People usually go on a diet to lose weight, but weight loss is easier said that done.
It takes hard work and usually weeks of healthy eating to see results. And, if you’ve been dieting for a while and not seeing the results you were hoping for, it’s understandable that you’d get fed up with the whole process.
Now, new research suggests there’s an easier way to lose weight, and it involves ditching your diet entirely—for set periods of time, at least. That’s the takeaway from a study published in the International Journal for Obesity.
For the study, which was a randomized clinical trial, researchers split obese participants into two groups who followed a 16-week diet that cut their normal calorie intake by a third. One group stayed on the diet for the full 16 weeks, while the other group followed the diet for two weeks, broke it for another two weeks and just tried to eat healthier, and went back on and off the diet in two week periods for a total of 30 weeks (to make sure they did 16 weeks of actual dieting).
The researchers found that people who dieted off and on lost more weight that those who were all-in for 16 weeks. Not only that, they gained less weight back after the dieting period was over. Six months after wrapping up the diet, the off and on group had an average weight loss of more than 17 pounds more than the group that followed the diet for 16 straight weeks.
What’s going on here? The researchers say that dieting alters a series of biological processes in your body, leading to slower weight loss (and maybe even weight gain). When you go on a diet, your resting metabolism decreases to try to preserve body fat, making it harder to lose weight.
The researchers aren’t totally sure why going on and off with a diet works better, but it may simply keep your body from catching on to what you’re trying to do. Plus, maintaining a diet for the foreseeable future can be tough mentally—and having breaks built in may make it easier to stick to a diet when you’re actually on it.
This approach probably isn’t for everyone but if you’ve struggled to lose weight on a diet, it might be worth considering.