Dieting 101: Diet breaks

Most people will warn you longterm dieting backfires eventually. However, you’ve finally mustered up the courage to face your fear of potentially failing.

All is well until you eat two desserts and end up a month deep into dietary ignorance.

Research suggests your strategy might be working against you.

What is a “Diet Break?”

Simply put: cycling maintenance calories with weight loss calories, rather than the traditional way of staying in a deficit until you meet your goal.

This would prolong the overall “weight loss” journey, but you don’t want to bite off more than you can chew.


Science even says so….

A study published in Nature, a reputable scientific journal, found diet breaks to improve weight loss in obese men. (N M Byrne et al. 2017)

  • 51 obese men put randomly into 2 groups (25-54 years old)
  • group one was put in a calorie deficit for a straight 16 weeks
  • group two alternated between 2 weeks in calorie deficit and 2 weeks in maintenance for a total of 30 weeks (16 of those weeks were = deficit)
  • group two lost more weight

A caveat:

Take all research with a grain of salt. Especially if you are not a 30 year old, obese man under strict diet controls.

Eating “maintenance” does NOT mean having a “cheat week.” It means eating more food but still enough that would maintain your current weight.

If you have a strict deadline, maybe you should go hard or go home. But really what’s the rush?

Screen Shot 2018-04-23 at 10.14.37 PM
I had my reasons but you really don’t even need to cut for competition.


What does this mean for you?

From an anecdotal perspective, the overarching theme of taking a chill pill and not rushing to become the “best version of yourself” has value.

Screen Shot 2018-04-23 at 10.09.33 PM
This is, hands down, the best version of myself.

A diet break may potentially help convince your brain and body you aren’t starving or isolating yourself from society forever.

It’s also easier to think “I am losing 10 pounds” vs “I am losing 40 pounds.” Even if 40 pounds is the longterm goal.

Take time to teach your body to adapt and accept its new self, and show it love. Find a strategy that works for you. Whatever is least intimidating and more realistic based on how much you are looking to lose.

Here are some sample options:




  • Option 1: Every 3-5 pounds lost, take a 2-6 week break.
  • Option 2: Every 5-10 pounds lost, take a 4-6 week break.
  • Option 3: Every 4-6 weeks, take a 2 week break. (2:1 ratio)
  • Option 4: Every 2 weeks, take a 2 week break. (1:1 ratio)

My 2018 fat loss update:

Personally, I gave myself 9-10 months to lose 10 pounds. This may sound insanely slow, but my body doesn’t “need” to lose weight for health. I am doing this so I can compete in 56-57 kg weight classes without needing to cut weight before meets.

Screen Shot 2018-04-23 at 10.16.07 PM
I cut from 135 pounds to 128 pounds and then dehydrated to 125 pounds for the sake of a score. In the process of getting myself closer to a stable, hydrated 125 pounds.

Also, I obviously care about my strength, which tends to suffer with every 3-5 pounds lost, or every 3-4 weeks in dieting mode.


  • January and February I was in a deficit that brought me down 7 pounds.
  • Have been maintaining my weight successfully throughout March and April (initially shot up 1-2 pounds as expected)
  • Returning to deficit in May/June, looking to lose another 3-5 pounds before my next maintenance phase
  • If all goes well I will be around 56-57 kg by fall 2019

Feel free to reach out if you want some more insight on structuring your diet breaks.

I’m just a girl who’s been there and back and don’t want your weight loss to be any more of a miserable process than it needs to be.

It’s not fun, but it is possible.

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