Yo-yo Dieting and What It Does to Your Health

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Weight cycling, or yo-yo dieting, is an unhealthy continuous cycle of gaining and losing weight. Dieters tend to skip meals and take in too few calories, almost to the point of starvation. This kind of dieting is harmful to the body, especially down the road. There is mounting evidence that yo-yo dieting may lead to metabolic and cardiovascular disorders, such as diabetes and hypertension. Dieters that are at a standard weight or somewhat overweight are at higher risk than obese people for developing complications associated with weight cycling. Therefore, it’s imperative to understand what yo-yo dieting does to your body, why it should be avoided, and how to achieve long-term healthy weight loss.

Yo-Yo Dieting and Metabolism

When you embark on a low calorie eating plan, you run the risk of slowing down your metabolism. This, in turn, will cause your body to become a fat storing machine. Meaning, your body will get better at storing fat rather than burning it. When you consume too few calories, you lose the natural ability to detect when you are truly hungry as well as the sensation of fullness. This will result in feelings of deprivation, which can lead to weight gain, binging, and lowered self-esteem, depression, and frustration. In a dire attempt to get rid of the recent weight gain, yet another weight loss regimen is attempted, and the weight cycling goes on and on. In fact, according to escholarship.org, one study found that there was indeed a strong connection between yo-yo dieters and larger weight gain, decreased physical activity, and a higher occurrence of overindulging on food. So, it appears that fad diets fail us, not the other way around. Therefore, it is essential to take a level-headed approach to weight loss, to break the vicious cycle of yo-yo dieting.

Cardiovascular Effects

According to US News and World Report, yo-yo dieting may result in metabolic and cardiovascular diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol. In fact, another study available in the Journal of American College of Cardiology reported that weight cycling caused a decrease in high density lipoproteins (HDL) or good cholesterol that helps protect against heart disease. It was also revealed that women who yo-yo dieted on a regular basis and continually gave in to their cravings were much worse off with their cholesterol readings, especially in women that lost and regained roughly 50 pounds. Other problems noted from weight cycling include gallstone development, as well as a small increase in blood pressure.

Yo-Yo Dieting and the Immune System

According to Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, weight cycling may have a long-standing harmful effect on the immune system. On the other hand, keeping weight the same over time seems to effect immune functioning in a positive manner. Therefore, the long term health of the immune system is directly related to the number of times a woman purposely loses weight. So, if a woman gains and loses weight frequently, her immune system will be much weaker than a woman who maintains a steady weight.

Achieve Long-term Healthy Weight Loss

Don’t succumb to extreme dieting regimens, and aim to lose one to two pounds a week. If you lose more than two pounds per week, you will end up losing muscle rather than fat. Next, make sure you know how many calories you can safely lose without compromising your health. Seek out a personal trainer or nutritionist, if necessary. Try to eat frequently throughout the day, preferably five to six small meals a day. Drink plenty of healthy fluids to rehydrate and cleanse the body. Keep a food journal to visually monitor what you’re eating and drinking, and to track the amount of calories being consumed. Also, it’s okay to splurge every now and again. If you deprive yourself, you’ll just want it that much more. And, lastly, try to fit in daily physical activity at least three days a week for 30 minutes and keep it interesting. Change it up a little; do some walking, swimming, rock climbing, cross country skiing, or maybe even play a little soccer with the kids.


Journal of the American College of Cardiology


US News and World Report


Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center


eScholarship.org: University of California


Weight Cycling…Facts About “Yo-Yo” Dieting