When it comes to losing weight and dieting, the majority of people approach it with it gusto. All too often, however, the “I’ll start Monday” mantra ends up making an appearance just about every weekend. After a full week of cutting calories and making sure to get workouts in, many people feel controlled and deprived as a result of overly-restrictive dieting. Fortunately, for those attempting to shed the unwanted pounds, a new study has shown that indulging in “diet breaks” or periods of time dedicated to maintenance calorie levels, can help dieters maintain long-term results and even drop more weight.
A recent study published in the International Journal for Obesity questioned whether participants would experience notable differences when given a two-week break from dieting. Two groups of individuals ranging from 30-50 years old were assigned to one of two diets: One cut calories by 33% and was continuously maintained over a period of 16 weeks. The other cut calories by the same amount, but dieters were allowed a two-week break at maintenance calories after two weeks of dieting. Researchers found that the group participating in diet breaks actually lost more weight than the group following the continuous restriction diet. They were also able to maintain their results more consistently in the period following the study.
So why did this occur? When the body senses a reduction in food intake, it adjusts metabolism correspondingly. This is called adaptive thermogenesis and is the downfall of many dieters. Although we don’t realize it, continuous calorie restriction actually sets the body up for slowed weight loss because of the body’s famine reaction. This protective mechanism has roots all the way back to our hunter-gatherer ancestors, and although we don’t face famine risk in modern times, our bodies still protect us as though we do. Dieting breaks allow the body relief from calorie reduction, reducing this “famine response” and promoting more consistent weight loss.
This is great news for dieters who just can’t seem to stick to their plans for longer than a few days. Since the new research is showing that taking breaks from dieting can actually be beneficial, at least now there is light at the end of the tunnel. As long as dieters can keep their calories in check for two weeks at a time, the “I’ll start Monday” mantra can be a thing of the past.