A 14-day break from a diet leads to 50 percent more weight loss, recent research finds.
Taking a break from dieting also helps people to keep the weight off.
A break from dieting works because diets induce the body to slow down the rate at which it burns calories.
This makes it harder to lose weight.
A break, though, helps bring the body’s burning of calories back up to normal speed, which aids weight loss when the diet is resumed.
Professor Nuala Byrne, the study’s first author, explained:
“When we reduce our energy (food) intake during dieting, resting metabolism decreases to a greater extent than expected; a phenomenon termed ‘adaptive thermogenesis’ — making weight loss harder to achieve.
This ‘famine reaction’, a survival mechanism which helped humans to survive as a species when food supply was inconsistent in millennia past, is now contributing to our growing waistlines when the food supply is readily available.”
The study included two groups: one of which dieted for two weeks, then took two weeks off, for a total of 32 weeks.
The comparison group simply dieted continuously for 16 weeks.
So, both groups dieted for the same period of time.
The results showed that those who took a break lost an average of 31 pounds, compared with 20 pounds in the group that dieted continuously.
Six months after the study finished, intermittent dieters maintained 18 pounds more weight loss.
Professor Byrne said that shorter breaks from dieting, though, are not as effective:
“There is a growing body of research which has shown that diets which use one to seven day periods of complete or partial fasting alternated with ad libitum food intake, are not more effective for weight loss than conventional continuous dieting.
It seems that the ‘breaks’ from dieting we have used in this study may be critical to the success of this approach.
While further investigations are needed around this intermittent dieting approach, findings from this study provide preliminary support for the model as a superior alternative to continuous dieting for weight loss.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the International Journal of Obesity (Byrne et al., 2018).