If you’ve been dieting since the new year, you may want to think about taking 2 weeks off. – Two weeks off, Luisa?!?! But I’ve been doing so well!!!! – Alright, alright, I hear you… but now hear me out! …. Based on the results from a new study, taking periodic breaks from your diet may actually help you to lose EVEN MORE WEIGHT and keep off that weight for an even longer period of time.
It’s no secret. Dieting is hard. And for those of us who have dieted, we all know that sticking to a diet plan 7 days a week for months at a time can be really hard work. The new study, however, suggests that we shouldn’t feel guilty about taking a mini breaks from dieting, because it may actually help with weight loss in the long run.
A study in the International Journal of Obesity by the School of Health Sciences at the University of Tasmania in Australia has just shown that continuous dieting may actually slow down your overall weight loss. In that study 51 obese men aged 25 to 54 years were split into two groups. Each group cut their calories calories by 1/3. One group stuck with the plan for a total of 16 weeks. The other group went on and off the plan every two weeks during which they increased their calorie intake enough to keep their weight stable. (This cycle of 2 weeks on and 2 weeks off was repeated for a total of 30 weeks, meaning that they also engaged in 16 weeks of dieting IN TOTAL.)
The result? The group that went on and off the plan lost 35% MORE weight than the group that stuck to their diet AND on top of that the group kept off an average of 17% more weight six months after the study had ended.
The theory? The study hypothesized that the poorer weight loss as a result of continuous dieting may be from a combination of biological mechanisms (hormones and down-regulated metabolism) that are triggered when we restrict our calories for a long period of time. (Want to know more about how hormones affect our weight loss? Check out: The Science Behind Why It’s so Hard to Keep off Those Shed Pounds (Part 1) and Smart Ways to Keep Off Those Already Shed Pounds (Part 2) ) When we reduce our food intake while dieting, our resting metabolism decreases to a greater extent than expected (a phenomenon called “adaptive thermogenesis”) which makes weight loss harder to achieve the longer we diet. This ‘”famine reaction” is a survival mechanism which helped early humans survive as a species when our food supply was running low. By eating enough food to offset this deficit for short periods of time we also counteract these hormonal changes and metabolic drops that foil most people’s efforts to lose weight.