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Two week breaks between dieting may improve weight loss

Do you feel like you are perpetually dieting without success?  The truth is limiting calories for weeks at a time may actually hinder your weight loss momentum, new research from the University of Tasmania has revealed.  

The study, published in the International Journal of Obesity focused on the body’s “famine” reaction with 51 men with obesity in a randomized controlled trial.  The famine reaction is described as a survival mechanism which helps humans to survive when food supply is inconsistent.  Previous research discovered that continuous dieting makes losing weight more difficult over time, while this study’s goal was to look at ways to lessen the survival response and improve weight loss over time. 

The men were divided into two groups and were committed to a 16-week diet plan of continuous dieting or intermittent dieting where they maintained a lower calorie diet for two weeks, followed by a two- week break.  During the break, they ate sufficient calories to maintain weight, while calories were cut by 1/3 when each group was in the calorie or energy restriction phase.  All main meals and snacks were prepared for participants and meal intake was self-reported through the use of a food diary.  They were also encouraged to determine how to use discretionary calories - which has been shown to improve compliance in other long term diets.  If they had asked us, we would have recommended the Pineapple and Greens Smoothie!

Weight loss in the intermittent group was 47% greater than in the continuous diet group at the end of the study - fat loss was also greater in this group.  While this is great news especially as we enter diet season, it’s not to be confused with the infamous “cheat day” where it’s common to diet for 6 days and then freely eat anything and everything on the 7th and repeat.  Investigators were clear that the “cheat day” method was useless and feel that the 2-week cycle that was used in this study was critical to the success of the method.  

Published January 1, 2018

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