What is Weight Cycling (Yo-Yo dieting)? - Metamed Skip to main content

Yo-yo dieting is cycle of weight loss and regain which happens secondary to short term changes in the dietary pattern and activity. This is mostly driven by an impulse to attain rapid weight loss in a relatively short span of time. Social media is notorious for throwing such options onto our faces the moment we type diet or weight loss in search bar. “Fat busting drink” and we see the rapidly dissolving adipose tissue in front of our eyes. “Wow! That’s awesome!”, we wonder. We give in to the fancy advertisements, yank out our credit cards and pay whatever they ask to achieve the look of the skinny model they had hired to advertise their product. They all promise one common thing. “Guaranteed weight loss in 3 months”. We have now paid the money and the motivation kicks in, our inner-self encourages us by saying “You have made a healthy choice”. Few days into the routine we notice 2 lbs lost, this offers more adrenaline, we are excited that it is working. We stick to it take it for an additional week and we lose a bit more. And then, it happens. The weight loss process starts to slow down. The scales start to move back in the opposite direction. “But I am still taking the meal replacement and I am doing even more by skipping meals,” we usually think. Then the fear sets in, we try to become more aggressive, after two weeks of trying we are back at square one. Nothing seems to be working. What is worst about this situation is that we give up.

Let me explain to you about why does this happen?

Our appetite is regulated by multiple hormones and neurotransmitters within our gastrointestinal and nervous system. One of the key players in appetite regulation is a hormone called leptin which is released by adipose tissue. Under normal circumstances, there are increased levels of leptin in her body that signals to eat less and also tells her body that the energy stores available are sufficient. When we try to lose weight rapidly the leptin levels decrease in our body which subsequently leads to an increase in appetite and our body goes into an energy conservation mode where it resists burning calories and instead causes loss of muscle mass. Our muscle mass drives our metabolic rate. A loss of muscle mass leads to a decline in our metabolic rate and therefore our capacity to burn calories. As a result, weight is eventually regained and the body fat percentage increases as compared to the percentage of muscle mass. Unfortunately, our body fat does not have the capacity of burning calories. Therefore, yoyo dieters, who intended to lose weight in a short span of time end up regaining more weight as compared to where they started off. In addition, because of the loss of muscle mass, it becomes even harder to lose weight again. This becomes a frustrating endless cycle, which is almost a downward spiral.

The long term effects of these processes are deleterious. Increased body fat percentage leads to the development of fatty liver disease which is further catastrophic to our metabolic syndrome and increases risk of developing type 2 diabetes. It can eventually evolve into chronic liver failure, also known as cirrhosis. Needless to say, it also impacts cardiovascular health by increasing the risk of hypercholesterolemia and hypertension.

Another important impact of weight cycling is the mental fatigue associated with that. Individuals may become frustrated after they regain weight and become unmotivated to pursue healthier lifestyle. This also may lead to an increased risk of depression.

It is highly crucial to recognize and be leery of weight loss programs that offer rapid weight loss because of the above-mentioned complications. Please do not allow yourself to be manipulated by the fake reviews, before and after pictures, and testimonials utilized by most commercial weight loss supplements and plans. Since obesity is a chronic relapsing complex condition it requires long-term solutions and permanent lifestyle changes. These changes will prolong and improve your health while breaking the frustrating cycle of weight loss and regain. Kindly entrust your health in the hands of physicians and healthcare providers who have been trained to address obesity.