Updated: Nov 16
For most weight loss is a struggle. It can take a long time to understand the delicate balance of eating right, likely exercising and dealing with all the daily activities and stresses that life brings in our way. A common scenario is yo-yo dieting, also known as weight cycling.
This refers to a frustrating pattern of losing weight, regaining it and then repeating the cycle. It affects our self-esteem, confidence and our health. It's important to note that yo-yo dieting can have negative health implications, including an increased risk of cardiovascular issues, metabolic syndrome and psychological distress. Many factors contribute to yo-yo dieting but there are ways to break the cycle. Let’s explore some of the key factors involved before we present a way forward.
As ever, please talk to your doctor or medical practitioner most familiar with your medical history before implementing any changes in diet, exercise or lifestyle, especially if you are under treatment. Links to any supporting studies or resources are shared at the end of page.
Too Fast, Too Soon Crash diets or strict calorie restriction can lead to rapid weight loss but often in an unhealthy manner. While these approaches may result in initial weight loss, they are difficult to sustain in the long term.
Metabolic Changes Drastic changes in calorie intake can impact your metabolism. When you significantly reduce your calorie intake, your body may respond by slowing down its metabolic rate to conserve energy. When you return to a normal diet, your metabolism may not immediately adjust, leading to weight regain.
Loss of Lean Muscle Mass Rapid weight loss, especially through severe caloric restriction without strength training, can result in the loss of lean muscle mass. Muscle tissue is metabolically active and a reduction in muscle mass can slow down metabolism.
Psychological Factors Yo-yo dieting is often associated with emotional and psychological factors. People may turn to food for comfort during times of stress or emotional distress.
Hormonal Changes Rapid changes in weight can impact hormones related to appetite and metabolism, such as leptin and ghrelin. These hormonal fluctuations can contribute to increased hunger and overeating.
Outside of these physical issues, the main underlying problem is one of mindset and planning. Not a matter of not having good intentions - to lose weight - but rather misplaced focus.
Unrealistic expectations Unrealistic weight loss goals can set individuals up for failure. When people don't see the results they expect quickly, they may become discouraged and abandon their efforts, leading to weight regain.
Focused on weight at the expense of health Weight loss is the goal but without paying attention to overall health it is hard to sustain. The body needs to be properly nourished, even when in caloric deficit. Exercise needs to be at an appropriate level with adequate nutrition. Sleep should be prioritised.
No long-term plan. A lack of sustainable lifestyle changes Many diets focus on short-term caloric restriction rather than promoting long-term, sustainable eating practices. When individuals revert to their previous eating habits after achieving initial weight loss, they are likely to regain the lost weight.
What happens when you achieve your weight loss goal and come off the diet?
Weight management is more than eating practices alone. Success requires attention to be paid to overall health, to understand the pillars of health that support our wellbeing.
Adopting a balanced and sustainable approach to weight management, setting proper goals in keeping with one's vision and values, enjoying a healthy diet and creating the conditions for long-term lifestyle change, is the only approach that can support long-term weight loss and health.
Achieve your Health Goals
Your health, physical – mental – social - is complex and affected by multiple factors within and outside of your control. Our consults and programmes address the whole person, the root causes of ill health and maximising your health, performance & vitality.
Take the first step. Contact us to arrange an introductory call, to discuss how we can support your journey to health. We are based in Singapore and work with clients globally.
Book a Whole Health Consult to assess, identify and prioritise key factors (known and unknown) that affect your health. And receive personalised recommendations on how to address them.
Want to put recommendations into action? Learn more about our programmes for individuals or teams.
Ma K, Dhawan S. Yo-Yo Dieting: Mixed Messages for β-Cell Plasticity. Diabetes. 2022 Nov 1;71(11):2253-2255. doi: 10.2337/dbi22-0024. PMID: 36265016; PMCID: PMC9630080.
Contreras RE, Schriever SC, Pfluger PT. Physiological and Epigenetic Features of Yoyo Dieting and Weight Control. Front Genet. 2019 Dec 11;10:1015. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2019.01015. PMID: 31921275; PMCID: PMC6917653.
Rhee EJ. Weight Cycling and Its Cardiometabolic Impact. J Obes Metab Syndr. 2017 Dec 30;26(4):237-242. doi: 10.7570/jomes.2017.26.4.237. PMID: 31089525; PMCID: PMC6489475.