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Oct 20

Hey, Health Coach: What Are The Long-Term Effects Of Yo-Yo Dieting? – Forbes

According to most research, your doctor is correct: Yo-yo dieting can be taxing on both the body and mind.

If youve ever played with a yo-yo, you know it requires a certain amount of force, so the analogy here is an appropriate one. Assuming youre not seriously ill, rapid weight loss demands forceful change. In yo-yo dieting, people frequently take extreme measures like drastically cutting calories or restricting whole categories of food. Its difficult to maintain because food gives us energy, pleasure and comfort, and yanking it out of reach has inevitable physical and psychological repercussions.

Everyones body is unique, but repeated phases of feast and famine have predictable results. Heres what we know.

When you cut calories, your body utilizes both fat reserves and muscle mass for fuel. In other words, weight loss isnt exclusively fat. Youre likely losing muscle, too.

As you may know, muscle burns more calories than fat, so when you have less muscle, your metabolism decreases, requiring fewer calories to maintain your current weight. If you start eating more calories after losing that muscle, your body will probably regain fat more easily than muscle tissue. Over time, yo-yo dieting can change your body composition, and, with a higher percentage of body fat, sustaining weight loss grows more difficult.

One thing to keep in mind: If youre losing weight, strength training and eating adequate protein helps your body maintain muscle mass. The recommended dietary allowances for protein vary depending on a persons age and activity levels. A sedentary adult needs 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight while someone engaged in strength or endurance training might require up to 1.7 grams per kilogram. For someone who weighs 180 pounds, the ideal range would be 65 to 138 grams of protein per day. But to keep your muscles strong and ready to work, eating protein isnt enough. You have to exercise, too.

Leptin is a hormone that helps signal when youre full and its time to stop eating. It comes from fat cells, so when you create a calorie deficit and lose fat, less leptin is released into your blood, leading to a potential increase in appetite.

Unfair as it may be, losing weight makes you hungrier, and the lower metabolism mentioned above makes you burn fewer calories. When you gain and lose, as you do yo-yo dieting, you can see how you might end up less satisfied and possibly heavier than you were in the first place.

A 2021 meta-analysis of studies including over 250,000 people found individuals who experienced weight cycling had a 23% increased risk of developing diabetes than those who didnt weight cycle. While the researchers stress that more studies are needed, evidence suggests this risk could be caused by metabolic disturbances, such as insulin resistance, elevated triglycerides and abdominal fat accumulation.

Weight cycling can also contribute to heart disease. According to a study of more than 9,500 people in the New England Journal of Medicine, body weight fluctuations are associated with higher mortality and a higher rate of cardiovascular events independent of traditional cardiovascular risk factors.

To your doctors point about the difference between staying overweight and yo-yo dieting, a study that followed several thousand young people (ages 18 to 30) for 15 years found those who maintained a stable body mass index (BMI) over time experienced a minimal progression in risk factors and lower incidence of metabolic syndrome regardless of their starting BMI. Simply put, participants that started out heavier but maintained their weight did not have increased risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes compared with folks who put on weight over time.

You probably dont need me to tell you that dieting can be infuriating. And for some, it can trigger depression. A study of 2,700 U.S. adults in the fall of 2020 found weight cycling to be related to reported depressive symptoms in both men and women, regardless of a persons starting weight.

Anyone at any weight can struggle with their body, and anyone at any weight can feel confident and strong.

I have to remind my clients sometimes that being thin doesnt automatically equate to being happy or healthy.

In the above study, fluctuations in weight were also correlated with something the researchers called internalized weight stigma, defined as the extent to which a person believes negative weight-related stereotypes (such as people with larger bodies have less willpower, are less competent or are unattractive) to be true of themselves.

Weight stigma shows up repeatedly in research associated with poor body image, lack of confidence in dietary choices and lower health-related quality of life, as well as a greater likelihood of weight gain, weight cycling, perceived stress and eating to cope.

Feeling badly about our bodies doesnt make us more likely to treat them well. It makes us more likely to be stressed out and seek coping mechanisms that make us feel better as quickly and efficiently as possible.

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Hey, Health Coach: What Are The Long-Term Effects Of Yo-Yo Dieting? - Forbes

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