Yo-yo dieting, often termed ‘weight cycling,’ is a familiar pattern for many striving to manage their weight. This cycle involves losing weight, only to regain it, and then embarking on a new diet in an attempt to lose weight again. It’s a frustrating cycle that mirrors the up-and-down motion of a yo-yo.
Defining Yo-Yo Dieting
At its core, yo-yo dieting is the repeated cycle of weight loss followed by weight gain. This pattern isn’t just about changes on the scale; it reflects a deeper struggle with dieting practices. The term ‘weight cycling’ is used in scientific circles to describe this process of unintentionally gaining weight and dieting in response, then experiencing weight regain. This cycle can happen to anyone, prompted by various factors, including fad diets that promise quick results but fail to offer sustainable solutions.
The Popularity and Impact of Yo-Yo Dieting
Yo-yo dieting is surprisingly common, with many falling into its trap. Fad diets, with their appealing quick fixes, often don’t support lasting change, leading to a high recurrence of weight regain. Studies indicate that a significant number of people who lose a considerable amount of weight will regain it, emphasising the challenges of maintaining weight loss.
Research highlights the potential downsides of yo-yo dieting. A study involving thousands of women over more than a decade found that nearly 40% had experienced weight cycling. Notably, those who frequently lost and regained weight tended to gain more over time compared to those who maintained a more stable weight. This pattern was particularly evident among healthy or overweight individuals, as opposed to those who were obese. Moreover, frequent yo-yo dieters were more likely to resort to extreme weight loss methods, which can pose serious health risks.
Yo-Yo Dieting and The Negatives
Studies show that weight cycling is a practice that can cause more harm than good. Dieting, unless it is due to health reasons, can be detrimental. Yo-Yo dieting often stems from the pursuit of societal ideals that may not always align with individual health and well-being. Factors such as striving for acceptance, navigating personal body image concerns, experiencing stress, and engaging in social comparisons can contribute to a cycle of weight-related focus and fluctuations.
People engaged in such weight management behaviours usually restrict food and calories, keep calorie counts and obsess about how much they weigh. They opt for quick fixes such as low-carb diets, keto diets, and overexercise. In extreme situations, they start avoiding social gatherings with food. Eventually, these diet behaviours become difficult to follow, and one regains weight, mostly more than they had initially lost.
The Common Effects of Yo-Yo Dieting
1. Muscle Loss
Due to cutting calories or stopping particular food groups, the body goes into a deprivation mode. Also, the body uses both fat reserves and muscle mass for fuel. As a result, weight loss happens due to both fat loss and muscle loss. Muscle in its optimum state burns higher calories than fat. Therefore, with less muscle, metabolism decreases, requiring fewer calories to maintain the current weight. However, if one eats the same amount of pre-muscle-loss calories after losing that muscle, the body will regain fat more efficiently than muscle tissue. Over time, yo-yo dieting can alter the body’s composition. With muscle loss comes a higher percentage of body fat, and one gains back the lost weight.
2. Higher Body Fat Percentage
Yo-yo dieting can lead to an increased percentage of body fat. Once one starts putting back the lost weight, fat comes back more quickly than muscle mass. As a result, the body fat percentage increases over multiple yo-yo cycles. Also, weight cycling is linked to a net increase in weight gain and body fat and heightened cardiovascular and metabolic risk. Also, this is more pronounced following a weight loss diet than with more subtle and sustainable lifestyle changes.
3. Increase in Appetite
Leptin, the hunger hormone, helps give a signal when one is full and it’s time to stop eating. Leptin gets secreted from the fat cells, so when there is a calorie deficit and loss of fat, less leptin is released into the bloodstream, leading to a potential increase in appetite. On the other hand, muscle loss, which is also a result of yo-yo dieting, decreases metabolism, making one lose fewer calories. Thus, yo-yo dieting creates a vicious cycle of increased hunger and lower metabolism that works against one’s basic aim.
Diabetes & Yo-Yo Dieting
Yo-yo dieting is related to a higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes. Weight cycling can lead to increased body fat and central adiposity. Weight management is a first-line lifestyle intervention to prevent the worsening of insulin resistance, progression to type 2 diabetes and adverse cardiovascular disease outcomes. However, steady weight loss with yo-yo dieting is not always feasible.
Weight loss and subsequent gain can lead to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. When dieters regain weight, it is mostly belly fat, and that increases the risk of diabetes and other metabolic disorders. The body goes through an autoregulatory adaptive mechanism or “famine reaction” that leads to obesity following a period of starvation.
