What is Yo-Yo Dieting

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

Yo-yo dieting can be difficult to avoid, and extremely frustrating, but there are some ways to avoid this negative dietary trend.

What is Yo-Yo Dieting?

Yo-yo dieting is a situation in which your weight and your dietary habits fluctuate on a monthly, seasonal or yearly basis, in an up and down movement, just like a yo-yo. This variability in the food you eat and the weight that you carry around can have a number of negative side effects on the body. This type of weight cycling can be difficult to avoid, particularly with annual holiday binges, followed by promises to be healthier in the new year. [1]

There are some experts who claim that yo-yo dieting can actually be more detrimental to your health than being a few pounds overweight. Changing your metabolic patterns and average weight too frequently can put a lot of stress on your body, and result in a number of other negative side effects. [2]

A wooden knob surrounded by a twirling tape measure.

It can get difficult to stick to a diet. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Yo-Yo Dieting Effects

The negative effects of yo-yo dieting include gut dysfunction, depression, and hair loss, among others.

  • Weight gain and constant changes in body size [3]
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Diabetes
  • Muscle loss and breakdown
  • Reduction in metabolic speed
  • Higher risk of stroke and heart disease
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Psychological frustration at the inefficacy of your diet
  • Hair loss
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Gut dysfunction and a weakened immune system [4]
  • Problems with the gallbladder
  • Increased risk of osteoporosis
  • Worsening of arthritis symptoms

While yo-yo dieting is also associated with a high risk of cancer, a report by the American Cancer Society shows no link between this diet and cancer. [5]

How to Stop Yo-Yo Dieting?

The best ways to stop yo-yo dieting include monitoring your gains, sharing meals, getting more active, and eating the right types of proteins, among others.

  • Some people use food as an emotional coping mechanism, and that sort of emotional eating will almost always lead to feelings of guilt and weight gain. [6]
  • If you have a rather sedentary lifestyle, change that up and get active 4-5 times per week, if not more. This will help to balance the dietary changes with physical changes as well.
  • If you track your progress on the diet, it will work as a motivating tool, making it harder to cheat or give up on your current diet plan.
  • If your ultimate goal is to lose 50 pounds, start with something more realistic. When you lose five pounds, that can act as your motivation to lose the next five.
  • Finally, scaling back your daily intake and sharing your meals is another great way to reduce your risk of yo-yo dieting.
  • Adding yogurt and cinnamon to your diet are other measures that one can take in order to stop yo-yo dieting.
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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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