It may seem contradictory to hear you should take a break from your weight loss diet. But an important distinction must be made. First, you must ask yourself how long it has been since you started dieting. If the answer is several months, you may be due for a break for reasons we are about to discuss.
If you have just started to lose weight recently for health reasons, then everything you are about to read will not be immediately relevant to you. But at some point in time, it will. Revisit these ideas when you hit an inevitable plateau or when you have been dieting for longer than six months.
So why, and more importantly, when should you take a break from your diet?Firstly, let us examine the two situations where a break from dieting and weight loss is warranted…
- you have been in a significant caloric deficit, and
- you have been dieting for weight loss for longer than six months.
Sometimes the caloric deficit is so steep a break is not only helpful but essential. The last thing you need during a weight loss journey is to crash your metabolism because you are eating too little. This is highly unlikely because your appetite will remind you dozens of times a day you should be eating more. But it does happen every so often.
Also, a massive caloric deficit may cause you to be due for a break earlier than six months in. It is not easy to know exactly when, but if you are feeling mental fatigue and an excessive burden from your weight loss efforts, it may be time to take it easy for a while.
If you have been losing weight consistently for longer than six months, you ought to take a short break anyway. For at least two weeks (not longer than a month), you should eat at a baseline level, and let your mind wander to any thought but those that concern weight loss. Eating at a baseline level means eating regular food – an amount that does not make you lose or gain weight.
The reason a break from your diet is necessary is because exhaustion sets in. It is overwhelmingly difficult to be on track for an extended period. With exercise, your muscles need rest so they can grow. It’s a similar principle here.
This is not to say you should abandon your plans if you have not reached your goal yet. It is just a reminder about the importance of respite. If it feels like you are taking a step back, remind yourself you have already taken two or three steps forward. It is a matter of pacing.
Mini-breaks are helpful too. Every eight weeks you could take a week off from dieting and achieve the same result. Taking a break when you are feeling overwhelmed will reinvigorate you.
If your motivation is ever tested with weight loss fatigue, you now know what to do.