Ever been on a diet and then gain all the weight back? This yo-yo dieting is pretty common. Often dieters gain back more than they lost, and it’s a common experience to have an even harder time losing weight the next time. “Weight cycling” is the term for these repeating episodes of intentional weight loss followed by unintentional regain, also often called “yo-yo dieting.” One of the most important messages about weight loss is this: adopt a healthy diet, lose the weight and keep your new, healthier way of eating forever.
What Happens When You Lose Weight
The human body responds to weight loss the same way it would respond to starvation — by conserving energy. Depending on your calorie intake and the amount of stored energy you have, your brain determines whether to release appetite-enhancing or appetite-suppressing hormones.
When you lose weight, your body adapts by altering the production of appetite-regulating hormones, favoring weight regain by increasing appetite and promoting fat storage. Another way is by decreasing resting energy expenditure (the amount of calories burned at rest).
These compensatory systems make going back to your old diet even more weight gain-promoting. The low-nutrient, unhealthy foods stimulate cravings and are even more dangerous for someone whose calorie expenditure has fallen. Also, when you lose weight, some loss of muscle is unavoidable (though strength exercise helps to limit muscle loss). However, when someone gains weight back after dieting, that weight is fat, potentially leaving the dieter with a greater body fat percentage than before.
Why Weight Cycling Is Dangerous
Studies have linked weight cycling to a greater risk of diabetes, hypertension, gallbladder stones, and more rapid aging. Weight cycling women were also found to have a greater waist circumference, and seem to gain more weight over time than “non-cyclers” who start off at the same BMI.
Specifically, obesity is accompanied by a low-grade inflammation. Fat tissue is more than a vessel for storing excess calories. It acts as an endocrine organ as it produces and secretes compounds that affect the function of other types of cells.
Some of these harmful effects include:
- insulin resistance
- higher triglycerides
- reduces immune function
- increases risk of cancer
As fat tissue grows, more pro-inflammatory compounds are produced, leading to chronic inflammation, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer.
How to Avoid Weight Cycling
The key to losing weight and keeping it off forever is changing your diet forever. Stay away from extreme fad diets; they are not sustainable long-term. About 80 percent of dieters are unable to keep 10 percent of their original body weight off for more than one year. Feeling deprived and going back to your old diet is almost inevitable. However, if you use high-nutrient foods to resolve toxic hunger, you will find it much easier to stick with your new way of eating and prevent future weight regain.
A recent study published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine analyzed and reported weight loss results provided by 75 obese patients who had switched to a Nutritarian diet. The average weight loss was 55 pounds, and none of these respondents had gained back any lost weight after three years.
One reason for the remarkable permanent weight loss results with a Nutritarian diet is that the users are more fully educated regarding the long-term health and longevity benefits and they adopt the diet for more than its weight loss benefits. Additionally, this nutrient-dense, plant-rich diet can suppress appetite and resolve food cravings and food addictions.
The best thing about the Nutritarian way of eating is that after you withdraw from a diet of excess salt, oil and sugar, you will appreciate the tastes of natural wholesome food. With time, cravings for old comfort foods simply disappear as a new sense of taste emerges.
The bottom line is that making changes to your diet to improve your health and your weight need to be permanent changes, not temporary. My book The End of Dieting explains exactly how to break out of the cycle of physical and emotional addiction and overeating — how to keep the weight off permanently.
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Read about Dr. Fuhrman’s eating plan to lose weight, prevent and reverse heart disease, and live your healthiest life in The End of Heart Disease: The Eat to Live Plan to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.
Note: PLEASE consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or medications. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only, and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.