The journey to feeling good in your body and reaching a healthy weight can be long and tough. At first, you may be convinced by the quick success you see from crash diets. But as soon as you get back to your regular routine, the weight often comes right back –– sometimes even more than you lost. Why is that? And what can you do about it? We’ve got all the info and tips to avoid yo-yo dieting so you can finally stay at your desired weight.
What is Yo-Yo Dieting?
Yo-yo dieting or weight cycling is when you regain the weight you lost after a diet. Oftentimes you gain even more than you lost during the diet. Usually, when you gain or lose weight dramatically like that, it is the result of crash diets where you don’t consume enough calories during a certain time period. As soon as you start eating normally again, you gain weight. One study shows that 95% of participants returned to their starting weight after losing weight on a calorie-restricted diet.(1)
What Leads to Weight Cycling?
Crash diets often bring short but fleeting results. The body mainly loses water weight and muscle mass. Your metabolic rate then drops due to calorie restriction and lost muscle mass.
As soon as you fall back into old eating and lifestyle habits after the diet, you regain weight quickly because your basal metabolic rate (BMR) has lowered to cope with fewer calories. The calories you consume are then stored in the fat. So the mechanism behind the yo-yo effect is actually an important protective function to protect the body from periods of hunger.
Depending on the amount of muscle mass you lose, your basal metabolic rate, and how quickly you revert to your old eating habits, your body weight may even turn out to be significantly higher than your weight before the diet.
5 Tips to Avoid the Yo-Yo Effect
1. Avoid Crash Diets
Forget low-carb diets and other fads! Extreme diets that eliminate entire food groups and dramatically reduce caloric intake will not yield lasting results. What happens? You fall back into old patterns and regain weight quickly.
If you want to lose weight sustainably and in a healthy way, slightly reduce your calories (approx. 300 to 500 cal per day). Losing about 0.5 kg per week is realistic and will help you keep the weight off.
Don’t be too hard on yourself!
Your weight loss might plateau and you may stop losing weight for a while. Don’t let it get to you. Stick with it, and you’ll be celebrating your success soon enough.
2. Eat Enough and Keep it Balanced
Yes, to lose weight and keep it off, you need to eat enough. If you change your diet permanently and eat a balanced diet intuitively, you have a much better chance of avoiding the yo-yo effect. Eating intuitively means listening to your body. No food is forbidden; everything is allowed without a guilty conscience.
If you eat enough fiber, protein, and high-quality fats, you’ll nourish your body and won’t have cravings.
3. Increase Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
Your BMR is the amount of energy your body needs to maintain all vital functions. If you don’t eat enough calories, it will drop. Your metabolism shifts into starvation mode, and you won’t lose weight. What can you do? Increase your basal metabolic rate by building muscle mass. Muscle burns glucose and fat every time you move, even while you sleep. The only way to reduce calories and avoid the yo-yo effect is by building and maintaining sufficient muscle mass.
You’re on a diet?
It’s difficult to build muscle on a diet. You need to consume sufficient calories, protein, and carbs to build muscle with strength training.
4. Move More Throughout the Day
Incorporating exercise into your daily routine will help you burn more calories. Go for regular walks, take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator, leave the car at home more often and take your bike. Not only is this good for your body, but it’s also great for your soul! Plus, the fresh air strengthens your immune system, and you’ll get your daily dose of vitamin D in the sunshine.
5. Get Plenty of Rest
If you’re not sleeping enough or have a high stress level, your risk of obesity and weight gain is higher.(3,4) Reducing your stress is an effective way to avoid the yo-yo effect after weight loss. Exercise reduces stress. Remember: Adults should sleep seven to nine hours of sleep each night to stay healthy.(5)
It’s not always easy to avoid yo-yo dieting. If you want to keep your weight off long term, eat a balanced diet, get regular exercise, and get plenty of rest.