Have you ever been on a cycle of constant weight loss and weight gain? Maybe you tried a crash or fad diet in an attempt to lose weight, only to regain it once you are off the restrictive diet. It’s like a yo-yo that keeps swinging back and forth. Let’s look at what Alpana is facing:
Alpana decided to lose some weight in preparation for her brother's upcoming wedding. She wanted to look ‘camera ready’. Two months before the wedding, she tried extreme low calorie (less than 1000 kcal per day) diets along with intense gym sessions. This was something she had never done before in her life! And truth be told, it was killing her. But she kept at it since she wanted to look good. She did lose the weight in the end, but felt tired and frustrated most of the time. Finally, after the wedding was over; she went back to being the foodie that she was. “After all, I deserve it”, was what she told herself. In the next few months, she gained some weight and ended up weighing more than she did to begin with. This made her feel very low and increasingly frustrated.
“Weight loss is hard work!” she lamented to her friend Payal.
“That’s because you are doing it all wrong!” countered Payal. “Yo-yo dieting is not going to get you anywhere! It only harms you to the extent that it can create nutrient deficiencies and lower your metabolism.”
If this scenario sounds familiar to you, you are not alone. A study by Mehta et al., states, that approximately 80% of individuals who intentionally lose weight, try yo-yo dieting. They alsoregain this lost weight in a year and this is not at all healthy. It could even increase the risk of health problems and lead to quicker ageing.
Health experts caution against the negative effects of weight cycling. This could be from following crash or fad diets that restrict calories and even eliminate entire food groups. The primary concern lies in how they wreak havoc on your overall health and metabolism. A higher metabolic rate means you burn calories effectively and are able to utilize the food you have eaten as a fuel source for the energy that your body needs.
Yo-yo dieting also increases muscle loss due to the caloric deficit that your body experiences. When you restrict calories or food groups like carbs, your body breaks down muscle for energy. Carbs are your primary source of energy; you can't expect your body to manage without it!
Restricting foods makes your body crave those particular foods. And the sad part is, some of these foods are not even unhealthy. Instead eat wholesome meals with- whole grains, fruits and vegetables, these rank high on nutrients and fibre. The general consensus from medicine and nutrition experts is that these foods help lower the risk of diseases like- cardiovascular incidence, bad cholesterol, elevated blood sugars and also provide a host of nutrients. The antioxidants help fight against free radical damage and have various essential functions, to keep the body healthy.
Yo-Yo dieting’s repercussions do not just take a physical toll on your body, but also a psychological impact. A pattern of restrictive eating can make you stressed, tired and irritable. It also leads to isolation in some cases, when you feel like you cannot interact with others at social gatherings. Why? For the fear that you will be tempted to eat unhealthily and that the foods that are part of your diet regime will not be available. This again is not sustainable nor healthy! In addition, the constant battle of gaining and losing weight can lead to a sense of loneliness and failure.
To break it down, no robust research study advises anyone to diet restrictively. Instead, they advocate the inclusion of a balanced meal pattern, with healthy foods, from all food groups!
What is the problem then?
We turn to these fads for a quick fix and because the media’s misleading advertising make them seem so instant and easy. But pause for a moment, think about your health and what you actually want.
Now, work towards a fulfilling and sustainable pattern of eating and fitness. Keep the following in mind:
Food was meant to nourish our bodies. Eat healthy and enjoy what you eat. Focus on food quality than quantity.
Eat healthy 80% of the time and give yourself a leeway of 20% for those treats you would like to enjoy.
Eat regular meals along with healthy snacks to keep your energy levels up and your metabolism effective. Don’t skip your breakfast!
Exercise regularly, choose exercises with the help of a fitness professional or a qualified physiotherapist. These should be tailor made to your current fitness levels, health condition and age.
Be well hydrated, it curbs mindless eating
Start with baby steps and remember, slow and steady wins the race!
5 Ways to Stop the Yo-Yo Effect. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.weightwatchers.com/util/art/index_art.aspx?tabnum=1&art_id=222&sc=3047
6 Tips to Get Out of Yo-Yo Diets and Create Healthy Eating Habits | Aya Healthcare. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.ayahealthcare.com/blog/6-tips-get-yo-yo-diets-create-healthy-eating-habits/
NY Daily News - (2019). Retrieved from https://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/lose-weight-good-10-ways-stop-yo-yo-dieting-article-1.2519325
Mehta, T., Smith, D. L., Muhammad, J., & Casazza, K. (2014). Impact of weight cycling on risk of morbidity and mortality. Obesity reviews : an official journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 15(11), 870-81.