If you’re trying to achieve rapid or prolonged fat loss, it’s very tempting to constantly be dieting and refuse to take breaks.
When you’re pursuing a goal and you feel like you’re in the groove, the last thing you want is to ease up and have a day off.
However, sometimes that might be exactly what you need to continue seeing long term progress.
There are a few reasons why it’s important to take breaks while dieting. And if you want to see long term fat loss progress whilst keeping your sanity, they are imperative.
Below I’m going to discuss the key points you need to understand, how to take diet breaks and provide a client example as proof of what I’m talking about.
Maintaining Your Metabolism
One of the most important things to watch out for when trying to lose weight is making sure that you don’t mess up your metabolism. An imbalanced metabolism is one of the reasons why ‘crash diets’ and other forms of extreme weight loss don’t work.
You know the type of diets that are so extreme, you only manage a week or two, and then end up binging and end up in a worst position than you were already in.
In most situations, your goal shouldn’t be to lose more than four – eight pounds a month. Depending on how much you have to lose, of course.
There may be circumstances when you can lose more in a month BUT if you are too aggressive with your diet, there’s a good chance you won’t stick with it and will end up re-gaining all of the weight you lost in the first place.
1-2 pounds of weight loss a week is a great aim to begin with and is something you’ll find more sustainable in the long run.
All that said, if you diet hard for too long, you will eventually burn out and there’s a chance you’ll damage your metabolism too. Which will make it much harder to diet in the future and to maintain a stable weight.
That’s why you need diet breaks. We’ll get to that in a second.
It’s Not All Or Nothing
Unfortunately, it’s easy to get caught up in all-or-nothing thinking.
But the truth is, staying fit, lean and healthy isn’t an all-or-nothing endeavour. Extreme eating on either end of the spectrum can make it nearly impossible to reach your goals. But at the same time, being too severe with your diet for too long can damage your metabolism, along with making you more likely to binge on the diet at some point.
By taking the occasional diet break, you build in a system that allows you to reset both physically and mentally. You allow your body some time to get use to your new weight and you give yourself a psychological break.
All of that combined allows you to break the “all or nothing” mentality and ultimately makes it easier for you to win in the long run.
What Should These Breaks Look Like?
Now that you understand why it’s important to take breaks, it’s useful to understand what kinds of breaks you need to take and how often you should take them.
In my experience of working with clients, taking a break once every 10-12 weeks seems to be the sweet spot for most people.
But, you may find you need it after 8 weeks or sometimes even longer than 12. It all depends on how much weight you have to lose.
Typically, if you don’t lose any weight for around 10-14 days and before that you’ve been consistently losing weight, there’s a good chance a diet break will benefit you.
The truth is, fat loss isn’t a lifestyle. It’s something you’re doing to get to a new “normal” weight and such it should be treated as something you do for short stints of time. Not forever.
Now, these diet breaks don’t mean you should spend a week eating like a pig and scoffing down everything you see. No.
My approach with clients sees them bump up their calories by 300-500 per day for around 5-7 days. This seems to be enough of a stimulus to help reset the body and gives them that psychological boost of eating more food.
And, here’s the kicker: Often this leads to MORE weight loss.
My Client, Chris, is a prime example.
He’d been doing very well. He’d lost around 18 pounds in just 12 weeks and then we hit the wall.
I told him to take a break for a week. He was sceptical of course but trusted my judgement. After the week had finished, the below image is the message he sent me…
By taking these breaks, you’re allowing your body to get used to your new weight and allowing ti to recover from the strain you’ve been putting it under.
This can help prepare you for further caloric restrictions, and it also helps remind you that you’re not going to be trying to lose weight forever. You’re trying to find a healthy balance that keeps you happy, feeling strong and looking good.
Along with the diet breaks every 8-12 weeks, it can be useful to take a day every week or every other week where you eat more calories than normal. Along with helping your metabolism, this is like a ‘re-feed’ day that allows you to build up your willpower by indulging a little.
NOTE: Don’t go overboard with these days. Just have a little more than you usually would. Go out for a dirty burger, have some pizza, enjoy some ice cream. Loosen the reigns a little without completely stuffing yourself.
Remember, fat loss isn’t a lifestyle. Attack it for 8-12 weeks and then take a break. If you’ve still got more fat to lose, go again. Keep repeating this process for as long as you need to.
Don’t be scared of taking a break. Your mind, body and waistline will thank you.
Need Help Losing Fat?
It’s not always easy to lose fat. There is a lot of conflicting advice out there, and it can be difficult to know what to do.
If this is something you want guidance and help with, make sure you sign up for the newsletter so you get free, practical and realistic advice that works sent directly to your inbox.