April 14

Do You need a diet break?


Do you need a diet break?


Yesterday, I wrote about starvation mode,  if you haven’t read that blog yet or listened to the podcast then I would go ahead and do so. It sets us up perfectly for this one.


We talked about dieting adaptation, how as we go through a diet, our metabolic rate can slow down, but how this  adaptation only occurs after around 10 to 20% of weight loss and there’s no evidence to suggest that it adapts any further.


However, this means that you can have about 15 to 20% lower calorie expenditure after a hard deficit.


Therefore today is all around having a diet break. A diet break is exactly what it says on the tin, it is a break from being in a calorie deficit.


It is not a break from your dieting behaviours and your dieting patterns. This is where people can get this wrong, when they go on a diet break or they stop the diet, they return to their normal eating behaviours.


If your normal eating behaviours were so good in the first place, you wouldn’t have needed the diet.


A statement that I use with my clients is that calorie deficits are temporary, but habits remain forever. So, within this entire period, the diet and the diet break,  the habits that we look to build with people are designed to be forever.


Habits such as eating protein with each meal, eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, going on plenty of walks, managing stress and sleeping enough.


All of these habits remain the same when you stop being in a deficit, it is just the calorie amount that changes.


After being in a deficit for quite a long time, ‘maintenance breaks’ and ‘diet breaks’, are helpful in order to stop this metabolic adaptation, or even reverse it.


There is a combination of the ways that this can work. You can either have ‘refeeds’ for example 3 day refeeds, or you can have longer diet breaks from a week to many weeks depending on how long you want to do it.


Single Day refeeds don’t seem to be enough, but there is some research to suggest that three days of overfeeding carbohydrate increases leptin, which is the satiety hormone. Therefore this helps you bring back the adaptations of being full after eating plenty of food.


The idea of having longer diet breaks is something that I use with clients and it’s something that you should probably consider, especially if you’ve been in a deficit for a long time.


You could perhaps be a chronic dieter, someone who is never off a diet, you’re constantly trying to lose weight. You’re restricting and then overeating, then restricting and overeating again. Or maybe doing a fad diet, then putting the weight back on again.


In these situations it would help for you to go through a longer diet break, a longer break managing at maintenance calories. It can help psychologically, to break the vicious cycle.


If you’ve gone through a deficit phase and lost a lot of weight. Having a diet break isn’t just going to help psychologically, but it’s going to help with the bringing up of this energy expenditure and non exercise activity expenditure both of which will have adapted downwards.


Improving these expenditure levels can help massively when you are looking to go back into a weight loss phase. If you’ve been dieting for a long time, I would recommend a diet break.


There isn’t loads of research on them, but the research that is there is positive and anecdotally, it has worked great with clients in terms of giving them a break psychologically from the diet and also helped with the hunger and satiety hormones.


If you are reading this and thinking ‘well, that sounds like something I want to do but I’m afraid of weight gain’. Then there is a process called reverse dieting, which isn’t very well studied but again has had quite a lot of anecdotal evidence and a lot of use in practice by other practitioners, as well as myself.


I am going to discuss this idea in more depth in tomorrow’s blog and podcast. To sum up, if you have been dieting for a long time it is very, very likely that you need a maintenance break.


If you are in the middle of a weight loss phase at the moment. Just know that after a while you are going to get some adaptations to weight loss, both through hunger, appetite and energy expenditure.


To give yourself a break from this deficit is only going to help you in the long run, you can maintain the weight that you have lost, improve on these adaptations, then that’s going to put you in better stead for losing further weight down the line.


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