Dieting is when you lower calories to create an energy deficit so you can lose unwanted body weight. This creates an imbalance. It disrupts homeostasis. Remaining in a state of imbalance for prolonged periods of time is not healthy. If you have more than 15 pounds to lose and you try to do it all in one ultra marathon stretch, you risk failure, injury, and weight rebound.
Dieting is mentally stressful in part because of the body’s physiological response to caloric restriction. On the surface eating less doesn't seem that harmful. Have you ever wondered what happens to your body during calorie restriction? In an attempt to keep you from taking body fat, your body will make you feel tired, hungry, and lethargic. This is so you burn less calories through the day and conserve energy. That feeling will make pushing through your daily workouts harder and harder. When your calories are low you can feel like you are missing out on fun foods and experiences. It can wear on you mentally and you can begin to feel deprived and depressed. Hunger and fatigue are normal when calories are restricted but it should only be a temporary state.
Weight loss is best done in moderate spurts spread out with diet breaks in between. After about 3 to 4 months of dieting, the amount of calorie restriction needed to continue losing weight becomes brutal. You begin to risk injury from working out with increasing mental and physical fatigue. The body’s protective mechanisms are in full force to make more weight loss harder and harder. You need a break to allow your body to recover from this stress, ramp metabolism back up, and bring hormones back into balance.
Most people think the journey is over once they hit there goal weight from being in a caloric restriction. But the truth is, the journey just began. To make fat loss a permanent change, a good maintenance phase is important.The number one goal during a diet break is to improve your set point. Data suggests that your body establishes a set point weight. This means that your body has a weight that it becomes accustomed to and likes to maintain. The good news is that this set point can be changed. The bad news is that it takes time and care to move this point.
The changing of the set point actually occurs during the maintenance phase. You need to give your body some time to grieve over the lost fat and accept its new weight. The amount of time this takes varies from person to person. Over this period the goal is to slowly increase food intake. This will enable your metabolism to ramp back up, mental and physical fatigue to dissipate, and all your body to get comfortable t at your lighter weight. During this time you will feel less hungry and fatigued. By the end of a good maintenance you should be in that healthy state of balance where you enjoy good food, training hard and not excessively worried about what the scale says.
Another benefit for having this maintenance phase is you have time to build up your caloric ceiling. Through your efforts in your workouts and adding calories back in your metabolism will be in a healthier state. Therefore if you have to go back into a caloric restriction to lose more body fat you will not have to cut as many calories to lose weight.
Dieting is not a lifestyle. It is a temporary state of imbalance. It works best that way. Make sure you spend as much time in the maintenance phases as you do in the dieting phases.