THE NEGATIVE HEALTH SIDE EFFECTS OF YO-YO DIETING

Constant weight fluctuations from dieting may have a bigger impact on your medical health than you think. Learn more about the long-term negative consequences of yo-yo dieting.


BY: COURTNEY FERREIRA, MS, RD, LDN

Yo-yo dieting is the fluctuation between restricting what you eat to comply with a prescribed diet and returning to your usual way of eating usually due to deprivation felt from said diet. Inevitably, yo-yo dieting leads to weight loss and regain, known as weight cycling.

If you are constantly trying out the latest fat diet or new regimen that helped your friend lose weight, you may be a yo-yo dieter and not even realize it.  It can come in many forms, and ranges from a short cleanse that spans a few days, to a restricted plan that lasts a month or longer. The process might look like:

  • A seven day juice cleanse,
  • Followed by a vacation with excessive alcohol consumption and weight regain,
  • Followed by a thirty day meal plan,
  • Followed by an overly indulgent return to regular life (and weight regain),
  • Followed by a ketogenic diet,
  • Back to regular life and eating habits.

…And on and on it goes.  

Over time, this process causes feelings of guilt and self-loathing which fuels the cycle. Beyond that, the cycling of a restrictive, extreme, and unsustainable relationship with food (often coupled with exercise) followed by an overly-relaxed, mindless attitude with food does more harm than one might think.

Yes, it is mentally exhausting, but the negative health impacts of weight cycling are far worse than having a few more pounds on your body than you might like. Here’s what to know:

High blood pressure

Women who had five weight losses in five years were more likely to develop high blood pressure.

Lowers ‘good’ cholesterol

Weight cycling in women was also associated with lower HDL cholesterol (the good stuff!), which is linked to increased risk of cardiovascular events.

Higher risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome

In adults, weight cycling up anywhere up to six times was associated with a higher risk of developing diabetes. In a separate study, weight cycling was also independently associated with metabolic syndrome, a group of factors and biomarkers that raise your risk of diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Increased risk of stroke and heart attack

In adults with heart disease, those with the highest weight variability had greater risk for stroke, heart attack, and over 100% greater risk of death when compared to patients with the smallest weight variability. Chronic inflammatory consequences from the numerous effects of weight cycling are presumably linked to this increased stroke and heart attack risk.

While research continues to study the circumstances of yo-yo dieting, it is safe to say that breaking up with your weight cycling habits must happen in order to keep maintain good health.

A diet that is balanced and fits your lifestyle will be the one that will work – and fad diets are simply not sustainable. The next time you focus on your weight, think about the health consequences instead and the disease risks it may lead to.

Making healthful choices that you enjoy and can sustain is the only way to lead you to better health.


Courtney Ferreira, MS, RD, LDN is a Registered Dietitian based in Baltimore, MD with a passion for helping individuals reach their health and wellness through flavorful whole foods and freedom from counting calories, fat, and minutes on a treadmill. For more insightful tips on living your healthiest life, visit Courtney at the RealFoodCourt.

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