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Is Yo-Yo Dieting Wrecking Your Health?

Weight cycling

You stumble on a 6-week diet plan, try it, and lose some weight. Yeay! But soon, you are back to eating normally, and the weight returns, so you find another diet and try again. Rinse and repeat. Sound familiar?

Weight cycling, or yo-yo dieting as it is called on the street, is all-too common for people who struggle to have the body they want. It does not help that there are a million diets out there promising to help you shed pounds “in 30 days or less!” through restrictive food choices, shakes, supplements, packaged foods, etc. The problem is, they don’t work. Some estimates show that almost 80 percent of people who lose weight on diets gain that weight back, or even a few pounds on top. What’s worse, weight cycling can do real damage to your body and mind. All you want to do is look and feel better, but by yo-yo dieting, you could be compromising your health. Read on to find out how:

1) It Destabilizes Your Metabolism

Let’s be real, we are animals. Our bodies are hardwired with instincts, and one of them is to stay alive. When you crash diet – say, dropping from your usual 2,000 calories a day to 1,200 calories - the body goes into survival mode. It works like this: fat cells produce a hormone called Leptin, which signals your brain that the body has consumed enough fat. But when you lose body fat through dieting, Leptin levels drop too, causing you to feel “hangry” (when you’re in a sh**ty mood and all you think about is food). This is the body’s strategy to get you to eat so you do not starve. To make matters worse, during a low-calorie diet the body burns fewer calories in an effort to save energy. Extreme hunger causes many people to scrap the diet and binge, but the lower metabolism means they gain more weight than they lost because the body has slowed efforts to burn calories as it tries to build fat stores.

2) It Threatens Your Emotional Well-Being

Picture this: You’re constantly hungry, you’re not eating the foods you like, and you don’t see results in the mirror. Nothing sets off a cascade of negative emotions about food and body image like dieting. Many people have an unhealthy relationship with food, seeing it as good or bad, or as a reward or a punishment. This gets intensified on a crash diet when eating becomes the center of attention.

You are likely to feel bad about yourself, too, if you are yo-yo dieting. Maybe you “cheat” on the diet and trash talk yourself afterwards. Fad diets encourage short-term thinking and make it sound so easy to lose weight, but because these eating plans are extreme and unsustainable, dieters give up – and feel even more like failures. Repeat this over and over and you are probably going to feel like you have no control over your weight and how you look. These feelings of powerlessness and failure can run you into the ground when it’s actually the diet that is the loser, not you.

3) It Messes with Your Microbiome

There is evidence that weight cycling disrupts the beneficial bacteria in your digestive system. Some studies show that repeated weight loss and gain can throw off the balance of these thousands of strains of bacteria, known as the gut microbiome. These little guys are responsible for everything from maintaining a strong immune system and aiding digestion to lowering inflammation and producing vitamins B and K. In other words, they matter a lot, so weakening them can potentially cause wide-ranging problems in the body.

More research needs to be done on other possible bad effects of yo-yo dieting, such as increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke and gallstones because of the stress it puts on the heart and blood vessels. Research here is still inconclusive. What we know is this: there is no such thing as a miracle diet, and repeatedly losing weight and gaining it back is a losing battle for your health. The only way to win this war is by making permanent changes in eating and exercise. That’s not easy, but Free Athletes know it can be done.