Keto Diet

What Is Yo-Yo Dieting And How To Avoid It?

yo-yo dieting

Every other day, a new diet plan or meal plan seems to pop up on social media with the promise of quick and impressive weight loss results. While it may be tempting to jump on the bandwagon of something new, experts warn that some of these diet plans are unsustainable and may cause individuals to gain back weight after they no longer follow the program. This type of diet plan that starts and stops back and forth is sometimes referred to as yo-yo dieting. If this sounds like something that happens to you from time to time, read on. Below we’ll explore what yo-yo dieting is, why it can be risky, and what you can do to end the cycle of yo-yo dieting for good.

What is Yo-yo dieting?

Yo-yo dieting, also known as weight cycling, affects a wide variety of people. Athletes who are forced to change their weight or appearance in order to exercise are considered weight cyclers because their weight fluctuates up and down.

The more common term yo-yo dieter describes a group of people who try to lose weight, but fail to maintain their new low weight and end up gaining it back.

What Causes Yo-Yo Dieting?

Yo-yo dieting is often triggered by a desire to get smaller or thinner. This makes sense because we live in a culture that values thinness. Diet culture can be defined as a belief system that:

  • Worships thinness and equates thin with being healthy
  • Promotes weight loss as a means of attaining a higher status
  • Demonizes certain ways of eating while elevating others 
  • Oppress those who do not meet the ideal of thinness or the gold standard of health 

Given that we have all experienced a dieting culture to some degree, it is no wonder that many of us are actively trying to lose weight in order to fit in with the safe values of our society. However, diets have a 95% failure rate, meaning that most people who diet regain their weight within 2-5 years, and up to ⅔ of these dieters regain even more weight than when they started. In fact, a review of 29 long-term studies showed that dieting was a consistent predictor of long-term weight gain. This phenomenon may account for the dramatic effects of yo-yo dieting that we see today.

What does YO-YO Dieting Do to Your Body?

There are a lot of side effects of a yo-yo diet. I have listed a few major side effects of this diet here

Metabolic Meltdown

So here’s the thing: If you over-restrict your calories, your body will respond by slowing down your metabolic rate, or your ability to burn calories. This can also lead to muscle loss.

Yo-yo dieting doesn’t seem to permanently damage your metabolism, but the process of losing muscle (which your body uses as fuel when there aren’t enough food calories coming in) is never anyone’s goal. You need your lean body mass to support your bones and keep you healthy, strong and burning calories. So don’t damage it by breaking it down into fuel.

Here’s a new way of thinking: don’t exercise to lose weight, exercise to maintain your lean body mass (which helps with weight loss) and keep your brain focused on your fitness. The healthier you feel, the more motivated you will be to not eat dessert.

Loss of Lean Muscle Tissue

As stated above, during a diet, in addition to burning fat for fuel, your body also burns its lean tissue when it doesn’t get enough energy. This is because your brain, central nervous system and red blood cells are completely dependent on glucose for fuel. They also cannot store glucose like our muscles or other organs can, so they need a constant supply from our diet. If a glucose deficit occurs, the body adapts by converting amino acids in the body’s muscles into glucose, a process known as gluconeogenesis. The loss of lean muscle tissue will further reduce your metabolic rate.

Fatty Liver

If you don’t know about a fatty liver, it is when too many cells are stored in the liver. This can lead to many health problems and in the worst case can lead to liver cancer.

Weight gain is bad for the body, especially when it is excessive. Obesity is a huge risk that can only destroy your health.

The liver is a vital organ of the body and it is important to keep it healthy.

Lead to Mental Health Issues

People don’t need another factor that negatively affects their mental health. However, studies have shown that continuous yo-yo dieting can lead to the development or worsening of several mental illnesses. Low self-esteem, destroyed motivation, feelings of hopelessness, and poor eating habits can cause people to feel more depressed, anxious, and trapped in their health. In extreme cases, people who exacerbate these problems can develop more serious conditions, such as eating disorders and body dysmorphic syndrome. Unfortunately, these more serious mental health disorders can sometimes become lifelong struggles and even life-threatening in the most severe cases. 

Decrease in Overall Health

While no one wants to commit to a diet, go through the stress and difficulty of adjusting your lifestyle and ultimately fail, find that your overall health has been affected by dieting. Yo-yo dieting is associated with an increased chance of negative metabolic effects, decreased muscle mass, increased appetite, and increased body fat content. More seriously, yo-yo dieting can lead to an increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and liver disease. While some of these issues are more concerning than others, fad and celebrity diets can ultimately make it more challenging to have a healthier body, not to mention lose weight.

How to Stop Yo-yo Dieting?

Since we have known the reverse effects of yo-yo dieting, it’s best to stop it now. Following are some tips to fix it.

Cut the Restrictions 

Watch out for any diets that restrict entire food groups, or force you to cut out everything you like. It is these unrealistic plans that lead to this weight cycle.

Explore the principles of Intuitive Eating

Ditching the dieting mentality is one thing, but where do we go from here? Try exploring the 10 principles of intuitive eating-what it is, whether it’s right for you-and working with a trusted intuitive eating expert. These principles help you let go of mental food rules and restrictions, and help you reconnect with your body’s wisdom, such as what does it feel like to be hungry and full? What tastes good, feels good and satisfies? And what you might really need right now in this moment?

Get hydrated

Drinking water throughout the day and at meals helps with digestion, makes you feel fuller, and promotes fat burning. Several studies support the idea that drinking a glass or two of water before each meal has a positive relationship with weight loss.

As you lose weight and your body burns old fat deposits, it also releases various pollutants. If you drink water, these contaminants can be easily flushed away.

Reduce stress

When you are stressed, your hypothalamus sounds an alarm in your body. Through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals, the adrenal glands are stimulated to release large amounts of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol.

Exercise regularly

Exercise causes your hunger hormone levels to drop and your satiety hormone to rise.

What is the best form of exercise? When it comes to weight loss, aerobic exercise (jogging, walking, working out on an elliptical machine, etc.), is more effective at burning fat than anaerobic exercise (weight training, sprinting, etc.).

Consider Seeing a Medical Professional

Whether it be a registered dietitian or a mental health professional who specializes in unhealthy eating behaviors, seeking the help of a healthcare provider can help you create a nutrient-rich, balanced and personalized meal plan to meet your needs.

Getting to the root of your cravings to lose weight and understanding the thoughts that drive food decisions can help stop the weight cycle.

Bottom Line

When it comes to yo-yo dieting, keep in mind that it is not a single instance of weight loss, but rather a repetitive behavior that puts you at risk for a myriad of health problems. While breaking the cycle of yo-yo dieting can be challenging, especially if you have been involved for a while, making small changes and taking steps to improve your relationship with food can make a big difference over time. 

If you’re struggling with yo-yo dieting and aren’t sure how to change your eating habits, you may want to consider talking to a health professional or registered dietitian. They can help you evaluate your goals, establish new habits, and develop an eating plan you can follow for a lifetime.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *