When to take a break from dieting

Beth Furness - Assistant Nutritionist | 21 Nov, 2023

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Do you believe taking a break from dieting will stop you from reaching your goals? It's time to debunk the myth that a break equals failure. Each individual has their own unique lifestyle, metabolism, and anatomy. So, when it comes to weight loss, it's no surprise that there's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach. Some of us may find we need a temporary pause from time to time, and this is totally normal! So if you feel as though you've hit a wall in your journey, you’re not alone and there are strategies to help.

Join me in this eye-opening blog as we unravel the signs that suggest it may be time for a short break in your dieting routine to reset. Additionally, I'll offer some practical tips to ensure that your pause not only revitalises you and your mindset but also leads you closer to achieving long-term weight loss.

Signs you're in need of a break

Signs you're in need of a break

1You've noticed a shift in mood

Remaining in tune with your emotions whilst dieting is crucial to recognising when it might be time to take a break. If feelings of irritability, anxiety, or generally feeling a bit down are persistent, it could indicate that your diet regime is affecting your emotional well-being. However, before pausing your diet, it's important to assess and rule out any other potential life triggers that may be causing these emotions. But, should you suspect your diet is the cause, stepping back and observing any changes in how you feel could provide insight.

2It's getting in the way of life

Some people may feel that keeping a focus on their diet means they have to skip social events around eating and drinking, such as dining out with friends or family. Not surprisingly this can lead to negative feelings and resentment. We always emphasise the flexible benefits to calorie counting when it comes to enjoying life and still losing weight, but if these feelings are ones you relate to, then taking a pause may help you to reassess any potentially limiting habits that are creeping in unnecessarily.

3You’ve stopped making progress

Hitting a wall after long periods of trying to lose weight is a frustrating yet completely normal part of any weight loss journey. It's actually a sign that your body is adapting to your current routine. There are ways to kickstart your weight loss again, but if you feel that nothing is working and it's beginning to affect your mental health, a short planned diet break may provide the reset your metabolism needs before you return to your diet. If you want to read more about hitting a plateau, head over to our blog – 8 ways to beat a weight loss plateau.

4Lacking motivation

It's no secret that dieting is a journey filled with highs and lows, so it's no wonder it can seriously give your motivation a knock. If you feel as though you're losing your focus and energy to continue, it may be time for a short break. This pause will provide you the space to revisit your initial reasons for embarking on this journey, hopefully reigniting the spark you need to continue. This may be a better alternative to losing your focus and falling off the wagon entirely.

5It's causing unhealthy behaviours

If you find yourself obsessing over food, or you've started behaviours such as binge-eating or extreme restrictions, it's a red flag that your relationship with dieting has taken a potentially unhelpful turn. Ensuring you take the time to regain a healthier perspective on food and your body is essential, and only allow yourself to come back into dieting when you know you are mentally ready to do so.

6Your physical wellbeing has reduced

There can be occasions where our bodies start to feel the brunt of dieting, especially if you have embarked on drastic dietary change. If you are struggling to find the energy for your usual daily activities, it could be an indication that you need to review your approach. This is why we do not advocate very low calorie diets, they take a toll on your body and energy levels and are unsustainable. So if what you're doing is starting to disrupt your daily life and mental well-being, it might be worth considering a pause and reset.

7Life events

We all know how unpredictable life is, and there are periods where dieting may seem impractical or unrealistic. For instance if you are navigating a major life event, personal crisis or pressure at work, it might not be the best time to be super controlled with your diet. Giving yourself permission to taking a pause may be necessary to avoid adding additional pressures.

Steps to take a healthy break

Signs you're in need of a break

1Set a restart date

Ensure that before you take a pause, you set a date to restart your diet – to help keep your long-term goals in focus. Research suggests that a healthy diet break should last anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks. This structured approach will help prevent a break from inadvertently lapsing back into your old lifestyle.

2Avoid throwing caution to the wind

Remember, taking a break doesn't mean you have to completely let go of all you've been working for. Whilst a pause in your dieting is designed to give you some breathing room, it doesn't signify the go-ahead to switch to unhealthy habits you may be trying to escape from. Instead, it's an opportunity to enjoy some flexibility while keeping a mindful eye on the healthier attitude you've been building throughout your dieting journey. For example, enjoy a few more meals out, while still staying as active as you can, or have that slightly bigger dinner portion if you fancy, but still try to base most of your meals around healthy foods.

3 Gradually adjust your diet

Gradually reintroducing a few more calories each day is a sensible strategy to take as it allows your body and mind to adapt. This is the same approach you will use when you ultimately reach your final goal and make the switch to weight maintenance. A gradual change for your temporary break makes it easier to return to your regular dietary routine when the pause is over.

4Maintain healthy habits

Sustaining good habits is key to successful pause. Whether it's focussing on eating mindfully, being conscious of portion control, or making a special effort to stay physically active, these healthy habits will help you to maintain your progress and prevent setbacks during your break. Consistency in these habits ensures that your diet pause remains constructive and supports your long-term goals. You can just enjoy a few more indulgences or bigger portions while you take a break.

5Prepare yourself for a stall on the scales

During your break, there's a good chance you'll not see your weight reducing if you are being more relaxed about your calorie intake. The important thing is to not let this phase you, remember losing weight is not a race. If taking a short pause has positive mental health benefits, boosts your energy and kick starts your motivation, then a short term pause in weight loss is absolutely fine and healthy as we're playing the long game.

6Use other markers of progress

Monitoring with additional markers of progression, beyond the scales, can significantly enhance a healthy diet pause. Paying attention to factors like energy levels, sleep quality, and improvements in your fitness is helpful for a positive view of your well-being during the break. This approach helps you to stay motivated and focused on your overall health, even when taking a temporary respite from weight loss.

Summary

Everyone's dieting journey is unique. But challenges like fluctuating focus, dips in motivation, and frustrating weight plateaus, are common to us all – and completely normal. Sometimes, a short temporary pause is helpful. Use the points above to guide a healthy break and plan your comeback for long-term success. You've got this!

Nutritionist Beth Furness (ANutr), holding a BSc in Nutrition and Health, is deeply dedicated to applying evidence-based knowledge to all aspects of nutrition. Her passion lies in fostering healthy relationships with food, ensuring that everyone maintains a balanced and sustainable approach to nutrition.

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