A new study on weight loss and diets has shown that taking 2-week breaks while dieting will trigger greater weight loss, and offers the much-needed solution to the weight regain problem that many people encounter after losing weight. The study was published in the last issue of the International Journal of Obesity.
Almost two-thirds of Americans are obese or overweight. Each year, about 45 million Americans go on a diet spending $33 billion on weight loss products. Overweight and obese people face high levels of deadly chronic illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and gallbladder issues.
Though still a concern for millions of people, weight gain after a successful weight loss is a very common story. Initially, such people lose weight steadily, and they enjoy all the fitness and health benefits of having a healthier weight. But then the body reacts in the most peculiar of ways – it not only stops losing more weight, but it also starts to bring it back with a vengeance, reversing the weight loss just experienced and sometimes going beyond to add on a few more pounds. This hardly seems fair to someone who has spent so much time and dedicated so much effort trying to lose weight.
Even people who made drastic weight losses while participating in the popular weight loss reality show “Biggest Loser” have fallen culprit to this frustrating phenomenon. In a study involving 14 of the contestants who lost an average of 125 pounds during the show, it was discovered that all but one had added back most of the weight they had lost regardless of the fact that they maintained a healthy diet and kept working out.
Why People Regain Weight
The weight regain problem is linked to a reduction in BMR (basal metabolic rate). Many diets make the body lower its BMR considerably. A low BMR means that our body daily energy consumption is low. Therefore, the amount of calories burnt every day is low and this makes it harder to keep off the weight loss.
Also, the more weight people lose, the hungrier they become. Appetite increases every time we lose weight. Specifically, in 2006, professor Nuala Byrne showed that when we lose weight we tend to eat 100 more calories for every 2 pounds that we lose. The increased appetite is part of the reason why people regain weight after completing a diet.
The Findings of the Study
The study reported in the International Journal of Obesity, showed that taking 2-week breaks will not only promote weight loss, it will also keep the weight from coming back. The study which focused on “minimizing adaptive thermogenesis and deactivating obesity rebound” showed that being continuously on a diet actually sabotages weight loss.
The findings are exciting news for another reason as well-being on a diet is usually a hard thing. That means taking breaks can make things easier on dieters. And now, it turns out, the breaks will even accelerate the weight loss dieters are trying to attain and prevent the widespread weight regain problem.
During the study, two groups of men were observed for 16 weeks. One of the groups followed the prescribed diet for 16 weeks without breaks, while the other group took 2 week breaks after every two weeks of dieting while still following the same diet. During the breaks, the second group of men were eating more than during the diet.
By the end of the study, the men who took breaks lost more weight than those who did not. Additionally, six months after stopping the diet, the men who took breaks during their diet weighed an average of 8 kg (18 lb) less than those who did not take breaks between their diet.
The researchers believe that this peculiar outcome may have something to do with the way the body’s metabolism reacts to the whole dieting affair. The body’s metabolism drops more than it is expected when we restrict our calorie intake. As a result, not only does the rate at which we lose weight diminish more and more as we continue dieting, the weight comes back right after the diet is over and we start eating normally again. This phenomenon is known as adaptive thermogenesis” or “famine reaction,” and it was developed thousands of years ago as a support mechanism to help our ancestors survive long periods without food.
This is our body’s natural reaction to help handle less food consumption without too drastic an impact on health. However, the two-week breaks from a calorie-restricted diet can keep “adaptive thermogenesis” from kicking in, and this promotes weight loss and prevents weight regain.
However, the rest period has to be 2-weeks at least. That is because previous studies on the impact on 1-week breaks between diet periods were shown to cause no significant weight loss differences between continuous and intermittent dieters.
A New Weight Loss Diet Paradigm
The benefits of intermittent dieting have even inspired a book, “Interval Weight Loss” by Dr. Fuller, a top obesity researcher. The newly published book addresses the problem of weight regain that seems to plague many dieters. It seems that our bodies have programmed themselves to operate within a certain weight. Any weight loss is perceived by our body as a “mistake.” So, when we lose weight, the body will try to correct the “mistake” when it gets enough calories to get that done. In fact, the body will usually go a step further and ensure you gain more weight than normal in case another calorie-restricted diet period comes up.
But in his book Dr. Fuller explains how the body can be tricked out of this biological mechanism, which today is responsible for our increasing waistlines. That can be done by taking breaks between the diet. This way, the body will revise its programmed weight downwards over time, which will prevent weight and fat regains.
So, you should try to lose weight without resorting to anything as drastic as getting rid of a particular food type or being on a diet for several weeks in a row. “With the intermittent diet the body can adjust itself to the weight loss changes over time and do away with the impulse to recover the lost weight,” says weight loss expert Beatrice of Bestiews. Her blog offers a coupon for Nutrisystem’s intermittent diet.
This new research supports previous findings and makes it now clear that losing weight and keeping it off is best achieved with a two-week off, two week-on dieting approach.