If you’ve ever been knocked out before, you’ll know that it’s a strange sensation. You don’t feel the impact of whatever implement is rendering you unconscious, you just sort of wake up wondering where you are. If you’re a boxer, knocking someone out is kind of your job, and few people were better at it than Ricky Hatton. Ricky was famous for coming into fights in incredible shape and knocking people to the ground with a mix of head and brutal body shots. A few months before the fight, however, Ricky was famous for something else; being fat.
In the run-up to a fight, Hatton was a machine. Training sessions were never skipped, and his diet was meticulous. More than 12 weeks before the fight was a different story. Loading up on Guinness, double burgers, pepperoni pizzas, and takeaway curries, Ricky would sit at a massive 45 pounds heavier than his fighting weight. This didn’t happen once. Getting in unbelievable fighting shape, followed by eating his way to a 45 lb beer gut was his routine every single time.
Despite changes as extreme as these, Hatton never failed to make weight, and until he was in the twilight of his career, always fought like a demon. If you were to believe everything you read, you’d likely think that yo-yo dieting leaves you with a broken metabolism, making it impossible to get leaner. However, like Ricky Hatton, yo-yoing from one extreme to the other doesn’t make it harder to lose weight.
80% of people who lose 10% or more of their weight gain it all back within one year. This yo-yo dieting is often repeated in one big cycle of weight loss and subsequent gain. This fact is what fuels the notion that yo-yo dieting permanently damages your metabolism, making weight loss impossible. However, while there are a tonne of reasons why keeping weight off is difficult, a broken metabolism is not one of them.
A damaged metabolism is supposed to be slower than a normal one, which would show up as fewer calories being burned at rest. This “resting metabolic rate” can be measured in several ways, after which it can be compared to a predicted rate. If the damaged metabolism was indeed slower, this would show up because the numbers would be way lower than the predicted ones. This has, of course, been tested.
- In a study by McCargar, 52 overweight women with a history of yo-yo dieting had their resting metabolic rate tested.
- This was then compared to the predicted RMR of a non-chronically dieted woman.
- There was no significant difference between predicted and actual measures.
As well as this study showing that metabolisms not get damaged, other studies show that a history of yo-yo dieting doesn’t actually affect the ability to lose weight.
- Mason grouped 439 overweight women as none, moderate, and severe weight cyclers before enrolling them in a 12-month weight loss program.
- There was no difference in the amount of fat lost during the 12 months between any of the groups.
The reason for the weight regain isn’t down to broken metabolisms or a history of yo-yoing, it’s down to behaviour. Keeping the weight off after a diet is hard, so hard that only a tiny fraction of people really manage to do it, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Blaming a damaged metabolism for weight gain is convenient, but essentially it’s a cop-out.
If you’ve struggled with weight rebounds before, the following 10 simple tips might help.
- Keep eating a high protein diet
- Keep weighing yourself
- Continue to exercise
- Avoid rigid diets and be flexible with your food choices
- Stay aware of the number of calories you consume
- Reflect on what worked or didn’t work during your diet and use what you learned to keep you on track now
- Keep your steps up. Aim for 10,000 a day
- Eat at regular times and avoid random snacking
- Don’t mistake boredom for hunger
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. Weight maintenance isn’t about staying at exactly the same weight forever, you have wiggle room to add or subtract the odd kilogram here and there. Think longterm.
Your metabolism isn’t damaged. Losing weight and gaining it all back doesn’t make it harder to lose weight again.
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