Deficit Breaks

NovusDies
NovusDies Posts: 8,940 Member
edited October 2019 in Social Groups
One of our new members @ConfidentRaven is considering taking a deficit break. I think it can be a very important tool so I thought we could discuss it.

I am no expert but it is a subject that interests me. I have taken one every 6 months except for recently when I postponed it for surgery.

What is a deficit break?

It is a period of at least 10 days or more of eating at maintenance or just slightly above it. During this period of time it is recommended that your total carbs meet or exceed 100 grams per day.

The purpose is physical and mental.

Physically many of your hormone levels are impacted by a prolonged calorie deficit. Your BMR also declines slightly while you are in a deficit. People with larger amount of fat stores have more protection against permanent metabolism decline so the frequency is optional. For people with far fewer fat stores a diet break every 3 months is recommended to protect against adaptive thermogenisis.

As I understand it, it takes 7 days for your hormone levels to reset and at least 3 more days to stabilize for awhile which is why there is a 10 day minimum. Most people just take a full 2 weeks.

Mentally the benefits vary from person to person. You would hope that it would be a period where you would relax and enjoy a little more food and get you mentally recharged and ready to resume. I think it would definitely help prevent someone from experiencing diet fatigue. Some people actually see the scale drop during the break and I believe it is because when their stress declines so does their cortisol which releases water weight.

I think the only drawback is for people who have been too aggressive and strict with themselves. They may not want to resume their course at the end of the break.

You would also need to understand that your scale will likely go up during and for 5ish days afterwards.

You would think that the delay in weight loss would be a drawback but I do not consider it one. I don't think it is all that mentally healthy if a person cannot even consider taking a break for that reason. I like knowing that I can do it.

Edited To Change from Diet Break to Deficit Break
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Replies

  • jim_pipkin
    jim_pipkin Posts: 81 Member
    Tons of fat stores left here, so not inclined to try this myself. I did increase my calories to adjust for 5:2 fasting, but taking two weeks "off" right now just doesn't interest me. I enjoy the food I eat, and feel there is enough...also enjoy the workouts. My current lifestyle in calorie deficit is not that hard on me, kind of fun actually, and I want to shed the rest of this excess fat as quickly as I can in a healthy way.
  • NovusDies
    NovusDies Posts: 8,940 Member
    @jim_pipkin

    As I said they are optional for people with plenty of insulation. You should probably consider one about the time you get within 40 pounds of your target though - or maybe one at the holidays.
  • conniewilkins56
    conniewilkins56 Posts: 3,239 Member
    Personally, I have worked too hard for 90 days to lose 35 lbs to worry about a break messing up my progress....taking a break at this point would completely throw me into a downward spiral....I waited too many years to do this....I am a food addict...you would not suggest a drug addict or an alcoholic to take a break from abstaining!....they can’t have “ just a little bit”.... neither can I
  • NovusDies
    NovusDies Posts: 8,940 Member
    I have been going strong for nearly nine months now. I’ve had the occasional splurge dinner (I don’t buy into the idea of it being cheating) and a few smatterings of high calorie days here or there. The last couple of months though I’ve mentally struggled with staying on track. In addition my energy levels have been slowly dropping. It is strongly possible that I have been a little over aggressive in some of my calorie planning.

    I have been considering a break for months now, but found every reason,136 of them currently, to not take one. This week though brings a holiday, and two kids birthdays. So I figured now was the perfect time. After this week I have one more birthday and my anniversary between now and the holidays. I’ll probably do a small splurge for each, but I don’t have anything else to get in my way. Plus if it helps re-motivate me, yay. If not I figured that I can still learn a lot about myself and my food plan.

    My current plan is to continue to weigh and log my food and to eat at maintenance for two weeks starting tomorrow. Today I reset my calorie goal with MFP to see what I will be at and I have no idea how I’ll eat so much! I know that I used to eat far more than my current maintenance calories, but so many of my habits have changed over the last nine months.

    I know that I have another 136 pounds to lose, but I have to do something before I’m completely off the rails and if this helps then yay.

    I think it is helpful to have a plan or a list of things you might want to eat. Keep in mind that you can budget your calories in a way that allows you to have a really big day and a couple of smaller days around it. Also remember that if your list has a lot of food on it that is vastly different from the way you have been eating for nine months you may want to work up to it a little. You don't want to make yourself ill.

