Losing weight can be a long and difficult process. It can take years to lose the excess pounds and adapt to a healthier lifestyle. And even if it’s not all that long, not entirely arduous, it still requires energy that you’d probably rather spend on other things. Often times the scope of the changes that need to be made can be so terrifying it can lead to failure. I know very well the feelings I had when I was on the wrong side of 200 pounds even after dieting diligently for months. I felt helpless. Discouraged. I wondered,
how much longer do I have to do this? Months, years, [gulp] a lifetime? [sob]
It just wasn’t possible to pass on dessert much longer. Certainly not forever.
While I didn’t use them more than two or three times, I found that during those moments when I was feeling particularly weak in will, just shy of empty on stamina, taking a break was the remedy. For a few days- up to a week- I’d eat reasonably. And by reasonably I mean, at caloric maintenance (the amount of calories I should consume to keep my body at the same weight). It wasn’t carte blanche to binge, to invite every fried friend into my home and my belly; it was a week of eating in a way I’d describe as…well…normal. Healthfully but with no sign of deprivation in sight. And nearly every time, I’d find myself at the end of the week feeling a bit renewed, refreshed. I’d feel less bitter about jumping back into a more conservative eating routine. Perhaps especially because I had such a long way to go weight-wise, these days of respite helped to recharge my willpower, my motivation.
It’s worth mentioning that these types of breaks aren’t for everyone. Some of us have difficulty with an all or nothing mentality that tells us we’re either strictly on the wagon or completely off and eating with reckless abandon. It’s dichotomous. It’s oatmeal and salads or ‘hey is there a dessert buffet around here?’
The advantages to diet breaks are mostly psychological, but there is also research suggesting that such a break (again, a week of eating to your maintenance calories) could help slightly increase your metabolic rate after the break. Taking a vacation from losing weight (while remaining cautious of overeating and bingeing) can be tremendously helpful for those of us who are struggling mentally and emotionally, ready to throw in the towel. The break, in this light, gives us reprieve.
In a 2003 study at Brown Medical School, scientists sought to disrupt diets by “inducing a relapse.” They took a group of dieters and made them take a break from their weight loss eating plan. Their hypothesis was that the dieters would slip back into their old ways and regain the weight. Surprisingly to the researchers, results showed that the group who took breaks was able to slip right back into their weight loss routine. There was no difference in weight loss between the group that took breaks and the group who didn’t.
A possible conclusion we can draw from this study is that diet breaks aren’t necessarily a hindrance to weight loss. And not only are they not a hindrance, but they may serve as an aid to those struggling to reach their goals.
Read the study findings here.
Have you experimented with diet breaks? What were your results? How do you recharge your motivation in weight loss?