Yo-yo dieting, which causes weight cycling, is never good for your health. Here’s how it puts you in harm’s way.
In preparation for your high school reunion last year, you lost 15 pounds. Since then you’ve regained the weight—plus some. Now you want to fit into a dress you bought for your cousin’s wedding so you’re on a new diet. Sound familiar?
In your effort to lose weight, how many diets have you tried? While dieting does help you lose weight, as soon as you return to your previous way of eating, the weight returns.
This repeated cycle of losing weight only to pick it up again and again is known as weight cycling. When the cycle is the result of dieting, it’s often referred to as yo-yo dieting. Weight changes could be as small as five pounds or greater than 50 pounds.
Regardless of how many pounds you lose and gain, it’s not just your waistline or clothing budget that suffers from weight cycling. Your health is harmed as well. Here are five ways yo-yo dieting affects your mental and physical health.
#1: It Zaps Your Confidence
You lose weight and feel great about yourself. Gain it all back and you feel like a failure. Weight cycling contributes to discouragement and a lack of self-esteem. The constant dieting makes you feel trapped. It’s no fun dieting, and you don’t see an end in sight. When you’re overweight, you’re more likely to be discontent with how you look and feel. Society tells you that thin, fit people are worth more and are more beautiful. Don’t fit the stereotype? Then you feel less than, depressed, and moody.
#2: It Affects Your Hormones
Crash diets that severely restrict calories mess with your body’s delicate hormone balance. Insulin, cortisol, and estrogen levels increase, which leads to a bigger appetite, food cravings, and weight gain around your middle. Abdominal fat is associated with an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
Weight loss that leads to fat loss means a decrease in the amount of leptin your body produces. Leptin is the hormone that tells your brain when you’re full and encourages you to stop eating. With less leptin, your appetite increases and you feel hungry all the time. This is one reason why so many people go on diet after diet.
#3: It Slows Your Metabolism
Long-term calorie restriction sends your body into starvation mode. When it’s not sure when its next meal will be, the body holds on to every calorie to save for future energy. A slowed metabolism is not what you want if you’re trying to keep weight off for good. When you return to normal eating habits, your body still wants to hold on to calories and weight returns with a vengeance.
#4: It Causes Muscle Loss
When you lose weight, you’re likely losing muscle as well as fat. When you quit your diet, fat is regained faster than muscle is built. Unless strength-training exercises are a regular part of your routine, over time you’ll lose muscle, strength, and weight-loss ability since muscle plays an important role in burning calories.
#5: It Prevents Lasting Weight Loss
Thinking that diets are a quick fix, a thing to dread, and something to do and then move on prevents you from making long-term changes necessary for lasting weight loss. Fad diets do lead to weight loss and that’s why they’re so popular. The problem with fad diets, however, is that they lack sustainability. You can’t avoid carbs forever, eat grapefruit for every meal, or live on lemonade for long. As soon as you return to your normal diet, the weight piles back on.
So skip the fad train and go for lasting health!