September 12, 2019 3 min read

By Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD

Yo-yo dieting is exactly what it sounds like — a dieting pattern that causes your weight to go up and down, like a yo-yo. This pattern is common among athletes in weight-competitive sports, performers desiring or requiring a certain appearance and people who want a “quick fix” to lose weight.

The results of yo-yo dieting may be appealing in the short term, but the long-term yo-yo dieting effects may be more detrimental than you think. Yo-yo dieting can sabotage your ability to achieve your ideal weight and body goals.

Weight Cycling

In research, yo-yo dieting is also known as weight cycling. Weight cycling is associated with a host of health issues: increased risk for cardiovascular issues, diabetes and possible changes in body composition and metabolism. There is no clear association with weight cycling and overall mortality risk, but it still may increase your overall risk for multiple diseases.

Heart Health

Frequent weight fluctuations are thought to increase the amount of stress on the heart and risk for cardiac diseases, including high cholesterol and hypertension. While losing weight, the body tends to experience decreases in blood pressure and heart rate, and an improvement in blood lipid (fat) levels. However, during weight regain, our body may overshoot its baseline heart function, leading to hypertension, increased blood cholesterol and an increased cardiac workload that can damage the heart in the long run.

Diabetes

Weight loss is effective for reducing the risk of diabetes and managing diabetes symptoms, but weight cycling may make it harder to control your blood sugar long term. A study involving participants from the Diabetes Prevention Program found that multiple instances of weight cycling of at least 5 pounds after intentional weight loss was associated with higher fasting glucose and diabetes risk over the course of only two years.

But the research is not consistent. Two studies conducted in Korea and Japan observed decreased risks in diabetes with weight cycling, possibly related to differences in diets and body types.

Body Composition

The jury is still out concerning weight cycling and changes in body composition. In older adults, weight cycling of at least 3% body mass was associated with decreased lean muscle and increased fat mass after weight regain, especially in men. For a younger obese group, weight cycling did not cause a change in fat tissue distribution, but did reduce resting energy expenditure, meaning it slowed down metabolism. This could be one reason why it is so challenging to keep the weight off. Though different results were seen across these populations, weight cycling has the potential to decrease muscle, increase fat and reduce calorie burning.

Yo-yo dieting can increase the risk for weight gain, multiple chronic illnesses and decrease muscle mass over time. Choosing a sustainable lifestyle over frequent crash diets can be more beneficial to your body in the long run if trying to lose or maintain your weight.

Not sure where to start? Incorporate regular exercise and activity into your daily routine, manage your stress and sleep cycle, and commit to a balanced diet that incorporates foods that work for you. Making a daily INVIGOR8 Superfood Shake and preparing healthy foods and snacks using our INVIGOR8 recipes can help you break the yo-yo cycle and keep weight off permanently.

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