If you have been dieting for a long time then it is probably time to think about taking a break.
Well, we often get into a cycle of chronic dieting, continually trying to restrict our food intake.
This can lead us into massive bother with being overly restrictive, getting very hungry and feeling miserable.
In turn we then end up cracking and binging maybe for just one meal, maybe for an entire weekend.
We just don’t seem to get anywhere!
Fad diets and overly restrictive programs can compound with never taking a break, making it even more likely that we will rebound and gain back any weight lost.
How do we overcome this?
Diet breaks have been shown in research to be really effective tools in helping people lose more weight and critically to keep it off!
Why is this? Is it because we go into ‘starvation mode’?
No! Starvation mode does not exist, as has been proven in research and of course is seen, very sadly, in people with eating disorders.
But, our bodies do go through certain adaptations when we are in a calorie deficit
We are designed for survival and a deficit is a threat to that so our bodies become more efficient;
We burn less calories when we exercise, our hunger hormones are increased and our satiety hormones are decreased.
Training becomes harder as we have less energy and recovery becomes more difficult.
Our sleep is adversely affected.
Sometimes when a new client comes to me the first thing I recommend is a diet break.
This can be disheartening initially but it can be absolutely the best thing for that person at that time.
It is important to reverse those adaptations, which does happen.
To then benefit from more sleep, to train better, have more energy, more flexibility with life.
Importantly though, a diet break is not an excuse to go mad and eat whatever you like, whenever you like.
It is about eating at a maintenance level, to maintain your current body weight.
It will allow you to enjoy more food and get into a better place for the next weight loss phase.
When we are on a long term diet we often hit a plateau, the truth of this is probably that we are being overly restrictive some of the time and then overeating the rest of the time.
Having a break and eating at maintenance for a good period helps break that cycle.
How do we do this?
If you are tracking calories then it should be quite straightforward.
Tracking your calories along with your body weight will allow you to arrive at a maintenance level.
Don’t be alarmed at a small initial weight gain, remember that you will carry more water weight when eating more food.
Plus or minus a kilo is maintenance.
If you are not tracking calories then use your body weight and modify the habits you have been using.
You have probably reduced your fat and carbohydrates, keeping your protein high,
allow yourself some more of those foods – adding back a little at a time.
Think about using the words ‘deficit’ and ‘maintenance’ rather than ‘diet’, this will help with your mindset.
A good length of time is 2 to 3 months, to really allow you to learn to eat at maintenance.
Try a deficit for 2 to 3 months and then a period of maintenance for 2 to 3 months.
If you have been trying to maintain a deficit one way or another for a very long time then I would wholeheartedly recommend a break.
If you have questions about this please get in touch with me by email or social media.