Yo-yo effect – What is Yo-yo dieting?

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Weight cycling, Yo-yo dieting or Yo-yo effect are the terms coined to denote unsuccessful maintenance of weight loss and a continuing pattern of losing and gaining weight.

The basic flaw in dieting is that people try to lose too much weight in too short a time by nearly starving themselves and they finally end up with Yo-yo effect. “Slow and steady wins the race”.

The term Yo-yo dieting was coined by Kelly D. Brownell an American scientist, professor and internationally renowned expert on obesity. He is Director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, where he is also Professor of Psychology and Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health. The coined term refers to cyclical up and down movements as in yo-yo.

Why people end up with Yo-yo dieting?

In a spurt of enthusiasm to lose weight people embark upon an extreme hypocaloric dieting and miss meals. There is an initial positive effect. There is an elated feeling about the apparent weight loss and also a sense of achievement in dieting.

However such extreme dieting and calorie deprivation causes effects such as lack of energy, fatigue, lethargy and depression. Soon it reaches a stage wherein it becomes impossible to sustain the weight loss efforts and yo-yo effect commences.

The individual reverts back to his old eating habits and gains weight rapidly and has yo-yo effects. Now the psychological effects come into play and the sense of failure to lose weight makes the individual to slide into binge eating.

Finally he may end up with a weight higher than the initial weight. Again the individual starts afresh crash weight loss program and the yo-yo effect of weight loss and weight gain gets repeated.

Yo-yo dieting effects on health

Generally it is believed that such extreme dieting caused the loss of both muscle and body fat. When weight gain starts the lost weight is replaced by more of fat than muscle. This change in fat-to-muscle ratio leads to greater health problems. Yo-yo effects may cause high blood pressure, increased cholesterol levels and gallbladder disease.

However, the research work compiled by Atkinson et al. (1994)and published in Journal of the American Medical Association, showed there is no harm in yo-yo dieting and that there are no adverse effects of yo-yo dieting on body composition, resting metabolic rate, body fat distribution, or future successful weight loss.

For many, it is frustrating to lose weight and more frustrating to keep it off from regaining and yo-yo dieting. For sure, yo-yo effects have extreme psychological, emotional and physical ramifications due to extreme physical and mental stress the individual is going through.

Dieting without the Yo-yo effect

The overweight or obesity you have is the net result of energy (calorie) inputs and outputs. Excess inputs result in storage in the form of fat. Foremost thing for escaping yo-yo effect is to start spending more energy and then start reducing the input by dieting.

To stop yo-yo effect spend energy to lose weight

  • Note down your present weight and aim for a modest weight loss.
  • Aim for a steady weight loss and do not aim for a sudden and drastic weight loss. A must to stop yo-yo dieting.
  • The first step in weight control is to become active. Increase your physical activities gradually to finally spend at least thirty minutes in brisk exercises daily.
  • Physical training must be gradual and please note that obese persons may have cardiovascular problems and malfunctioning sugar metabolism. Consult a physician before you start the workouts. Or else you may have to stop in the middle of dieting and have yo-yo effects.
  • Cycling, swimming, gym workouts and jogging contribute greatly to calorie burning.
  • The increase in activity will make you more hungry. Do not increase your food intake or make changes in your food habits at this level to stop yo-yo effect.
  • To satiate the increase in hunger, take lots of sugar-free fluids and only small portions of low-calorie salads so as to avoid yo-yo effect.
  • As you have not put additional energy inputs by increased food intake, your body will start gradually burning up the stored fat.
  • Keep up the activities and watch your weight loss for one or two months.
  • Even if you find no substantial weight loss during this period, keep up the energy expenditure as you are undergoing fat loss and muscle build up due to increased activity which is better for your health and can also ward off yo-yo dieting.

Dieting to lose weight and stop yo-yo effect

  • Once you have adapted to a regular physical activity, think of dieting to remove the extra fat clinging on.
  • Like increasing physical activities, dieting also must be a very gradual process in order not to have yo-yo effect.
  • Increase your fluid intake and consume up to one liter of water for every twenty kilograms of body weight.
  • While dieting gradually cut down all fad foods and junk foods one by one in order to avoid yo-yo effect.
  • Gradually reduce the oil intake and cut down on fried food.
  • Evaluate the nutritional status of your meals. It must be well balanced with all the nutritional requirements.
  • Do not skip meals. If you skip a meal you may end up binge eating the next meal and starting a yo-yo cycle.
  • Split your daily food requirement in to four or five meals.
  • While dieting gradually reduce the carbohydrate intake. Please note that  while continuing with the physical activities, the carbohydrate reduction should not cause weakness. If you feel weak slow down energy reduction pace; otherwise you may end up with yo-yo effect.

Role of appetite-related hormones and yo-yo effects

Ana B. Crujeiras et al in their research study “Weight Regain after a Diet-Induced Loss Is Predicted by Higher Baseline Leptin and Lower Ghrelin Plasma Levels” published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (November 1, 2010 vol. 95 no. 11 5037-5044) had concluded that ‘Subjects with higher plasma leptin and lower ghrelin levels at baseline could be more prone to regain lost weight, and hormones levels could be proposed as biomarkers for predicting obesity-treatment outcomes’.

In future individually tailored dieting programs may have to be contrived depending upon the appetite hormone levels of the individuals to avoid yo-yo effects.

The cardinal rule for not getting into yo-yo effect while dieting is that it should be very gradual so that you should not feel weak or robbed of energy at the end of the day.

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Atkinson, R. L., Dietz, W. H., Foreyt, J. P., Goodwin, N. J., Hill, J. O., Hirsch, J., Yanovski, S. Z. (1994). “Weight cycling. National task force on the prevention and treatment of obesity”. Journal of the American Medical Association 15 (272): 1196–1202. PMID 7741844
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Yo-yo effect – Yo-yo dieting

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