Are You a YO-YO Dieter? (And is that a good thing?)

Di Germanio, C., Di Francesco, A., Bernier, M., & de Cabo, R. (2018). Yo-Yo Dieting is Better than None. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.), 26(11), 1673….

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Di Germanio, C., Di Francesco, A., Bernier, M., & de Cabo, R. (2018). Yo-Yo Dieting is Better than None. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.), 26(11), 1673. https://doi.org/10.1002/oby.22335

weight loss, weight Gain, weight cylcing

Are you a yo-yo dieter?  Let’s define what is a yo-yo dieter.  Yo-Yo dieting is the casual way to describe weight cycling. 

Weight cycling means losing weight with a calorie-restricted diet, regaining that weight and possibly more within a few months to a year, dieting and losing weight again, then putting the weight back on. Think about that new plan come January first…only to be forgotten in February. The pre-vacation diet that is abandoned on the trip and the pre-wedding frenzy to fit into a “perfect” size dress. The cycle of weight loss and weight gain continues. 

Turns out, this isn’t all that healthy for your body. So, we will explore preventing weight cycling in this article (as well as what to do instead) 

Is it possible to have successful weight loss?

For most of us, when we gain back the weight it often starts within the first year and without any nutrition counseling or support group weight is reached or gain weight even more in the subsequent 2 to 5 years (1). This is the opposite of what we want – gah!

Most people including myself tried counting calories, protein shakes, and on a specific diet plan that helped lose the weight. Then, we end up gaining back the weight within less than a month. Some people gave up when they reach a plateau in less than three months and gain back the weight. We want to lose weight and see results quickly, but not gain weight. 

What is the definition of successful weight loss? weight loss  >= 10% that sticks for>1= year (2). 

According to a study, avoiding weight cycling in the first year after weight loss is crucial for a sustainable long-term to keep the weight off.  It needs to be a 50% decrease in the risk for weight regain in individuals that managed to maintain their weight loss for two years. (3).

The most important factor that determines weight maintenance versus weight regain after weight loss is what food you eat. 

Our minds start to alter where we begin to think about food and how we perceive food we become hyper-focused on food.  Here is when our negative behavior starts to build that tells our hormones in our body when we are hungry or full.  Weight loss by calorie restriction is associated with increased hunger and increased reward value of food. The sensation of increased hunger appears to persist beyond when we quickly lose weight. 

From WebMD, Dr. Jennifer Robinson recently wrote about weight- cycling (4). She wrote that a study followed 439 overweight women for a year which resulted in women who had a history of being a yo-yo dieter being just as likely to stick to a diet and exercise plan. Furthermore, 10,000 people who lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for at least a year shared their strategies to the National Weight Control registry which this posted on their website (5): 

  • 78% eat breakfast every day
  • 75% weigh themselves at least once a week
  • 62% watch less than 10hours of TV per week
  • 90% exercise, on average, about 1 hour per day

These are common barriers that most people have. Everyone cannot wake up and eat breakfast. People need to get to work and don’t have time to get something to eat in the morning. People may eat late, and sleep late so that they cannot wake up to eat breakfast. Breakfast may not be ideal for people to have every day. 

When you weigh yourself, this can be a barrier. You either get you either realize you need to lose weight and do it or the opposite where it may make you feel negative.

Watching TV can be people’s obsession. People will state they are “couch potatoes” as they don’t feel like doing anything or they snack while watching TV. Exercise can be challenging for most people. People can be a yo-yo exercisers. They start to exercise and stop and start again. The cycle continues.

Here are some tips that can help you:

To start preventing weight cycling or yo-yo dieting once you lose weight, you should try one that works for you such as having breakfast every day or keeping yourself motivated by weighing yourself at least once a week or doing physical activity that keeps me motivated. This is how a registered dietitian can help you: identify those habits that will fit into your real life and help your health goals stick.

Picking one habit that made you successful and sticking to it will help you succeed in the long term. Then, gradually building that one habit into another successful habit and so forth. When you build on these healthy habits that make you feel great and energized, you stick to these habits for life. 

Yo-yo dieting is weight cycling. You gain back the weight you lost within a short period. The weight gain can be even more than what you lost at the beginning of your weight loss journey. Being a Yo-Yo Dieter is not what you want. 

Here are two tips to prevent weight regain: 

  1. When you do a calorie-restricted diet, it is recommended to see a dietitian that can help you so that you do not regain the weight.
  2. Set small goals each week that you can achieve like I will eat breakfast such as one 8oz yogurt three times a week.

If you are struggling, book a call with me to find out how I can help you!

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