    I get tired of it and the last time I was tired of it after the 4th day. I was ready to get back to normal which for me, now, is eating less calories. I think that is one of the benefits for me. Sometimes I think I miss having so much higher calorie food but I realize now that I don't want to live in that mode anymore.

    I am feeling fatigued at the moment but I have to wait for one more month then I can take a nice long break while I heal and recharge my own batteries.
  • NovusDies
    NovusDies Posts: 8,940 Member
    edited August 2019
    Personally, I have worked too hard for 90 days to lose 35 lbs to worry about a break messing up my progress....taking a break at this point would completely throw me into a downward spiral....I waited too many years to do this....I am a food addict...you would not suggest a drug addict or an alcoholic to take a break from abstaining!....they can’t have “ just a little bit”.... neither can I


    Certainly you have to do work within your particular situation and the limits you need to impose. I am not suggesting this to anyone I am just discussing it for the people who wish to consider it.
  • amkita
    amkita Posts: 183 Member
    I've been thinking about a break, or at least easing up, around the holidays. I've been biking a lot and eating some of the exercise calories back, especially if I feel particularly low energy/grumpy/peckish. I've already been eating around maintenance once every other week or so, but I'd like to see what it feels like for a longer stretch.

    I've been enjoying the steady momentum of weight loss though, so I think I'd like to wait to take a break until there's delicious foods around. :)

    oh! and I suppose I took a break in mid-July. I was on vacation and decided not to track for about 10 days. it worked out just fine! and it probably helped that I was away from a scale.
  • NovusDies
    NovusDies Posts: 8,940 Member
    amkita wrote: »
    I've been thinking about a break, or at least easing up, around the holidays. I've been biking a lot and eating some of the exercise calories back, especially if I feel particularly low energy/grumpy/peckish. I've already been eating around maintenance once every other week or so, but I'd like to see what it feels like for a longer stretch.

    I've been enjoying the steady momentum of weight loss though, so I think I'd like to wait to take a break until there's delicious foods around. :)

    oh! and I suppose I took a break in mid-July. I was on vacation and decided not to track for about 10 days. it worked out just fine! and it probably helped that I was away from a scale.


    I reserve days in my spreadsheet for holiday eating. Last Thanksgiving I had a full break so when Christmas rolled around I scheduled 2 maintenance days for Christmas, 2 more for New Year's, and half deficit days in between. I was pretty pleased with myself for thinking of the half deficit days because it was enough to have a few extra treats without it being a lot of extra food. Besides I am not immune to taking progress where I can get it.
  • conniewilkins56
    conniewilkins56 Posts: 3,239 Member
    I am just so afraid to mess up this time...I would love to let myself indulge on occasion but not sure of the strength to get back at it after I do indulge!
  • NovusDies
    NovusDies Posts: 8,940 Member
    I am just so afraid to mess up this time...I would love to let myself indulge on occasion but not sure of the strength to get back at it after I do indulge!

    I hope that with time you can develop some tools to help you relax a little. Have you checked into cognitive behavioral therapy? It sounds pretty interesting. I am not sure it applies in your situation or not. @real_change and @kosseychick are doing it.
  • conniewilkins56
    conniewilkins56 Posts: 3,239 Member
    Thanks for the advice...I am kind of OCD in a lot of areas....if I mess up something I feel like I have failed and it’s hard for me to get the ball rolling again...I am going to work on occasional breaks when I have more confidence in myself and have lost more weight....I am going to be observing ConfidentRavens progress and be cheering her on....this woman’s progress is amazing!
  • jjlewey
    jjlewey Posts: 247 Member
    edited August 2019
    I dislike the notion of a diet break, or maybe I just dislike the term break depending on the meaning or context. I believe that myself and most humans for that matter are creatures of habit. Momentum and motion in something that has significance and when you break that momentum it can be difficult to restart. A bad snack, meal, or day will happen. A larger calorie maintenance day, holiday, or just for no reason day should be planned for and is definitely ok. I have spent at least half my life, over 20 years, procrastinating starting to get my *kitten* together. I would often say, I will start it tomorrow, next month, after the holidays.
    Countless excuses that added up to never happening and being practically 200 pounds overweight.

    I believe if you are feeling stressed with your plan then yes adjust your plan. Shrink your deficit, but find a way to maintain a deficit. Any calorie deficit is forward momentum and that is my goal, maintaining that momentum.
  • NovusDies
    NovusDies Posts: 8,940 Member
    @jjlewey

    I can see it from your point of view. I would have never even considered it when I was early in. The amount in front of me to lose was so large and even though I was making progress it still seemed impossible at times.