HealthifyPro CGM devices continuously monitor glucose levels in real time, providing valuable data on how different foods and lifestyle choices affect blood sugar levels. The CGM device can sync glucose data with users’ dietary and activity logs, allowing them to correlate blood sugar fluctuations with their eating habits and physical activity patterns. This integration enables users to make personalised dietary adjustments to stabilise blood sugar levels, optimise energy levels, and support weight management efforts.
Cardiovascular Disease & Yo-Yo Dieting
Yo-Yo dieting causes body-weight fluctuation. As per a study, for people with the highest variation in body weight, the risk of a coronary event was 64% higher, the risk of a cardiovascular event 85% higher, death 124% higher, myocardial infarction 117% higher, and stroke 136% higher than it was among those in with the lowest variation in body weight.
There are several fallouts of yo-yo dieting. Apart from the physical ailments mentioned above, obesity and fluctuation in weight can have other implications, such as:
- Increase in BP
- An incidence of fatty liver
- Emotional Stress
- A sense of guilt that impairs one’s quality of life
- Social isolation
How to Stop Yo-Yo Dieting
Speaking to the team at HealthifyMe, there are some common mistakes one can avoid:
Setting Unreasonable Goals
When tackling weight loss, it’s crucial to set realistic goals. Remember, various factors, including diet and physical activity, influence weight. Expecting to change years of habits overnight is unrealistic. Aim for achievable targets, such as shedding 1-2 kilograms per month, and adjust your lifestyle to support these goals. This approach ensures a balanced and sustainable path to weight management.
When one is overweight, it is easy to get lured by seeing celebrity workout plans or gym ads. However, it is necessary to take advice from certified fitness professionals who can help build up stamina gradually. There’s no better exercise to begin with than mild stretches, moving regularly, yoga, and walking. One needs to build up endurance with mild exercises if one has extra weight. It allows one to avoid injuries and burnout.
Following Fad Diets
Every once in a while, a fad diet trend catches on. There are also small hacks that promise weight loss. For example, cutting down on carbohydrates altogether may be working for a few people but cannot be universally acceptable. Nutrition is a science. Depending on one’s health, age, and other metabolic parameters, food and exercise plans need to be customised. Speaking to nutritionists from a reputed wellness platform, like HealthifyMe, can help understand what works for a unique individual.
Labelling Food as Bad
Some of us brand some foods as bad food. However, sometimes the food itself is not the problem, but rather how much or how often one eats it. As a result, one starts craving those foods as they are off-limits for the dieters. The key is to allow foods in moderation and to know that one is allowed to have them. The cravings disappear when there is no guilt associated with them.
Essential Tips to Follow
Weight loss goals should be for the long term. Instead of extreme calorie-cutting, start sustainably losing weight:
- Start cooking food at home instead of always eating restaurant food. Restaurant food is always a tastier option. But it also uses more fats, sugar, and other additives to make it delicious. Focus on understanding the principles of nutrition and create healthy choices for yourself, comprising all food groups.
- Avoid processed foods and refined sugars, as they can lead to weight gain.
- If you are struggling with yo-yo dieting and are not sure how to change your eating habits, consider talking with a registered nutritionist. They can help you evaluate your goals, create new habits, and develop an eating plan you can follow for life.
- Increase servings of vegetables and fruits. Eat salads and protein at the beginning of your meal to increase satiety. Go slow on excess carbs.
- Drink adequate water and avoid soda and sugary beverages.
- Intuitive eating is the answer to reverse the damage caused by yo-yo dieting. It involves mindful eating and understanding the body’s natural cues, like what works for one when one is stressed and craving sweets, when one is full and yet unable to stop eating, etc.
- When one is stressed out, a healthy lifestyle becomes another chore. Just moving the body daily and slowing down while eating can make a difference to one’s weight and reduce stress levels. Incorporating self-care and working on reducing stress levels can help manage weight better by curbing emotional eating or binge eating.
- Media glorifies certain body types. Trying to attain such perfect bodies leads to repeated dieting and weight cycling. There is an increasing prevalence of dieting at normal weight among young adults, adolescents, and even children who perceive themselves as too fat. One needs to look beyond the screen and embrace wellness as a part of one’s lifestyle.
- Speaking to a fitness professional and understanding concepts of nutritious, balanced, and individualised meal plans and sustainable exercise plans can help one know concepts like fitness level, BMI, BMR, calories consumed vs. calories burned, etc. Such enablers can help one to understand what works for them.
How to Combat Yo-Yo Dieting in the HealthifyMe Way
HealthifyMe is a comprehensive health and fitness platform that integrates various tools, learnings, and services to assist individuals in achieving their weight loss goals. Here’s how HealthifyMe, along with continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) and personalised nutrition counselling, can contribute to better lifestyle management techniques. As a result, one learns to modify one’s relationship with food and body image, increase activity levels, reach their optimum weight, and stick to it.
