When your weight loss seems to be stalling or you're starting to feel burnt out, try taking a break from watching your diet. It sounds counter-intuitive, but it may be just what your body — and mind — needs to see progress again. Here's how it works.
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A break can offer a kind of "system refresh" if you've been consistently dieting for a couple of months straight. The diet break is exactly as it sounds: stop thinking about your food intake, stop tracking (if you have been) and stop thinking about kilojoules or how many grams of carbs something has.
It's a difficult concept to grasp at first, but there are two huge reasons to try it out:
- Your body needs it, plain and simple. Maybe you're seeing very little progress on the scale or in your body measurements, despite your honest efforts. Maybe you feel overall low on energy and motivation and your performance in the gym and mood have suffered too. Even if you bulldoze your way through these crappy feelings, you inevitably have to keep eating less and less to keep up with your adapting metabolism and disturbed hormones as well. There comes a point where you can't (or shouldn't) eat any less food on a daily basis.
- More importantly, this break frees your mind from the mentally-draining process of dieting. Think about it: you're tracking your food, deciding what to buy at the store, cooking and preparing, and generally just putting a lot of thought into your food choices. Compound this over many months, and you've got a brain turned to mush.
Andy Morgan, a coach at Ripped Body, advises that while you're on "break", just eat when you're hungry and stop when you're full. Eat mindfully and keep it up for two weeks. Don't count or track in any way (or that would defeat the purpose), but don't eat like a jerk. Remember: a diet break is not a get-out-of-jail card for gluttony.
He also suggests sticking to your regular mealtimes, continuing training only if you want to, and bracing yourself for some weight gain — mostly from water.
"This is not about mental toughness. Taking planned breaks is one of the best moves you can make for your long term diet success," Andy notes. Moreover, if you plan for diet breaks ahead of time, you'll feel less frustrated, less likely to burn out, and be able to continue seeing the progress you really want way down the road. Check Andy's article below for further details.
Do You Need to Take a Diet Break? [Ripped Body]