When you’re trying to lose weight, there are few things as frustrating as looking at the scale week after week and not seeing it budge. After all, you’re eating all the right foods, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep every night. Those pounds should just fall off — right? Before you start to lose hope, there’s good news: Promising research shows that alternating between a few effective diets can actually lead to greater weight loss than just sticking to a single plan over time. In other words, this could be what finally busts that plateau!
In a 2021 study for Nutrition, scientists tested the effectiveness of three popular dieting strategies to see if they led to greater weight loss on their own or when used together. The trial had 227 participants who were each instructed to follow one of three diet methods at first: A calorie-restrictive diet, an intermittent fasting schedule, and a low-carb/high-fat diet. Over the course of two years, 154 of these subjects switched to a different diet than the one they started with before later moving on to a third and final one. For instance, someone who started off with intermittent fasting may soon swap that for a calorie-restrictive diet before finishing up with a low-carb/high-fat plan.
After the experiment, researchers discovered that people who used this approach of alternating diets over time lost an average of 10 percent of their body weight compared to the average of five percent lost by those who stuck with a single diet strategy the entire time. “This is important because losing just five percent of your body weight is associated with improvements in cardiometabolic function and other health concerns,” explained study co-author Rebecca Christensen, a PhD. “That lets us know that we have a lot of different tools in the toolbox to pick from when initiating a dietary intervention.”
Moreover, Dr. Christensen pointed out that being able to switch up a weight loss routine not only re-engages your metabolism; it keeps you from getting bored, too. “It can be quite hard for patients to maintain dietary interventions,” she concluded. “This might be where successive diets have an advantage as changing things up makes it easier to stick to a diet.”
It’s a relief to know that you have options! Just make sure you talk to your doctor before, during, and after any weight loss regimen so that you can choose a plan that’s best for your health and monitor any side effects.