Do You Need a Diet Break?

Diet Break

You have been dieting for 6 months and starting to hit a wall.

The first 8 weeks were great.

The weight was flying off. Your energy was soaring.

You felt like you could tackle the world. That nothing was going to stop your progress.

Now… your weight loss has stalled, you want to eat everything in sight, and you may or may not be show signs of SHS (Severe Hangry Syndrome).

You are at your wit’s end.

If this is you, it may be time to think about a diet break. Even if you still have weight to lose you might consider just taking a step back for a short period of time.

A diet break is, as the name indicates, a controlled break from dieting where calories (with an emphasis on carbohydrates) are brought to estimated caloric maintenance for a period of time.

This break can vary, but for most of our clients who still have a decent amount of weight to lose, we generally advise them on a 10-14 day break.

Now, this is where things do get a little interesting. There is some science to support more “punctate” dieting periods, where you take structured breaks.

For example, one study found that over a 16 week period, people who took a short diet break every 2 weeks saw greater weight loss results (~5 pounds more) over the course of the study than people who dieted the entire time.

Left Panel: CON group took no breaks; INT group took structured breaks.
Right Panel: Body weight change during periods of dieting (ER) and diet breaks (EB).

While most people might benefit from diet breaks, there are a few things to consider:

  1. Your weight might go up due to the increased amount of food, replenishment of muscle glycogen stores, water weight. None or maybe just a little bit of the weight gain is going to be stored fat, which is going to come off once getting back into a caloric deficit anyway.
  2. Your weight could stabilize and stay there where it is.
  3. You could experience a big drop in weight in the first few days thanks to the increased carbohydrates that decrease cortisol levels, causing water weight loss.

So, if you are finding yourself stuck and frustrated, instead of throwing in the towel completely, maybe just take a short, two-week break from dieting and then get back on the path!