4 tips to long, sustained weight loss and why yo-yo dieting is so dangerous for your health
- Yo-yo dieting is a cycle of weight loss and gain often due to an unsustainable weight loss plan.
- Yo-yo dieting is dangerous to your
health, increasing the risk of heart disease and high BMI.
- The best way to stop yo-yo dieting is to eat healthily and sustainably with some tips outlined below.
Yo-yo dieting, also known as weight cycling, is the pattern of losing and regaining weight over and over again so your weight is constantly fluctuating.
While people generally think of weight loss as healthy, yo-yo dieting can actually damage your health, leading to heart disease, high blood pressure, and higher BMI over time.
How to stop yo-yo dieting
If you struggle with yo-yo dieting because you can't keep the weight off long-term, there are concrete steps you can take to break the cycle, says Jean-Pierre Montani, MD, a professor at the University of Fribourg specializing in obesity and weight cycling.
Montani says the key to making lasting weight change is to approach dieting as a gradual process. "Weight loss goals should be for the long term, not for the next 3 months," says Montani.
Instead of extreme calorie-cutting, here are a few changes Montani suggests to help you stop yo-yo dieting and start losing weight in a sustainable way:
- Start cooking your own food instead of getting take-out and fast food. People who do this have been shown to naturally move toward eating diets that follow the nutritionist-backed Mediterranean or DASH diet.
- Avoid processed foods and refined sugars, as they've been linked with a higher BMI.
- Drink a big glass of water before eating and avoid soda.
- Increase your servings of vegetables and eat them at the beginning of your meal to reduce appetite so you're less likely to overeat calorie-dense foods like meat and starchy sides.
Casazza says that your
And remember that "it is in the human nature to try to lose in 2 months the weight one has gained in two years, but the body does not like those rapid corrections," Montani says.
The bottom line is that your metabolism will slow down as you lose weight. That's because the smaller you are, the fewer calories you need to survive.
However, the hormones that regulate your appetite might not change as quickly as your weight. That's why it can be difficult to keep the weight off once you've lost it. These tips described in the article are a way to help curb that appetite as it adjusts to your new normal.
When to take a different approach to yo-yo dieting
Yo-yo dieting has been linked to binge eating disorder, a condition where people eat abnormally large amounts of food in one sitting and feel unable to control their behavior.
In fact, a 2013 study found that people who go through multiple dieting programs are more likely to suffer from binge eating disorder. However, it is unclear whether yo-yo dieting actually causes binge-eating behaviors.
If you struggle with binge eating disorder or another eating disorder like anorexia, and you want to stop the cycle of yo-yo dieting, you will need to take a different approach than what's described in this article.
"With any eating disorder, it is not about the food, rather underlying mental health concerns," says Krista Casazza, a dietitian and professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
For more information, check out our articles on how to tell if you have a binge eating disorder and how to stop binge eating.
Why it's important you stop yo-yo dieting
Changes in weight can be especially bad for your heart. A study published in 2007 found that, among over 2,500 men and women, those who kept a stable weight had better markers of heart health than those who gained weight when the researchers followed up 15 years later. This was true even for obese people with a stable weight.
When you lose weight, your blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugar, and kidney function tend to get better, Montani says. However, when you gain the weight back quickly, these measures can temporarily shoot up into unhealthy ranges.
The problem is that these overshoots can be seriously harmful if repeated many times, Montani says. In the long term, this can cause damage to your heart and kidneys.
While weight loss can be good for your health if you are overweight or obese, going on a crash diet is unlikely to change your weight over time, and may actually make you gain more fat. To create a lasting weight change, take a gradual approach, making realistic lifestyle changes.
Yo-yo dieting is a vicious cycle of weight loss, gain, re-loss, and regain that can be frustrating but also jeopardize your health long-term.
If you are overweight or obese and want to be healthier by losing weight, it's important to find a way to do it sustainably so you're unlikely to gain the weight back.
To help with that, make sure you're following a diet that you could see yourself sticking to years down the line and try to limit processed foods and cook more meals at home.
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