a break – probably for a good deal longer.
If you’re doing all the right things but aren’t seeing proportionate results or if you’ve already cut calories very low, it’s probably time for a break.
Vacation coming up and you don’t want to spend the whole time stressing about following the “rules” of your diet? Schedule a break.
Just feeling generally unmotivated, stressed out, lethargic, or not totally on-board with dieting right now? Stop for a while.
This is a temporary hiatus, not you giving up on your weight loss goals. If you’ve been dieting a long time or you’re just not feeling it mentally or physically, take a break. Your body will thank you for it and you’ll be better off in the long run. Keep reading to find out why.
As you lose weight, your metabolic rate adjusts down. This is largely because now there’s less of you to sustain but there’s also a hormonal component. Taking a break and moving to maintenance (aka eating to stay the same weight) for a couple weeks gives your hormones time to recovery from the time spent in a calorie deficit.
Some people experience a decrease in performance or muscle mass during a diet which can be remedied by a couple of weeks with additional calories.
Diet breaks can potentially help your body stabilize at your new, lower, bodyweight and give your body a better chance of accepting that weight as the new normal.
At least as important as the physical benefits of taking a break from dieting are the mental benefits.
Many people approach dieting like they’re going to be sacrificing forever. Just eating less and moving more until someday in the future, hopefully, they reach their “goal” weight and all their dreams come true. Depending on how much weight a person has to lose, this can feel really daunting and overwhelming. A break from dieting provides some light at the end of the tunnel. It becomes easier to put your head down and do the work when you know you’ll get a reprieve soon.
Diet breaks allow you to be in control because you can choose when to schedule them, rather than unexpectedly losing control (aka binging) and being forced into a break. Imagine not stressing about how to diet on vacation because you’ve intentionally planned a short break for that time?
Additionally, knowing that these breaks are part of the long-term plan makes it easier to get back on track afterward. This means that committing to another fat loss phase post-vacation might not feel like such a struggle.
Perhaps most importantly, breaks from dieting increase your long-term adherence, which is pretty much the most important thing. They’ll help you lose fat more effectively (by normalizing hormones -see below), but also increase your odds of long-term success because you won’t be constantly stressed about endless dieting.
How To Do It
Ease yourself out of your calorie deficit by increasing your intake until your weight stabilizes (you can do this as gradually as you’d like.) This may be less food than you were eating prior to the diet or challenge because now there’s less of you to sustain but the goal is to maintain your current weight for a few weeks or months.
Mentally wrapping your head around the importance of taking a diet break is often the hardest part. It can be a struggle to wrap your head around why you’re eating more – and not actively trying to lose more – when you’re not yet where you want to be.
Remind yourself that the breaks are just as important as the actual dieting for your physical and mental health, as well as your long-term success.
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