    You bring up a good point that the term diet break kind of sucks. I didn't name it. I am not sure who did. Lyle MacDonald talks about it a lot. Maybe he coined it.

    The reason why some leaner people need to take diet breaks is because of diminishing returns. Your BMR declines as you are in a deficit. Eating at maintenance bumps it back up. For larger people with large deficits we will not feel the impact as much because it is a small percentage of our deficits. For a leaner person at the very end of their journey with a small calorie allowance and a small deficit the decline can chew up enough of their deficit it can halt progress or slow it down to a snail's pace.

    It also protects a leaner person from damaging their metabolism but that is a subject I don't know as much about.

    A better way of looking at it is probably a deficit break. You are giving your body a chance to normalize various hormone levels.

    I don't quite agree with you that it is cessation of momentum though. It is like being a on a really long road trip and pulling into to a hotel to rest for an evening. You are still on the road you are just resting for a bit.

    The mental part won't affect everyone the same. The higher your TDEE the more food you can eat and the less you will feel the sting of deprivation. My wife and I are not in the same boat and she struggles much more than I do. Losing weight wears her down faster than it does me. I went just over a year before I started to feel fatigued and that fatigue might have been mostly brought on by a sudden death in the family.

    It should not be considered by anyone until they feel fully ready. For some people it will just be vacations and holidays and no other breaks will be needed until they get much closer to the end.
  • jjlewey
    jjlewey Posts: 247 Member
    edited August 2019
    @NovusDies, I agree with you. What will happen towards the end of my journey, the last few pounds just seems so far away. I guess my rant and issue has more to do with terminology. I dislike the term diet, I think of what I am doing is a lifestyle change. I am trying to create a healthier lifestyle not a temporary change. I think of diets as temporary. As with all things in life everyone has different perspectives. Reminds me of the cartoon of 2 people facing eachother arguing about the number on the ground between them. One says the number is a 6 and the other says it is a 9. Even though we see the same term, diet, maybe we think about it in differing ways.
  • NovusDies
    NovusDies Posts: 8,940 Member
    jjlewey wrote: »
    @NovusDies, I agree with you. What will happen towards the end of my journey, the last few pounds just seems so far away. I guess my rant and issue has more to do with terminology. I dislike the term diet, I think of what I am doing is a lifestyle change. I am trying to create a healthier lifestyle not a temporary change. I think of diets as temporary. As with all things in life everyone has different perspectives. Reminds me of the cartoon of 2 people facing eachother arguing about the number on the ground between them. One says the number is a 6 and the other says it is a 9. Even though we see the same term, diet, maybe we think about it in differing ways.

    No. I agree the term is unfortunate. I am not enough of a trendsetter to change it though.

    I think the most important thing you can do right now is to get yourself fully entrenched in what I hope will be your new normal. That doesn't happen overnight and you need to continue to protect yourself from any type of thinking that doesn't sit well with you. I did not like the term diet when I first started either. I was in survival mode and I was just trying to keep my head above water not because it was especially hard but because I had failed so many times.

  • jjlewey
    jjlewey Posts: 247 Member
    NovusDies wrote: »
    I think if I were going to change terms though I would probably ditch lifestyle too. What I really like to call this is 'normal'. It was a new normal at first. Then it just became normal. Now it is like an old comfortable hat. Well what I am doing at this exact moment is not normal but you know what I mean hopefully.

    I don't think there is a version of normal for me that will ever be happy having a strict calorie goal for everyday of the rest of my life. I will need it MOST days but I will still want special occasions, vacations, etc. and if I plan for them I can have them. My life didn't become paused because I started losing weight so if that is my version of normal I am going to do it now too.

    One of the reasons I am glad I did not have weight loss surgery is because it would force a normal on me that I am not sure I would ever like. I can't imagine sitting at Thanksgiving and eating 2 ounces of turkey and 2 bites of each side because I couldn't physically fit anymore in my stomach without throwing it up. I feel like that would be trading one freedom for another. I know some people feel like that is their only choice but I am glad it was not mine.

    I agree completely with your last paragraph. My best friend had surgery and I have watched him make himself sick multiple times. Breaks my heart. When the doctor brought up the subject with me those memories were one of the big motivations for me to get started.