If your diet is driving you crazy, it’s probably time to take a break – really! Experts advise that taking strategic breaks during a weight loss diet can help dieters continue the program and supports long-term weight loss success. In fact, you may be surprised to discover that going back on your diet after a break isn’t as difficult as you might think. A 2012 study in the Obesity Research Journal concluded that dieters who took prescribed breaks during a weight loss program were able to resume the diet easily after each break and did not have significant weight gain during the breaks.
The mistake most people make is to continue following their diet program no matter what — even when they start obsessing about food to the point where it’s unbearable. This can lead to binge eating and weight gain. Taking a break is a better option. In fact, stopping and restarting your diet is sometimes a great way to conquer a weight plateau or to simply recharge your motivation.
Now, a break doesn’t mean an all-out-food frenzy – just a chance to relax a little and stop counting calories, fat grams or points. The secret to a successful diet break is to stay in control. Once you’ve decided to take a break, plan a specific period of time (usually 1 or 2 weeks) for your break. Make sure you schedule a firm ‘return-to-diet’ date. Continue to exercise as you normally would. Some people pre-plan a diet break based on duration. For example, they plan to follow the diet for 12 weeks, take a 2-week break—then return to dieting. This works for many dieters because they know what to expect, and may be willing to stick to a diet for those extra few days. Others decide to take a break based on how they feel while dieting.
Could you be ready for a break? Here are some signs:
- You weigh yourself several times a day.
- You dramatically decrease your food intake.
- You feel depressed because you aren’t losing weight.
- Your dieting becomes an overwhelming element of your life.
Diet breaks help you avoid “diet burnout,” which can happen when you’ve been dieting for a long time, have been continually eating the same foods or are finding it difficult to stay motivated because of lack of progress. Avoiding these feelings of burnout with a temporary break may help you get back on your diet and not quit altogether.
Taking a break also may help boost your metabolism. Remember, your body is designed for self-preservation, so a diet that is excessively low in calories for an extended period of time will usually slow down your metabolism and result a discouraging weight loss plateau. A diet break could give your body the fuel it craves.
A diet break can also strengthen your willpower and demystify “forbidden foods.” Experts agree that by rewarding yourself once in a while with foods you crave, you’ll be less vulnerable to temptation over the long term. It’s better to eat one cookie than an entire tub of hummus dip!
Remember, it took a long time to gain that weight, so it’s going to take some time to lose it. The easier your diet is to live with, the better your chances of sticking with it for the long term. A break may be just what the nutritionist ordered.