The British Psychological Society’s Research Digest (www.digest.bps.org.uk) recently reviewed a study suggesting how helpful it can be to plan to deviate from your diet.
It’s an interesting read, as the study found that dieters who stuck rigidly to 1500 calories a day did no better than dieters who kept to 1300 calories 6 days a week and on the seventh day had 2700 calories. The second group, with the relaxed 7th day reported stronger feelings of self-control during the dieting period, found the experience more enjoyable and reported feeling more motivated. The two groups lost similar amounts of weight. The second has more chance of sticking to the diet.
The flexibility of the 7th day in this study makes this a 6:1 diet (rather than the familiar 5:2). Just as with the 5:2, the built-in flexibility means that apparently going off-track isn’t the end of the diet; it’s part of it. And actively planning when to have the relaxed days means that you’ll feel more in control and more likely to be able to postpone overeating until the relaxed day you have chosen.
It has long been known that restricting your intake when dieting is associated with the “What-the-hell” effect: if you’re following a strict dietary rule and then break it, you tend to abandon the rule for the day and overeat. If this happens often enough, you abandon the whole diet. This sort of un-planned “failure” is the result of feeling under too much pressure (psychological and physiological) from the demands of following a diet which is too different from how you normally eat.
Strict dietary rules tend to work against your body rather than with it, so you’re in a constant state of battle.
Using planned deviations from your usual weight loss eating guidelines doesn’t have to involve a whole day off. It also isn’t necessary to work out calorie allowances for each day. The basic principle is of planning in a time when you’ll relax your eating “rules” as part of your weight loss plan. It could be that you decide to have a much-loved treat at a particular point in the week such as your favourite cake or cheese and crackers.