Yo-Yo Dieting: Why it’s Bad For You and How To Break The Habit
If you’ve gone on a diet only to gain all the weight back on afterwards, then you know all about yo-yo dieting, also known as weight cycling. Apart from the deflating impacts it can have on morale, yo-yo dieting can also have negative health consequences. If you’ve experienced yo-yo dieting before, there are workable strategies that you can apply to help improve your chances of losing weight permanently.
The signs and dangers of yo-yo dieting
Higher risk of illness
The key sign yo-yo dieting occurs is weight loss through drastically restricting your food intake temporarily, then regaining the weight when you go back to your old lifestyle habits. Weight cycling can lead to more stress hormones (cortisol) being produced, which can increase the risk of long term consequences such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. At the same time, weight cycling can also lead to mineral and vitamin deficiencies, which can impact everything from your skin to your general health.
There’s evidence to suggest yo-yo dieting in people who aren’t obese can lead to cardiometabolic disease, which covers heart disease, diabetes, and other related conditions. Insulin sensitivity can decline and insulin resistance can rise with yo-yo dieting, while good cholesterol can drop and bad cholesterol can rise. Yo-yo dieting is also linked with higher blood pressure, chronically high inflammation, a slower metabolism, and a higher risk of death overall.
Lean muscle loss and fat gain
Weight cycling is associated with muscle wasting and excess fat, which happens as a result of you first losing weight and then gaining it all back afterwards. This fat gain can raise the risk of chronic conditions such as coronary artery disease and type 2 diabetes.
Long term weight gain
Long term or permanent weight gain is another risk, which brings with it a higher risk of conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic diseases associated with being overweight or obesity. It’s not unusual to have higher peaks with each yo-yo dieting cycle, so that you end up gaining more and more weight over time.
Low energy levels
Weight cycling can drastically slow the metabolism, with a resulting fall in your energy levels. When you’re not ingesting the usual amount of calories, your body has to adjust and as a result you could experience tiredness, fatigue, and irritability. Your brain function can also be impacted by this.
Negative psychological impacts
Apart from the health risks, there are possible negative psychological impacts associated with weight cycling. The cycle of going on a restrictive diet, losing weight, and gaining it all back and more can have a negative impact on morale, and the dieter can feel like they’re a “failure”. To overcome this, people seeking to lose weight should focus on long term lifestyle changes rather than temporary diets.
Tips for breaking the cycle of dieting
Of course, being obese comes with health risks, so it’s not losing weight in the yo-yo diet, but the subsequent gaining it all back, that’s the issue. Obese and overweight people are advised by experts to achieve modest weight loss, while those who are not obese should probably maintain their weight.
Motivate yourself to lose weight permanently by looking for incentives beyond being thinner. Think about the health benefits and link these to other life goals such as doing better at study, building a successful career, and having more energy for your children. Think about what you’re highly driven by and focus on these goals as one of the endpoints for losing weight and keeping it off permanently.
Adopt a new lifestyle, not a diet
Whatever you’re doing to lose weight, make sure you can sustain it to keep the weight off. This means you should adopt lifestyle changes rather than go on yet another diet. Take action by adopting incremental changes rather than, for example, giving up all “bad foods” overnight. Cut out one thing at a time, and give yourself time to adjust and the occasional chance to indulge or stray from your new lifestyle.
Focus on nourishing your body
Focus on weight loss as a part of nourishing and supporting your body for excellent health rather than restriction and rules. Think about what you’re doing to nourish your body and adding to your diet, rather than what you’re taking out. Become curious and learn about the health properties of different unprocessed foods, for example superfoods, and how they can support your new healthy lifestyle.
Slow and consistent weight loss
Lose weight for the long term by aiming to lose weight gradually over a long period of time. For example, you could focus on losing just half a kilo or a kilo each week instead of aiming for unrealistic rates of weight loss. Experts also advise boosting your metabolism by eating more protein and doing strength training. Also, help out your liver’s fat burning functions by taking herbs such as milk thistle, dandelion root, and turmeric.
Integrate physical activity into your life
Having fun by fitting some physical activity into your day is a great way to lose weight for the long term. Find something you love doing – whether it’s running, walking, hiking, swimming, team sports, yoga, or dancing.
Avoid thinking of exercise as a chore or punishment, but rather as an opportunity to de-stress and an opportunity for fun and movement. Take a moderate approach to your physical activity instead of thinking you absolutely must do several long workouts every single week. Finally, remember to track and celebrate your successes as you achieve each milestone.
Break the yo-yo dieting habit
Yo-yo dieting can have negative consequences for your health over the longer term, so it’s best to lose weight permanently rather than following a cycle of dieting. Focusing on your motivations for weight loss, adopting lifestyle rather than temporary changes, and integrating more physical activity into your lifestyle are all effective strategies to get you out of the cycle of yo-yo dieting.