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Cheat days to pave your way to a slimmer waist

If you want to lose more weight in the long run, you might want to take “breaks” in your diet, as a new study from the University of Tasmania has shown.

By accepting “cheat days” and being more relaxed regarding your diet at the weekend, you might give yourself the motivation to continue with a stricter regime. There are also many physical benefits, as lead author Nuala Byrne suggests. She said that taking breaks from your diet might help to combat adaptive thermogenesis, which makes you regain your lost weight, as previous studies have shown. The process is aided by the body’s deprivation of leptin, a satiety hormone which helps to regulate our energy levels when we’re hungry. This hormone is low for people who follow restrictive diet regimes and puts the body into starvation mode – which means that the metabolism slows down and holds onto more calorie than normal as a survival technique.

Dieters should try to rebalance their caloric requirements once they’ve lost weight, so that their weight loss is sustained and adaptive thermogenesis doesn’t affect them as strongly as it would have, according to the Australian researchers. The researchers suggested to partake in two week long periods of dieting and taking breaks to achieve a balance, as the Independent reports.

The theory was tested on 51 obese males, who were split into two groups: continuous dieters and intermittent dieters. The continuous group were given food that amounted to two-thirds of the calories they needed in order to keep the same weight, which was then adjusted as weight loss occurred throughout a 16 week period. The intermittent group also went through the same caloric deprivation for 30 weeks, but in two week intervals with breaks in-between, where they would consume more calories.

As it turn out, the intermittent dieters lost more weight and body fat than the continuous dieters, with an average of 18 pounds more weight shaved off than the continuous group six months later. “It seems that the ‘breaks’ from dieting we have used in this study may be critical to the success of this approach,” said Byrne. “While further investigations are needed around this intermittent dieting approach, findings from this study provide preliminary support for the model as a superior alternative to continuous dieting for weight loss.”

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