Do you jump from diet to diet, looking for the ‘one’ solution? While you might spend most of your time in a calorie-restricted state, this yo-yo dieting effect is likely causing your weight to rebound. In fact, there’s a good chance you’re gaining more weight over the long-term!
Before you panic – let’s take a look at why this happens, and what you can do to prevent it.
What is yo-yo dieting?
There’s a good chance you’ve heard of this term before. To put it simply, it’s when you go onto a diet of some kind, and when you come off the diet, you regain the weight you lost. In many cases, you’ll even add an extra 2-3kg on top of your original weight!
This yo-yo effect is often seen in those who are following trendy or fad diets. However, it can occur even with a simple calorie restriction diet or macronutrient counting plan.
So why does this happen? I’ll go a little deeper into the actual cause in a moment. But one of the biggest reasons is that the diet you’ve chosen is simply not sustainable. And if it’s not sustainable, your body and your mind will fight you and return to where you started.
What are the effects of yo-yo dieting?
Now let’s talk about what the effect of this approach are in terms of your body.
The yo-yo dieting effect has been studied for decades – even back in the 1950s, we knew about this problem.
In one study, men were subjected to 3 different phases of a diet. During the first phase, they received 50% of their caloric needs. In the second, they received the full 100% of their needs, but with the same macronutrient balance as the first phase – 17% fat, 25% protein and 58% carbohydrate. And in the final phase, they had a buffet where they could eat as much as they wanted.
So what happened? Not surprisingly, the men lost a lot of weight in the first phase – 70% of their body fat and 17% of their body protein. In the second phase, their body fat recovered rapidly, but their body protein only rebounded by 5%.
In the last phase, they continued to eat an extra 50% calories than they needed, and their body fat skyrocketed. It was only once their body reached the original body protein level (over 7 weeks into the final phase) that they returned to their maintenance calories.
So when you yo-yo diet, your body’s focus is to increase hunger and food intake until your protein rebounds to 100%. Unfortunately, this can mean your body fat percentage can go well past 100% of where you were at – and that’s where the additional weight gain comes in.
Not to mention, yo-yo dieting also has indirect effects – think your stress levels and cortisol belly, your blood sugar and insulin resistance, even your thyroid gland. So every time you jump onto the latest ‘thing’, you’re setting yourself up for failure.