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The Dangers Of Yo-Yo Dieting


We Don’t Have A Diet Problem

Despite what the flavour of the day social media influencer told you, we do NOT have a weight loss problem, we have a weight regain problem, the statistics on people initially losing weight are actually extremely positive, six out of every seven people who attempt to lose weight indeed do. The issue is that 80% of people are unable to maintain a 10% reduction in weight within the first year, with most relapsing to their pre-diet weight. To pile on further, over 95% of people gain back all weight lost within three years post diet, this means that diets have a 95% fail rate and 5% success rate(1). But wait, there’s even more evidence to brighten your day, in a meta-analysis, (a study of studies) researchers analyzed twenty-nine studies and found that after a structured weight loss program people were only able to maintain less than 3% of weight reduction after five years(2). This means if you were able to lose 30 pounds, which is no easy feat, after five years, statistically speaking you would gain back 29.1 pounds for a net total of 0.9 pounds lost, bleak isn’t it.



Yo-Yo Dieting

If you’ve been following my content for some time you know how much of a stickler I am for adherence and sustainability with whatever diet you choose and it’s for all the reasons I’m pouring into this article. Yo-yo dieting, hopping on and off fad diets and “reset” programs only makes weight loss perpetually harder and harder with each failed attempt, in fact, this yo-yo diet cycle is illustrated with competitive sports. Particular sports such as boxing, wrestling or weight lifting use the weight of the athlete to signify their class or group they will be competing in, with these altering weight classes comes severe weight restriction, as the athlete attempts to make weight for their competition. In a multi-decade long study examining athletes aged 20-60 it was proven that athletes who had to perpetually cut weight for their sport were predisposed to gaining more weight over the course of their life than athletes who didn’t(3). In layman’s terms, the more you yo-yo diet and experience a weight loss, weight gain cycle, the harder it gets to one, stay lean and two, get lean. Moreover, without getting into the full details of the components that create your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE), just understand that your TDEE is a measure of how many Calories you need per day based on multiple factors. In a study conducted to find out if a persons TDEE was altered by weight loss, subjects were split into three categories.


1.) Subject who was at their usual weight

2.) Subject who lost at least 10% of their weight and had maintained it for the last 5-8

3.) Subject who lost at least 10% of their weight and maintained it for at least a year


The subjects lived in a research lab throughout the study and were fed a liquid formula diet, Calories were adjusted until weight maintenance or stability was achieved. It was then found that subjects that had prior weight loss had a lower TDEE than the subjects who were at their usual (natural) weight(4). In layman’s terms, if person A is naturally 180 pounds and person B is naturally 220 pounds but has dieted down to 180 pounds, person A will have a higher TDEE than person B and person B will be more metabolically prone to fat gain.



Body Fat Over-Shooting

Furthermore, there is a penalty to pay if you crash diet/yo-yo diet, an insurance policy that your body takes out for that rainy day. There have been numerous experimental starvation studies that illustrate the bodies effectiveness to overshoot, a phenomenon called “body fat over-shooting”. Many of these experiments were conducted during the famine of WW2, the famous Minnesota experiment for example, where researchers took thirty-two healthy volunteers put them through a twenty-four week semi-starvation period followed by a twelve week restricted rehabilitation (controlled feeding), what’s fascinating is after the twelve week restricted rehabilitation the volunteers continued to over consume beyond pre-starvation levels, this response persisted for several weeks and contributed to body weight “over-shooting” as mostly fat(5). In layman’s terms, it seems post diet, depending on the severity and length of the diet, your body tends to not only favour fat regain but aims to add additional fat stores for a “just in case” moment. This makes perfect sense from an evolutionary perspective as a famine would have ended our species pretty damn quick, by the research it almost seems like after a diet which is essentially controlled starvation, your body is preparing itself for another “famine”. This can be seen anecdotally, how many of you know someone that has lost a significant amount of weight only to gain it all back and then some? It is extremely common and this study illustrates it perfectly.



Dieting Mistakes



Mistake: Guessing

Listen, if the evidence I’ve laid out isn’t enough to make you say “I need help”, I truly think nothing will convince you, however, I will continue to try with a metaphor. If I gave you a math problem to solve but didn’t extend to you the fundamentals of the equation with which to solve it, wouldn’t it be nearly impossible to solve the problem? I mean sure, you could just guess numbers upon numbers until you’re blue in the face, failing over and over and over again, except in the case of our bodies, the “math problem” gets exceedingly more difficult with every failed attempt. Without an extent understanding of the science behind weight loss, the “equation”, you are inputting numbers into this hypothetical math problem doomed to perpetually fail without question.


