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When Are Diet Breaks a Good Idea?

Heard about diet breaks? Here's the deal: there isn't a lot of solid scientific proof they boost weight loss physiologically. But they can be a game-changer for your mindset and adherence. Let’s dive deeper into when they’re a good idea, and why they're not automatically the solution for plateaus what you should be looking at instead.


The Psychological Benefits of Diet Breaks

While diet breaks might not directly impact your physiological ability to lose weight, they can have a significant psychological impact. Maintaining a calorie deficit can be mentally taxing, leading to burnout, frustration, and sometimes giving up entirely. This is where diet breaks can play a crucial role.


When Are Diet Breaks a Good Idea?

1. Feeling Burnt Out? If you’ve been dieting for an extended period, the constant focus on calorie counting and restriction can wear you down. A diet break/coming up to about maintenance, can provide much-needed relief, allowing you to enjoy food without the stress of sticking to a calorie deficit. This break can help recharge your motivation and prevent burnout, making it easier to return to your lower calorie diet plan with renewed energy and focus.

2. Struggling with Consistency? Adherence is the cornerstone of any successful weight loss plan. If you find yourself constantly straying from your diet, a short break on maintenance calories might help reset your mindset. Sometimes, a brief pause can reinforce the importance of your goals and remind you why you started. This can enhance your ability to stick to your plan in the long term.

couple eating tapas on holiday

3. Got a lot going on Socially? Do you have a holiday/vacation or family celebration or wedding coming up? If you do then that is probably a natural time for you to ease off a calorie deficit and switch to maintenance for a week or two. Give yourself some space to enjoy life and then get back on with the fat loss you want to achieve (it is all about balance). Switching up to maintenance/taking a diet break - is simply going to slow down the overall period you are in a calorie deficit to lose fat.... a small delay is a good thing if the alternative is you give up entirely on your fat loss goals.


Why Diet Breaks Aren’t an Automatic Solution for Plateaus

Hitting a weight loss plateau can be frustrating. It’s tempting to look for a quick fix, like a diet break, but it’s essential to understand that this isn’t always the best solution. Here’s why:

1. Adherence to Calorie Deficit Before considering a diet break, evaluate your adherence to your current calorie deficit. Are you consistently hitting your calorie targets, or have you been lax? Sometimes, we might think we're eating within our calorie limits, but little indulgences and inaccuracies in tracking can add up, sabotaging our deficit.

2. Movement Levels Another critical factor to examine is your level of physical activity. Have you reduced your movement without realising it? Weight loss plateaus often occur when the body adapts to a new lower weight and requires fewer calories for maintenance. Increasing your physical activity can help break through this plateau by boosting your calorie expenditure.


Understanding Weight Fluctuations


woman on bathroom scales

It important to always remember: It is a scientific fact that if you are in a calorie deficit, you will lose fat. However, your bodyweight is made up of many components, water, muscle, food in transit etc. that can naturally fluctuate day to day. So even if you are in a calorie deficit, weight loss will never be linear, factors like:

  • Eating more salt or fibre than usual

  • Exercising more or less than normal

  • Hormonal fluctuations throughout the month

These can all impact your weight and can often mask fat loss on the scales. That’s why it’s crucial not to get discouraged by daily weight changes. The key is to look at the bigger picture and focus on long-term trends rather than short-term fluctuations or "plateaus".


What to Look at Before Taking a Diet Break

Before deciding on a diet break, take a close look at the following aspects of your routine:

  • Consistency in Tracking Calories: Ensure you’re accurately tracking everything you eat and drink. Small, untracked items can add up and negate your calorie deficit.

  • Physical Activity Levels: Assess whether you’ve been as active as before. Even small reductions in daily activity can affect your progress.

  • Stress and Sleep: High stress levels and poor sleep can impact your weight loss. Addressing these can sometimes be more effective than taking a diet break.

  • Hydration: Sometimes, weight fluctuations can be due to hydration levels. Ensure you're drinking enough water daily.

Diet breaks can be a valuable tool for maintaining long-term adherence to your weight loss plan, especially when feeling burnt out, you are struggling with consistency or just want to enjoy those special occasions. However, they aren’t a magic solution for breaking through plateaus. So, before considering a break, consider when diet breaks are a good idea and closely evaluate your adherence to your calorie deficit and your movement levels.


Remember, weight loss is a marathon, not a sprint and your fat loss it will never be linear. Consistency and adherence are key. Ready to get back on track? Focus on your adherence and keep moving!


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