What is Yo-Yo Dieting?

Sheri Cyprus

Yo-yo dieting refers to constant fluctuations in weight through unhealthy weight loss methods. The name comes from the spinning yo-yo toy that moves up and down repeatedly. In a similar manner, yo-yo dieters repeatedly move up and down in their weight gain and loss. Yo-yo dieting is both a risk to health and an ineffective way of losing weight and keeping it off.

Yo-yo dieting is caused by weight fluctuations.
Yo-yo dieting is caused by weight fluctuations.

The yo-yo dieter often tries to lose weight too quickly. He or she may skip meals, reduce calories too much, or follow fad diets. Fad diets are those that drastically restrict calories and/or stress extreme eating such as only eating grapefruit or cabbage soup. Although initial weight loss may easily result from these efforts the after effects on the body may actually limit further weight loss because the body's metabolism tends to slow down.

A balanced diet combined with exercise is healthier than yo-yo dieting.
A balanced diet combined with exercise is healthier than yo-yo dieting.

Metabolism refers to the body's food burning system. When calories or nutrition is too limited, the body defends itself against starvation by storing energy and this causes a slower metabolism. A slower metabolism leads to slower weight loss and a loss of muscle tone may also result. The dieter often feels frustrated that the strict diet is no longer working and engages in binge eating and/or returns to eating the same amount of calories and fat he or she did before starting the diet. The increase in fat and calories leads to weight gain and because the metabolism is affected again the dieter may even end up at a higher body weight than before the diet.

When the dieter then tries to lose weight again the yo-yo dieting cycle occurs and tends to continue with alternating periods of weight loss and weight gain. The constant fluctuations in weight further compromise metabolism and put stress on organs. For example, several studies have indicated that yo-yo dieting puts dieters at an increased risk of heart disease.

Fad diets and yo-yo dieting should always be avoided. Weight loss should instead be considered a slow and steady process that involves a healthy balanced diet and regular physical exercise. The body's metabolism has been shown to work at its most efficient when breakfast is eaten and small meals and snacks are consumed every few hours throughout the day. A doctor may recommend food and exercise plans that coordinate with a patient's overall health.

The grapefruit diet is an example of a fad diet.
The grapefruit diet is an example of a fad diet.

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