In my opinion, “guessing” about your diet without coaching or extensive education on the matter is beyond not smart, it’s straight up stupid, you can inflict unnecessary metabolic damage on yourself, travel down a spiral of repeated failure that can make weight loss, even under guided supervision, vastly more difficult than it needs to be. In fact, I’m a coach that has no problem admitting this based on the scientific evidence and anecdote from working with hundreds of clients, for some people it is not realistic to be truly lean (Under 15%BF for Men-Under 20% BF for Women). Other than the obvious environmental, habitual and psychological factors that impede people, there is also a physiological one, to put it bluntly, the longer you are fat and the more crash diets you have attempted the harder it is to lose weight and the more unrealistic it becomes to be “lean”. I am 150% NOT saying that you can’t lose a significant amount of weight, be extremely healthy and build sustainable healthy habits and a positive relationship towards food and food choices. What I am saying is the road for a chronic yo-yo dieter or long time overly fat person is much longer and more treacherous than someone who is naturally leaner or hasn’t crashed dieted in their life.



Mistake: No Exit Strategy

As I’ve vehemently cited, initially losing weight is in fact extremely easy, the post diet exit strategy is where 95% of people fail. Whatever diet strategy you choose MUST be something you can stick with longterm, once your diet is completed and you’ve got to your goal weight you must understand how to diet after the diet, if not you will fail 100% of the time, no exceptions. As I’ve shown you, if you diet down to achieve a particular weight your TDEE is lower than that of someone who is naturally at the same weight, this places extra emphasis on the diet after the diet, now there are an array of techniques you can use to mitigate the enviable metabolic adaptation but they require guidance and skill acquisition. Remember just because you’re at a lower weight doesn’t mean your body wants to stay there, you have to maintain that weight for quite some time for it to become your new normal. This is why habits and behaviour change are so fundamentally important when it comes to dieting, without newly manifested and altered behaviours or replacement of habits you will never sustain weight loss.



Mistake: Sacrificing 50 Pounds To Lose 5 Pounds

Let me say, I know what it’s like to want something with all of your being and you just can’t get over the proverbial hump, I get it. But when it comes to weight loss, you must detach from your day to day emotions and accept the long term scientific process. As stated, weight loss is nothing more than controlled starvation and your body has numerous battle hardened homeostatic defence mechanisms, honed in the fires of evolution to ensure you don’t succumb to starvation and ultimately, death. With this fact hopefully understood by now, you can see why aggressively dieting or crash dieting to lose that “last 5 pounds” is beyond not smart, it’s downright lunacy! You need to look beyond the 5 pounds and understand that you have to live the entirety of your life with your diet of choosing, regardless of specifics related to your diet, keto, vegan, intermittent fasting, low carb, high carb, whatever you choose, if you can’t live with it, you will fail.



Ending Thought

I know safe sustained weight loss at this point sounds beyond approachable, a fictional prospect of a monumental undertaking but I promise it isn’t. It is very attainable and is 100% possible, but I won’t lie to you, it is going to be beyond difficult, for some of you reading this, possibly the hardest thing you ever do. Adherence, behaviour change, sustainable habits take years, decades to manifest and become proficient, understand this when starting a weight loss endeavour, it’s about the journey and the person you become throughout the process!


And finally, I hope this article illustrates to you the necessity for a caring, quality coach. It angers me, in fact, it fucking pisses me off when I see the latest scam artist “influencer” fad diet detox or reset program directed towards good intentioned people, setting them down a treacherous road of failure. These "quick fixes" do nothing but make weight loss harder and harder and can possibly harm someones metabolism and long term success as I've shown! If you’re looking for sustainability and life long results, or even just quality free advice please feel free to contact me.


By: Peter Baboulas


IG: babs302

Facebook: 302Fitness




1https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3174765/

2https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11684524

3https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16568134

4https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18842775

5https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/proceedings-of-the-nutrition-society/article/how-dieting-makes-some-fatter-from-a-perspective-of-human-body-composition-autoregulation/8A3D55F5F6A104E0A7D08C5D83021D17/core-reader

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