My friend is great at Rubik’s cubes. When she gets one in her hands she seems to widdle it around at a blurring speed and then it’s done. I’m rather less talented at them, but I can vaguely remember seeing and hearing about them all the time when I was little. Now, except for my friend’s cube taming talents, I don’t see them at all.
There are author things I remember from being a kid that I don’t see now too. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a Rubik’s cube or writing in a speak and spell, gazing through the view master, or collecting Care Bears; the theme that connects these childhood memories is that they were fads that were popular one minute, then gone the next. Just like the toy business, the weight loss industry works the same way.
Fad diets come and go faster than most of us can keep up with. Whether it was the low-fat craze of the ’80s, to low-carb diets today, or being paleo or vegan. It’s a never-ending conveyor belt of new ways to lose weight, and some of us have tried them all, but is that ok? Are repeated, so-called yo-yo, diets harmful, and what are the consequences of repeatedly trying to lose weight and then putting it back on? Let’s find out the truth about yo-yo diets.
Most of us have attempted to lose weight at some point in our lives. In fact, in America, 63% of people have tried it at least once, and 29% are trying to lose weight right now. This doesn’t happen for free. The fad diet business is a big enterprise, and the same Americans spend upwards of 2.5 billion on weight-loss diets or products per year. While gaining control of eating behaviours is certainly positive, the problem with all of these diets is that in the long term, they don’t seem to work.
Losing weight is one thing, but keeping it off should be the real goal. However, 80% of the people who lost 10% of their weight gain it all back within a year. Often this happens with short spells of dieting lasting only a few months or so, punctuated with gaining all the weight back. When this happens, the phenomenon is called yo-yo dieting.
It’s clear that keeping weight off is harder than losing it in the first place. This leads to some of us being in a constant state of loss and gain. In fact, some people are seen to go on as many as 50 of these short-term , yo-yo, diets across their lifetime. This has led many people to suggest that this pattern of weight loss and gain is fundamentally unhealthy, but is that true? A look at the actual science paints a different, more nuanced, picture.
One of the fears of constant dieting and weight regain is that it slows your metabolism, possibly leading to negative health effects. This lead researchers to investigate if this was actually true in a study on women with a history of yo-yo dieting.
- The study used a sample of 52 obese women who had dieted and gained the weight back multiple times.
- The researchers then measured their resting metabolic rate.
- Once this measurement was taken, it was compared to the metabolic rate of women without any long or short-term dieting history.
- There was no difference in their predicted, or measured, rates.
Another claim is that dieting like this will mean that people are unable to lose weight long term due to the negative effects of consistent dieting. it’s easy to see why. If you have been trying to lose weight for a long time with repeated attempts only to gain it all back again after a few months, it might be natural to think that something is wrong. However, this has been studied too.
- A large study from a few years ago took 439 women and grouped them based on how many times they have yo-yo dieted, and how harsh it was.
- They were split as none, moderate, and severe, weight cyclers.
- After they were split into groups, they were put through a program of nutrition and exercise for weight loss for 12 months.
- At the end of the year, there was no difference between how much weight a severe yo-yo dieter lost compared to someone who had never dieted before.
As well as yo-yo dieting not slowing your metabolism or stopping you from losing weight, a brand new study found that not only is it not bad for you, it’s actually better than not dieting at all.
The study was pretty unique, and its results were surprising. It found that over a period of 20 years, people who had attempted to lose even five pounds more frequently were associated with reduced health risks. The real kicker was that this was true even if they gained the weight back.
This all sounds like a win for yo-yo dieting so far, but that’s not what I’m trying to get across. I’m not promoting a lifetime of bouncing from one “diet” to the next. What is clear in the literature outside of physical effects, the consequences of constantly cycling through weight loss and gain is that it is draining. Massively so. More specifically, there is a real connection between yo-yo dieting and increased depressive symptoms. This is more than enough of a reason to avoid fad diets in general.
The goal for my clients isn’t just weight loss or some other external factor, it’s control. Mastering your habits, understanding your mindset, and owning your own choices take longer to get a handle on than a four-week quick fix, but the long-term outcome is far better than the constant conveyor belt of fad diets you might be on right now.
The truth about Yo-Yo dieting is that while it doesn’t hurt you, it isn’t helpful either. To really succeed in losing weight and keeping it off, you need to adjust your way of thinking as much as your way of eating.