Weight Loss Diet: Key to Effective Dieting Is To Squeeze In Breaks, Study Says

By Z.M., Parent Herald January 22, 10:17 am
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Findings from a study by researchers from the University of Sydney and Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Australia indicate that the weight loss becomes more effective when weight loss dieting is done with breaks rather than continuously. While their weight loss findings are mostly based on tests done with animals, past studies indicate that the principle also holds true for humans and human weight problems.

According to The Huffington Post Australia, the study's lead author, associate professor Amanda Salis who used to suffer from obesity, took the cue from the body's built in famine reaction. "I was severely obese, and part of my frustration to lose weight was that all the diets were about eating less and moving more and to keep it ongoing until you got where you wanted to be," Salis shared. 

"But I couldn't get anywhere. I would get so ravenously hungry," she continued. "I would stay on a particular diet for two weeks and lose a little bit of weight, but I couldn't stick to anything long enough to get anywhere."

What Salis did, based on this observation, is to take breaks from her weight loss efforts. "So when we do start losing weight -- and everyone can lose weight for little while -- the body responds with a famine reaction," she explained.

"The weight loss causes chemical reaction to the part of the brain that controls hunger, and makes you very hungry as well as crave rich, fattening foods. When your body is reacting in this way, it's extremely hard to stick to a diet."

An early report by Life Hacker says that coach Andy Morgan at Ripped Body gives a similar advice on taking breaks.

The key, apparently, was to give the body a chance to recognise that it was not being starved. With breaks between dieting, Salis saw a 30-kilo weight loss. This became the premise of the team's experimentation with mice.

Two groups of test mice were fed the same healthy diet. The first group, however, was continuously fed only 82% of their normal consumption. The other group was also fed 82% of their normal consumption but with breaks every 5 or 6 days at a time. During the one to three-day break, the mice were allowed to eat as much as they desired. 

At the end of the test period, the researchers found that both groups lost the same amount of weight anyway, despite the breaks in the second groups diet.  "Twelve percent is a lot of food when you are dieting," Salis stated in reference to the extra food the second group of test mice intermittently enjoyed. 

"Being able to have something like an extra cheese and tomato toasted sandwich is actually quite a lot of food. And the benefit of that is it could be a more sustainable way to lose weight -- something to stick to in the long term," Salis said further. "Because dieting is a long term thing. I mean, weight management is a long term thing."

Salis and her fellow researchers are now working with the Bond University, the University of Queensland, and Queensland University of Technology, as they conduct a similar clinical trial on human volunteers. The test periods vary for different test groups where the shortest period is 12 months.

"It completely changed the process for me and I struggled for six years before that," Salis shared. "I felt like it put me in the drivers' seat, and from then on I either lost weight or was keeping it off. It was the most wonderful thing."

Salis, however, emphasises that even during the breaks to dieting food choices should remain healthy. "We're talking about a diet based on fruits and vegetables and wholesome carbohydrates and lean meat and protein sources and dairy," Salis explained. "Though it doesn't mean there isn't a place in every diet for discretionary foods like ice cream and chocolate, as long as they are within proportion. A small amount is not a problem." 

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