Break the Yo-Yo Diet Cycle for Good

October 10, 2018

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blog_yoyodietsIf you are someone who has lost weight, regained it, and lost it again, just to regain it again numerous times, here’s some good news: No matter how many times it’s happened, you can break the yo-yo diet cycle!

How? Perhaps the most important step is to stop looking at weight loss as a destination and start thinking of it as a lifelong effort.

First, you might feel some consolation knowing that you are far from alone in experiencing the ups and downs of weight loss and regain. This can be attributed to how we have been taught to think about weight loss and “dieting,” mostly by commercial programs.

“Lose 20 pounds in two weeks!”

“Lose 10 pounds, lose another 10 for free!”

“The secret breakthrough to help you lose 30 pounds!”

The initial phase of weight loss is critical, but these promises fail to address the most important aspect of weight loss, which is how you are going to keep it off.

The constant fluctuation between weight gain and loss poses serious problems, even for those of a healthy weight. A 2017 study from the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that yo-yo dieting could be linked to increase risk of heart disease, hypertension, and death. Even more, fluctuations in weight of people who have BMIs at or below the normal range appear to also cause increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Steady, long-term weight loss is clearly healthier, more sustainable, and can be achieved through changes in behavior and nutritional therapy.

Unfortunately, with all the gimmick and get-thin-quick diets out there, the rate of long-term success drops. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 8 in 10 people who lose more than 10% of their body weight will regain it within a year. This behavior is not only dangerous to the individuals who experience the weight fluctuations, but it also creates a culture that favors appearance over long-term health and wellbeing.

We must condition ourselves to stop thinking of weight loss as a one-shot deal. In fact, so-called quick weight loss plans will leave you worse off than before because they can rob you of lean muscle mass, increase your body fat percentage, slow your metabolism, and fail to educate you on new behavioral habits to keep the weight off. That’s not a good position to be in.

Just like type 2 diabetes or high cholesterol, obesity is a chronic disease as defined by the American Medical Association, which means that there is no easy one-time cure or fix for this medical condition.

The truth is, getting to one’s goal weight is really the first step, not the end of the weight journey. The longer road and the one that is much more important to focus on is to keep the weight from coming back once you’ve worked so hard to lose it. If you are far from your goal weight at the moment or were seeing that as your destination, you may not like the way this sounds. “What?” you may be thinking. “You mean there’s MORE to it than this?” or, “You mean I’ll never be able to stop thinking about or working on my weight?”

It may not be what you want to hear, but accepting the truth will liberate you from the yo-yo. To break the gain-loss-gain-loss-gain cycle once and for all, it’s critical to make peace with this idea.

But here’s the great part. Once you feel the effects of healthy lifestyle choices and behavioral change, you won’t want to stop. Continuing to monitor your calories, weighing yourself on a regular basis, being mindful of emotional eating, journaling, exercising on a regular basis are all habits you’ll want to keep doing even when it seems like you don’t need them anymore. It may sound crazy, but it’s true! Just ask anyone you know who has been able to lose weight and keep it off for at least more than a year. The new behaviors energize and strengthen you. They become a part of you. It’s difficult to explain, but once you experience it you will know what we mean.

If you stop, the weight is sure to creep back on. Not overnight, but gradually over a year or so and, before you know it, you’ll likely find yourself back in the same place you started, or possibly weighing more.

Another very helpful way to break the yo-yo diet cycle is to reach out for help and support. If you have someone to be accountable to, and to turn to when you’re struggling, it’s far more likely you’ll stop weight regain early, rather than after you’ve gained all the lost weight back.

That’s why we continue to see patients who have lost the weight they wanted to lose several times a year afterwards. We’ve found such check-ins provide the chance to catch any problems early and help keep people focused on their ongoing journey. Maybe even knowing they’ll be back in a month or two to weigh in helps some say no to the banana split and choose to have a banana instead!

So, this time, as you set your goal weight, be sure to also make keeping off any weight you lose part of your vision, too. Once you do, we have a feeling your yo-yo dieting days will be gone for good!

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