In the endeavour to go from fat to fit, you promptly enrol in the gym. Crash dieting is invariably the next step. After all the hard work starts to pay off, you start to indulge in unhealthy stuff again. Instead of shedding kilos you end up adding them. Now you will start dieting in order to get back your desired shape. In short, you have become a victim of the Yo-yo dieting syndrome.
What is Yo-yo dieting and how does it affect one’s body? Dr Komal James, Dietician at Sir J.J. Hospital explains, “Yo-yo dieting is cyclic loss and gain of health. In simple language, people’s weight can move down and back up like a yo-yo when they follow several diets one after another.” Researchers across the world have warned people to abstain from this kind of diet. What makes this diet so dangerous? Let’s find out…
What is Yo-yo dieting and how does it affect one’s body? Dr. Komal James, Dietician at Sir J.J. Hospital explains, “Yo-yo dieting is cyclic loss and gain of health. In simple language, people’s weight can move down and back up like a yo-yo when they follow several diets one after another.” Researchers across the world have warned people to abstain from this kind of diet. What makes this diet so dangerous? Let’s find out…
Dieting can actually lead to increased appetite which results in weight gain. According to health experts, fat loss decreases the hormone called leptin, which helps you feel full. Normally, your fat stores release leptin into the blood stream which acts like an energy store and signals you to eat less. However, once you start dieting, your body starts losing fat, leptin levels go down and you crave food. Your body tries to resupply the depleted energy stores. It is found that people who use a short-term diet for weight loss gain 30-65% of lost weight within one year. Also, one of the three dieters ends up gaining more weight than before they dieted. And this weight gain completes the ‘up’ phase of Yo-yo dieting and encourages dieters to start with another phase of weight loss.
In many studies, it is found that during the ‘up’ phase, which is the weight gain phase of Yo-yo diet, fat is regained more easily than muscle mass. The multiple Yo-yo cycles could be the root cause of increased body fat percentage. In 11 out of 19 studies, it was found that the history of Yo-yo dieting was linked to greater belly fat.
Yo-yo dieting also takes away physical strength. When you follow a diet for weight loss, you don’t just lose body fat but also muscle mass. The weight loss cycle will lead to increased muscle loss over time. This results in decreased physical strength. It is advisable to opt for exercise, including strength training, as exercising signals the body to re-grow the lost muscle.
Yo-yo dieting has been associated with type 2 diabetes. Belly fat is more likely to be a contributor of diabetes than fats stored in other parts of the body like arms, legs or hips. Apart from increased risk of diabetes, it can also hike blood pressure. As per a study it was found that adults with a history of Yo-yo dieting had less improvement in blood pressure while losing weight.
Yo-yo dieting can disturb your mental well-being. It can trigger stress, nervousness, anxiety and frustration. The inefficiency or the failure of not achieving the desired weight loss makes room for frustration and can make you feel gloomy. On the same note Dr. Komal asserts, “The yo-yo diet impact runs deeper than we think. It’s not just the body that gets affected, but it has a tendency to induce stress as a result of unrealistic goals where an individual seeks immediate weight loss and sporadic results which doesn’t ideally match expectations. In the long run, this diet plan can potentially play games with your mind. Yo-yo dieting is hard on the body, but it’s even harder on the mind. Repeatedly gaining and losing weight can leave dieters feeling more depressed about their weight and lose self-belief. Furthermore, the hunger, weakness, and fatigue experienced during dieting can lead to irritability and agitation with a reduced tolerance for frustration.”
The Yo-yo diet has the potential to lower your life span. The cyclical weight loss and gain can give rise to coronary artery disease. The more weight lost and regained, the greater the risk of developing heart attack. Dr Komal avers, “So far, no evidence of immediate life threatening instances have been observed or reported, but yo-yo dieting still has the potential to culminate into long term ailments like angina, heart attack, and stroke. Various scientists share different opinions on what impact yo-yo dieting brings to your long-term health. Some say it’s not an issue. Others opine it affects everything from your bones to your risk for diabetes and cancer.”
Dr Komal shares tips to avoid the trap. Change your mindset from short term weight loss to long term healthy living. Adopt a more effective way of maintaining weight by eating right in right quantity at the right time. Set realistic and easily achievable goals for weight loss rather than extensive and exhaustive goals which will leave you fatigued and worn out. Consult a dietitian or fitness expert before finalising any diet or exercise routine.