Yo-yo dieting is also known as weight cycling. It is a process during which you lose weight, gain it back, lose it again, and so on.
The pattern gets its name because it is reminiscent of a yo-yo twirling up and down on a string.
Many diet plans that are marketed as quick ways to lose weight actually fall in the yo-yo diet category. Yet, even knowing that, you may feel tempted to try one for some quick weight loss and deal with the consequences later down the line.
There are many good reasons not to give in to that temptation. Here are some disadvantages of yo-yo diets to help you understand why you should try to avoid them.
Poor Eating Habits
When you go on a yo-yo diet, you are unlikely to eat regularly sized meals at regular intervals on a consistent basis.
Skipping meals entirely can make your body go into starvation mode. It causes internal hormonal shifts that are often detrimental to general health.
For example, your body may produce less leptin, a hormone that tells you when to feel full. Resulting binge eating may further serve to continue your dangerous yo-yo dieting cycle and rapid weight swings.
Periods of starvation and binge eating may also cause mood swings or concentration problems. You may find it difficult to focus at work. Disagreements with co-workers and other workplace issues may also arise due to your unpredictable moods.
Your personal life may also suffer due to your poor diet. Additionally, improper eating habits can cause a cascade of other side effects, such as difficulty sleeping properly.
Muscle Mass Loss
When you go on any diet, you may lose some muscle mass at first. It is possible to counteract that by doing certain exercises when you lose weight in a healthy way by making permanent lifestyle changes.
In fact, a well-trained lifestyle coach may suggest you join a gym or otherwise exercise several times a week. He or she may also suggest you eat healthy foods on a specific schedule.
Yo-yo diets cause weight to fluctuate heavily in both directions all the time. Each time weight is lost, muscle mass is also subject to loss.
As weight is regained, fat stores more easily than muscle. You may also have difficulty staying motivated to exercise while yo-yo dieting because your energy levels may not stay stable. Therefore, it is often difficult to either build up or maintain muscle mass on a yo-yo diet plan.
Dangerous Body Fat Increases
In contrast to muscle building difficulty, it is extremely easy for fat to accumulate in your body when you go on a yo-yo diet. That can make it more difficult to lose weight and keep it off in the future.
Also, the fat can accumulate in unwelcome places, such as around your midsection. The accumulation of extra body fat is also unhealthy for your organs, especially your liver.
When you develop a fatty liver, it can lead to issues like:
- Diabetes/Problems Processing Sugars Properly
- Increased Difficulty Metabolizing Fats
- Difficulty Flushing Toxins from Your Body
- Potential Eventual Liver Failure
Increased Heart Disease Risks
Gradual sustained weight loss until you reach a healthy weight can often improve your heart health and reduce your risk factors for heart disease. The same is not true of the drastic weight fluctuations that come with yo-yo dieting.
According to the Mayo Clinic and the American Heart Association, large rapid changes in weight lost or gained in a brief period increase coronary artery disease chances dramatically. In fact, experts indicate the risk factors for heart disease can increase by as much as 50 percent under such circumstances.
Infertility and Pregnancy Complications
Particularly in women, infertility is commonly associated with yo-yo dieting. The process releases stress hormones, which cause hormonal imbalances.
Those hormonal imbalances can impact sex drive. They also make conception more difficult, even when sex drive is present.
Women on yo-yo diets are also more likely to experience other feminine health problems, including complications with existing pregnancies. Therefore, you may want to avoid a yo-yo diet if you are pregnant or trying to conceive.
Blood Pressure Regulation Problems
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is more likely to occur when you go on a yo-yo diet. Moreover, you are likely to continue to experience high blood pressure or difficulty regulating your blood pressure long after you stop yo-yo dieting.
Hypertension is a dangerous medical condition best avoided. It can lead to:
- Heart Attacks
- Vision Loss
- Kidney Failure
Mental Health Problems/Self-Image Issues
A yo-yo diet can be a frustrating process. You may find yourself looking in the mirror and seeing a different person all the time.
Sometimes, your weight may seem too low. Other times it may seem too high. Your self-image and self-esteem can become damaged when you continue on that dieting path for too long.
You may even develop anxiety, depression, or other mental health disorders. If you feel yourself struggling with such issues while dieting, change your diet plan and seek counseling right away.
Lack of Lifestyle Changes
Even though yo-yo diets have many long-term effects, long term mental and physical improvements are not usually among them. Most yo-yo diets are designed for you to follow until some specific goal is reached.
For example, a diet may tell you to eat certain foods or follow certain other steps until you lose 20 pounds. After you lose those 20 pounds, you are suddenly on your own.
Often, reaching your goal is only the first part of the process. The second part is resuming your normal life and gaining all the weight back because you have no additional guidance.
The Alternative to Yo-Yo Diets
The best alternative to yo-yo diets is to make gradual permanent lifestyle changes. Stop unhealthy habits like eating fatty foods or smoking. Then, slowly incorporate healthy snacks like fresh fruits and vegetables into your daily life.
As you can see, there are many reasons to avoid yo-yo diets. However, even if you have done yo-yo dieting in the past, it is not too late to break the cycle.
Add in regular exercise, and you just might have a formula for success.