Yo-Yo Dieting is Messing with You

Have you been gaining and losing the same weight for years? Do you move from feeling confident in your skin to feeling lousy or defeated? It’s an incredibly frustrating way to live and it might be more damaging than you think. Yo-yoing your weight is messing with you.

Here’s why.

fluctuating in weight messes with your mindset

Losing and gaining weight is likely a result of many factors. But for some people it’s the product of oscillating between a phase where they’re committed to healthy eating and physical activity and another phase where they’re just, not. They’re either dialed into their motivation and drive, or they’re not. They’re either making choices that propel them forward, or choices that move them back where they’ve already been.

You can be healthy and happy at any size but some people wrap their self-worth and satisfaction into their body weight and appearance. In fact, adults with a yo-yo dieting history report feeling more dissatisfied with their lives and are more likely to report feeling out of control of their body and health. Yo-yo dieting does not, however, seem to be related to depression, self-restraint or personality traits. So if you haven’t found long term health changes that work for you and help you arrive at the body weight and size you feel most comfortable – it’s not a product of YOU. It’s just time to switch up your approach.

weight swings mess with your metabolism

Undereating, especially chronic undereating is kind of like demanding more miles from your gas tank when you’re hovering on “E”. By demanding more (or even the same) of your body with less fuel, you effectively force it to make adaptations to conserve energy. Non-essential body functions slow, while essential body functions stay constant – which means your heart will keep pumping and your brain will keep firing but at the expense of your metabolic rate (or your metabolism). At the most basic level: digestion of food, absorption of nutrients and the production of energy from that food takes a back seat.

You cut your portions, limit carbohydrates, skip fat-containing foods with the intention of losing weight. Maybe you intentionally track your calories and aim for that [magical] “1200 calories or less”. You lose the weight, sure, maybe, but now, your metabolism has adapted to operate at a slower rate. To see more results, you’ll have to drop calories even further, which will likely prove to be incredibly uncomfortable and difficult to stick to!

White-knuckling it through your hunger, cravings and low energy won’t work forever and at some point, you’ll “overeat” your calorie needs. And now, those calorie needs are a lot lower because your metabolism is operating at a slower, lower pace.

gains and losses make a mess of your total body fat

Ask yourself: are you more focused on losing weight and seeing the scale number drop or are you more focused on achieving a leaner body size as a result of dropping overall body fat?

They aren’t one in the same and cutting calories to lose weight doesn’t guarantee that you’ll lose weight from your body fat stores. In fact, you’re likely to lose lean muscle mass AND body fat while you diet. The ratio of lean muscle mass lost to body fat lost is determined by many factors from what you choose to eat to how you exercise.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you set out to slim down for an event that’s a couple months away. You clean up your eating habits and cap your intake to about 1200 calories per day instead of your usual 1800-ish. You lose weight, you look great (but hey, you look great everyday).

At some point your weight loss stalls or you quit “dieting”. You go back to your more “normal” 1500, 1800 or even 2000 calories per day. In the past, you never gained weight eating this many calories, but now, after you’ve dieted, you do. You might even notice you look and feel fluffier and softer than you did before you set out to lose weight. What gives?

Our body is an amazing machine. It adapts to circumstances we put it through. Cutting calories to lose weight doesn’t guarantee fat loss, and often times, results in lean muscle mass loss. The less muscle mass we have, the slower the metabolic rate becomes, which means, when we come off a low calorie diet and start to eat more, you’ll likely pack on body fat and some times – more body fat than we started with before your initial weight loss attempt.

Now imagine engaging in this yo-yo cycle year after year and watching your metabolic rate come to a screeching halt in time.

The yo-yo dieting cycle is a hard beast to fight. When someone promises you quick and easy results, it can be hard to resist! However, there truly are no shortcuts to sustained fat loss. Eating enough to support your metabolism and putting in time and consistency may not be sexy, but it works.

With each cycle of a yo-yo diet, it becomes harder and harder to achieve your comfortable, ideal body size. And the longer you live in the yo-yo cycle, the more damage you can cause to your mindset, metabolism and your muscle mass.

So, instead of falling victim to the yo-yo dieting trap, learn to embrace eating enough to keep hormones happy and metabolism healthy!

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