HealthifyMe offers a user-friendly mobile application that allows users to track their daily food intake, physical activity, water consumption, and weight progress.
By logging meals and snacks, users can gain insights into their calorie intake, macronutrient distribution, and nutritional quality, helping them make informed choices and stay within their calorie targets.
HealthifyMe offers personalised nutrition counselling services provided by certified nutritionists. Through one-on-one consultations and ongoing support, users receive tailored dietary recommendations and lifestyle modifications based on their unique health goals, preferences, and medical history.
Nutritionists help users develop sustainable eating habits, create balanced meal plans, and navigate challenges such as emotional eating, dining out, and managing cravings. By addressing individual needs and preferences, personalised nutrition counselling empowers users to make positive changes to their diet and lifestyle, leading to long-term weight loss success.
The Outcome: Behavioural Coaching and Accountability
HealthifyMe’s platform includes features for setting goals, tracking progress, and receiving motivational feedback and reminders. Users can connect with a community of like-minded individuals for support, encouragement, and accountability throughout their weight loss journey. Behavioural coaching tools help users identify barriers to success, establish healthy habits, and overcome obstacles that may impede progress.
By combining the resources and support offered by HealthifyMe’s app, CGM integration, and personalised nutrition counselling, individuals can adopt a holistic approach to weight reduction that addresses their unique needs, preferences, and metabolic responses. This comprehensive approach fosters sustainable lifestyle changes, promotes better blood sugar control, and empowers users to achieve and maintain their desired weight goals over the long term.
Yo-yo dieting can have adverse effects on both physical and mental health. It may lead to a lowered metabolism, muscle loss, nutritional deficiencies, as well as increased risk of chronic diseases. It is better to adopt a sustainable and balanced approach to nutrition along with regular exercise. It promotes long-term health benefits without the harmful side effects associated with yo-yo dieting.
The Final Word
Yo-yo dieting, also known as weight cycling, is the pattern of losing and regaining weight over and over again. While weight loss is understood to be healthy, yo-yo dieting can actually damage one’s health, leading to diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and higher BMI over time.
When it comes to yo-yo dieting, keep in mind that weight loss is a function of lifestyle modification. Yo-yo dieting and being stuck in a cycle of repetitive behaviour can cause myriad health issues. While it can be challenging to break the cycle of yo-yo dieting, making small changes and forming healthy habits can make a big difference over time.
Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is just to disperse knowledge and raise awareness. It does not intend to replace medical advice from professionals. For further information, please contact our certified nutritionists Here.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: What is yo-yo dieting?
A: Yo-yo dieting, also known as weight cycling, refers to the repeated pattern of losing and regaining weight through cycles of dieting and then returning to previous eating habits.
Q: Is yo-yo dieting harmful to my health?
A: Yes, yo-yo dieting can have negative health implications, including potential metabolic changes, increased risk of cardiovascular issues, and negative impacts on mental well-being.
Q: Can yo-yo dieting affect my metabolism?
A: Yes, yo-yo dieting may lead to a lowered metabolism that makes it more challenging to maintain weight loss over time.
Q: Are there psychological effects of yo-yo dieting?
A: Yes, yo-yo dieting is associated with psychological stress, feelings of failure, and an unhealthy relationship with food.
Q: Can yo-yo dieting lead to long-term weight loss success?
A: Yo-yo dieting is generally not recommended for sustained weight loss; adopting a balanced, sustainable lifestyle is more effective.
Q: What causes people to engage in yo-yo dieting?
A: Factors such as unrealistic expectations, extreme diets, and a lack of sustainable habits contribute to yo-yo dieting.
Q: How can I break the cycle of yo-yo dieting?
A: Focus on gradual, sustainable changes in eating habits and physical activity, seek support from healthcare professionals or dietitians, and avoid extreme diets.
Q: Can yo-yo dieting affect overall health beyond weight fluctuations?
A: Yes, yo-yo dieting may impact overall health, including cardiovascular health, mental well-being, and immune function.
Q: How long does it take for the body to recover from yo-yo dieting?
A: The body’s recovery from yo-yo dieting varies, but adopting a stable and balanced approach to eating and exercise is crucial.
Q: Can yo-yo dieting impact future weight loss attempts?
A: Yes, previous episodes of yo-yo dieting may make it more challenging to achieve and maintain weight loss in subsequent attempts. However, adopting a consistent, healthy approach can improve outcomes.