Are diet breaks best for overall health?

So, you fell off the wagon? This is some term and phrasing that we use now to distinguish between dieting and non-dieting phases. I could get into my opinion on that but today I’d like to focus more on the aspects of eating not on a “plan” and how that can be beneficial for you.

I’m not sure if you are aware, but if you’re not, let me letcha know that dieting long term is not good for you, in any way, psychologically, physically, or mentally. Our bodies are not designed to be in a state of constant deprivation and this can lead to things such as whacky lab results and thyroid issues. Worst of all, because we all like a high functioning metabolism is that it can keep you at a lower basal metabolic rate. You will burn less NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) and you will feel run down in the process.


So, should you take diet breaks? YES YES YES. I think that when I reference this I’m also discussing someone who might have been on a weight loss journey for a really long time, and not someone that eats a large amount of food and maintains their weight. There’s all of these variables in the type of person that you are and I have many clients that eat amble amounts of food that this might not apply to, but seemingly they are “on a diet” but that simply just meaning, a diet in which “diet” is the foods that we eat. Am I making sense? I’m talking about someone in a calorie deficit.

I have referenced it a lot in many of my blogs, but we have a hypothalamus that regulates everything. That set point range that your body wants to fall within that ranges from 5-20lbs dependent on your relationship with food can change with a weight loss journey as well however when you reach the bottom of that set point range, you will start to crave more foods, get hungrier, and your metabolism will slow down. This is in efforts of the body to restore back to homeostasis. If you hang in there past that plateau without doing anything drastic, then your body will adjust and keep on keepin on.

When you decide to take a diet break, then you get to capitalize on the OTHER end of that set point that not many people take advantage of. When you get to the upper end of the set point in which you become baffled at just how much your body can handle if you keep it consistent then you will get hot more, your metabolism will be burning strong, and you will be bee bopping around life with a much better attitude with great hormonal function (if your weight is appropriate).

When you diet for an extended period of time, you decrease your leptin which is that little hormone (again regulated within the hypothalamus), and when you take a diet break you are restoring that hormone. This hormone is also very transient dependent on the very day that you are eating so it can be restored super quickly and you don’t have to worry about that all that much if you feel that you don’t have appropriate hunger. The problem is that with chronic dieters, the anxiety produced from taking the break is almost too much and so therefore they never do, living in a chronic state of deprivation and never fully utilizing just how many calories their body can burn.

A few years back, reverse dieting became super huge. There wasn’t much research on it, and there still is not, but basically this is just the slow reintroduction of calories for minimal weight gain over time while coming out of a dieting phase. It works, and I’ve watched it work with hundreds of people however you can also skip that phase and go straight to higher calories. Most of the time, this will cause a big amount of water retention but if you hang in there and hold calories high and let your body adjust, you might gain 5lbs (WHICH YOU WOULD HAVE DONE ON YOUR REVERSE) and if you don’t jump ship then you will eventually level out and maintain there.

Some of the reasons that people choose to reverse diet instead is:

·       It’s more exact for their OCDness

·       They are able to find that upper end of their hypothalamic set point range through slow introduction of calories instead of arbitrarily jumping to what they think might be appropriate

·       It’s not as mentally challenging with all of the water fluctuations with the reintroduction of carbs

·       They don’t trust that their weight will eventually level out. They think that they will continue to gain and gain and gain

Believe me, I’ve been there. I prefer reverse dieting, so I totally get it, but I just wanted it to be known that you don’t HAVE to and you CAN jump. Many times you will see that once you figure out your ranges, you can go into a dieting phase, and jump higher out of it the second time because you are more aware of what caloric intake your body will be able to handle post dieting.

From a mental standpoint, dieting long term starts to make you a bit crazy. I think that we can look to the trends of many of the females that were long term competitors on Instagram and see what has happened there. Many of them have rebounded into higher weights than they were to start because they just kept themselves at chronically low calories, and eventually your endocrine system is just not having it anymore. Taking a break from things mentally allows you to have a good time with food, refocus if you so choose and go back to things brand new.

Of course, there is also the camp that states that we should just accept where we are, eat within hunger/fullness cues and intuitive eating principles and this hypothalamic set point will allow us to maintain weight eating whatever we choose. I am well aware of this sector of wellness, but just want people to have the information that they can choose to utilize or not :) 


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