Why You Gain Weight After Losing It: The Yo-Yo Diet Explained


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You lost the weight you wanted, but within a few months you got it all back after you quit dieting. Seems familiar? Maybe this has happened several times. But you lost weight once and you know you can do it again.

Yo-yo diets, also called weight cycles, are marked by a weight loss cycle, recover it and start a diet again. With sometimes severe ups and downs, yo-yo diets keep you from reaching your goals. Not to mention the lasting effects it can have on your body.

Fortunately, you can break the cycle, burn any fad diet allegiance and get back on track with your wellness goals.

Why do yo-yo dieting happen?

Yo-yo dieting is not something you do on purpose. There is a physiological reason why your body reacts to an unrealistic diet. The hormone leptin decreases as you lose weight. The job of leptin in our body is to tell us when we have enough energy (in the form of fat) stored in the body. When leptin levels drop enough, we start to feel hungry.

In response to restrictive diets that restrict what we eat, our body slows down our metabolism to hold on to these nutrients for as long as it can. This means that your weight loss will stagnate and you are at a greater risk of regaining it when you stop this restrictive diet.

How often are weight cycles?

Every time you turn around it feels like there’s a new diet to try. With the rise and fall of fad diets, yo-yo diets are more common than you might think, especially with restrictive diets. A March 2019 study from Columbia University Irving Medical Center found that 70% of participants had undergone at least one weight cycle. The study included a diverse group of 485 women aged 20 to 76.

The fluctuation in weight is quite normal. The average daily weight of an adult tends to fluctuate within a 3-4 pound range, depending on what you eat, drink and eliminate that day. Cycling with weight doesn’t always have to be drastic. However, he is outside the normal ranges for weight loss and gain for the body and generally follows an unsustainable diet.

Why is the yo-yo diet bad for you?

You can lose muscle and gain fat

When you diet and lose weight fast, you lose muscle and fat. Then when you are in the yo-yo dieting phase where you gain weight, you will gain fat first, not muscle. In the long run, this can impact your ability to walk, lift objects, or climb stairs. However, this can be compensated for with exercise, such as weight training to make sure you are building muscle.

Studies have also shown that weight cycling can increase body fat percentage. A review of published research found that 11 of 19 studies linked the history of the yo-yo diet to increased body fat. Half of the studies reviewed also found that weight cycling is linked to future weight gain.

It’s risky for your heart

Gaining weight increases the risk of developing heart disease. The same goes for the cycle of weight gain and loss. A recent study published by the New England Journal of Medicine found that the risk of heart disease correlates with weight change – the greater the change in weight, the greater the risk.

Some studies have also looked at the relationship between the weight cycle and increased blood pressure. Previous studies suggest that with enough time between weight cycles, the effects on your blood pressure wear off. However, not all studies agree on this point. A more recent study suggested that your body mass index will determine whether or not a history of weight cycles contributes to higher blood pressure. More research is needed to get a full picture.

It can affect your mental health

Various mental health benefits are associated with weight loss: increased self-confidence, a sense of accomplishment, and improved self-esteem. Unfortunately, there can be negative effects as well, especially with yo-yo diets. Repeated weight changes are disheartening and can even contribute to anxiety and depression.

A 2020 study showed that a history of a weight cycle is a significant predictor of depressive symptoms, with internalized weight stigma as a mediator. When controlled for gender, there was no significant difference, meaning the effects are similar in men and women. As with the other risk factors on the list, not everyone will experience it.

How to stop the rebound weight gain cycle

Dieting is difficult, and it is easier than it should be to fall into a weight cycle. We don’t want to make it seem like it’s easy to break the cycle of yo-yo dieting. It’s not. And remember, losing weight is not necessary for good health. However, if weight loss is your goal, these tips can help you regain control.

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Re-evaluate the diet you are on. Yo-yo diets start with unsustainable diets. You’ll want to avoid any diet that excludes whole food groups. We’re people, and sometimes we need a cookie, a soda, or a bowl of pasta. Most importantly, we need the space to decide what we eat and what we don’t.

Think about what you eat. In general, it is a good rule of thumb to try to avoid high amounts of sugar and sodium. But don’t make prohibited foods for yourself. This is one of the main pitfalls of yo-yo dieting. Instead, try to find your balance and make the best choices for you.

Exercise. One of the main ways to fight yo-yo dieting is to exercise. Staying active will ensure you maintain a healthy weight during your long term weight loss plan. Exercise will also help you avoid losing muscle mass over time. Just be sure to take breaks and do not overwork.

Check with yourself. Remember to watch yourself during your trip. How do you sleep How are you? Has your relationship to food changed? Monitoring yourself every now and then will help ensure that you are healthy in every way.

Find help. Yo-yo dieting may be linked to binge eating disorder or other forms of eating disorders. Even if you don’t have an eating disorder, if meals and weight are stressful for you, you can still get help and work on your relationship with food. You can contact your doctor, counselor, or the National Eating Disorders Association hotline.

Too long; did not read? Here’s what you need to know

The yo-yo diet is the dark side of weight loss. And unfortunately, it happens to a lot of people. Remember that losing weight does not mean being healthy. The yo-yo weight cycle stems from unrealistic and sometimes unhealthy diets that we probably couldn’t maintain. Even if you’re stuck in the vicious cycle of losing weight and gaining weight, that doesn’t mean you can’t get out of it.

The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended for health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have about a health problem or health goals.


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