Yo-yo dieting has been around since the dawn of diets. Since the diet industry cropped up, people have been losing and gaining back weight—to the effect of a yo-yo. “Yo-Yo dieting is the unfortunate effect of dieting to lose weight then regaining the weight [that] you just lost, only to have to go on another diet to try and lose the weight again,” explains Jaya Jaya Myra, wellness lifestyle expert and scientist. This cycle is repetitive and extremely unhealthy, both mentally and physically. Regular yo-yo dieting can lead to:
- Higher body fat percentages.
- Increased risk of Type 2 diabetes.
- Risk of high blood pressure.
- Increased likelihood of heart disease.
In addition, due to extreme caloric restrictions that come with yo-yo dieting, it often leads to nutrient deficiencies and microbiome dysfunction. “These deficiencies, along with the hormonal imbalances, can result in a weakened immune system, gastrointestinal conditions, high blood pressure, heart disease, skin conditions, weakened hair and nails, liver disease, insulin resistance, and even adversely affect emotional and psychological wellbeing,” explains Serena Poon, a celebrity chef and nutritionist.
Why Yo-Yo Dieting?
So, why do people constantly put their bodies through this process time and time again? Simple: the promise of quick results. “It’s not a lifestyle, it’s a short term way of eating ‘until my class reunion, until I lose ten pounds, until my daughter’s wedding and (this part is usually left out of the proclamation) … then I’ll go back to eating the way I really want,” reveals Patrea Aeschliman, B.S., NSCA CSCS.
Being primarily centered around weight loss, yet not living an overall healthy lifestyle is the first step in the wrong direction. Yo-yo dieting is not a long-term approach. Maintaining or building muscle mass is the last concern for those that seek this type of regime. Losing as much weight as possible as fast as possible is the top priority. This course of action leads to the loss of muscle, which ultimately decreases metabolism. “Muscle is what keeps one’s metabolism high and bones strong. Muscle mass has been suggested recently to be included as an indicator of health, just like blood pressure and cholesterol levels. The stronger a person is the better they will age,” says Aeschliman.
How to Break the Cycle
If you are sick of the up and down of dieting and want to break the cycle, there are a few easy ways to live a life without compromising your health for just a few pounds.
Eat the right foods.
“Eat foods that contribute to your mental and emotional wellbeing,” says Myra. She explains that food has more than just nutritional value. Eating foods that boost mood, reduce inflammation, and act as prebiotic nutrients to your gut flora can all help stop yo-yo dieting. Some foods release serotonin and dopamine in the body, while others help fuel a positive gut brain connection.
Poon suggests scaling back little by little on your carbohydrates and daily caloric intake without eliminating any food category. Make sure that the calories you choose all come from nutrient-dense, fresh colorful foods. Exercise, or perform some form of body work on a daily basis to promote movement throughout the body, not only to burn calories, but also to help flow toxins out of your system.
Don’t fixate on the numbers.
Typically, a goal of reaching a certain number on the scale feeds the concept of yo-yo dieting. So, instead focus on the quality of food, the balance of your meals, and on how you feel and how your clothes are fitting versus just a number.
Don’t deprive yourself.
Instead of skipping desserts, substitute something more healthy for you, so that you don’t feel deprived. This action can help in making consistently healthy food choices. Most importantly, be mindful of the food you eat and enjoy it!
It’s not worth putting your body through the turmoil of up and down dieting just to drop a few pounds. Instead opt for a more balanced and nourishing way of life, so that you don’t feel deprived.