Yo Yo Dieting and Metabolism

Gretchen Becker Health Guide
  • Most of us have heard of yo yo diets.


    That’s when you go on a diet and loses a lot of weight and then one day just can’t take the deprivation any more and have a little of some forbidden food. It tastes so good, you have a little more. And next thing you know, you’re eating almost as much as you used to, and before you know it, you’ve regained all the weight you lost, maybe even more.


    For a bit you decide maybe being overweight isn’t as bad as dieting, but then eventually you decided to diet again. Lose weight. Regain weight. Lose weight, and on and on and on.


    We used to be warned that this type of dieting was unhealthy and would ruin our metabolism, making it even more difficult to lose weight in the future.

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    But now a new study shows that people who have been yo yo dieting can lose weight just as easily as those who have not.


    The study involved 439 overweight or obese sedentary women age 50 to 75. They were randomized to a reduced calorie diet only, exercise only, reduced calorie diet plus exercise, or no intervention. After a year, the diet only and diet plus exercise groups had lost about 10% of their starting weight.


    And the researchers found no significant differences in weight loss and other measured parameters between those who had yo yo dieted at least three times and those who had not. The only difference was that those who had dieted a lot started off about 20 pounds heavier than the other. But they lost weight at the same rate.


    What this means is that yo yo dieting may have caused you to gain more weight than if you hadn’t dieted. But it’s not hopeless. You can still lose weight just as fast as people who haven’t dieted. Your metabolism hasn’t been permanently messed up.  


    (And the study also suggests that diet is more important than exercise when it comes to weight loss, although this was not emphasized.)


    Yes, if you lose at the same rate and you’re 100 pounds overweight it will take you longer than if you’re 25 pounds overweight. But don’t throw up your hands and resign yourself to a life of looking for extra-large chairs. Now that you have diabetes, there’s even more incentive to lose weight.


    I’d been trying to lose about 10 pounds for about 30 years. In the process, I managed to gain about 35. Something always happened to make me go off the diet, and once I had, I felt so bad, I’d eat even more to make myself feel better.


    But once I got the diabetes diagnosis, it was different. I figured this was serious. Just wearing larger clothing that made me look like an overstuffed laundry bag wasn’t pleasant, but it was nothing compared to the possibility of going blind or spending the rest of my life in a wheelchair. I stuck to the diet. No excuses.


    Of course it’s not easy. We’ll have to watch our food for the rest of our lives. But at least we’ll have lives. That’s worth a little deprivation, I think.

Published On: October 14, 2012