Diet Breaks for Long Term Weight Loss

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If you are attempting to lose a significant amount of weight, I highly recommend implementing some form of “diet break”.

Dieting for a long period of time can be mentally taxing, but there are also metabolic adaptations that occur which result in a slower metabolism. The combination of these two things can make it difficult to continuously make progress over the long term. More importantly, this combination makes it difficult to prevent weight-regain, which really is the most pressing issue.

One way around it is a diet break, where you eat at your maintenance calories for a certain period of time – generally 1-2 weeks.

The Matador Study

The Matador Study utilised 2 week breaks which were implemented once a month e.g. diet for 2 weeks, break for two weeks. The conclusion they came to after comparing it to continuous energy restriction: “Greater weight and fat loss was achieved with intermittent ER. Interrupting ER with energy balance ‘rest periods’ may reduce compensatory metabolic responses and, in turn, improve weight loss efficiency.”

Practicality

Keeping your metabolic rate higher while dieting is always a good goal to strive for. In practice would I do it the same way? Probably not. I would probably do it less frequently, since this could be the difference between dieting for 16 weeks and taking 30 weeks to get to a similar result. Most people do not have this kind of patience.

For somebody with a very high BMI who is >6 months away from their goal no matter how hard they work, there is no doubt that I would attempt to utilise this in some form. An example that I have used in the past has been 1 month of maintainance for people who have lost >10kg.

Other Benefits

The obvious benefit of this is that it can help with maintaining a higher metabolic rate, but other reasons I use it is because:
1) It helps you mentally since it reduces yourfeelings of restriction – which are bound to happen if you lose 0.5-1kg a week for >10 weeks.
2) It helps get you into a mindset of what maintaining their weight will feel like when you finally reach your goal, which is reassuring. When you change your weight significantly, you will almost always have a fear in the back of your mind that you won’t be able to adjust to eating “normally” again.
3) It helps shift your mindset towards fueling to aid in your training/exercise habits, as well as meeting micronutrient requirements that might have been more difficult to hit in a calorie deficit.

Summary

It is difficult to implement this with people who aren’t tracking calories (aka most people attempting to lose weight), but it is still worthwhile to attempt in some way. There are so many ways to do it, but it could involve things like working on intuitive eating, or adding in snacks that were excluded because they are slightly higher calorie.

Weight-loss over the long term is hard. This can make it easier. It is definitely worth looking into.

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