If the idea of dieting instantly conjures up thoughts of all the foods you can’t have, here’s some good news: According to new research, dieting is actually more effective when you slip some normal eating days — and even weeks — into the mix. Yes, really!
The study, published in International Journal of Obesity, monitored the diets of two groups of obese participants over 16 weeks in a controlled setting in which they were provided all meals and snacks. The diet cut participants’ caloric intake to two-thirds the recommended amount they’d need just to maintain their weight — so we’re guessing there were some very hangry people taking part in this study.
While the first group sustained the restrictive diet meticulously for the entire 16 weeks, the other group broke their 16-week diet into two-week increments.
In other words, they would follow the strict diet for two weeks and then take two weeks off — being allowed to resume their normal caloric intake. Then it was back to the strict dieting routine for another two weeks followed by another two weeks off, and so on, until they reached 30 weeks (to get to the same 16 weeks of dieting as the first group).
The results were interesting — the on-again, off-again dieters actually lost both more weight and more fat than the strict dieters. Although both groups gained some weight back after the study, the on-again, off-again dieters gained back an average of 17 pounds less than the dieters who stuck to the restrictive diet. In other words, the intermittent dieters were better at keeping the weight off after the study.
Researchers believe the reason for this is because interrupting a diet with “rest periods” (or the days when you’re taking breaks from dieting) prevents the metabolism from slowing down as a result of consuming less calories.
So, by all means, enjoy a cheat day now and then — but remember what you eat should be part of a lifelong healthy lifestyle. Balance is everything!