March 1, 2018

Yo-yo diets: We’ve all done them. In a panic about a beach holiday, a high school reunion, a wedding, we’ve tried a quick fix to deal with that pesky tummy roll.

Some of us have even been successful; looking and feeling great at the special event. But afterwards? Most don’t keep the weight off. The reasons are varied: the motivation to “be good” has passed, normal eating patterns and routines are resumed, or we realise that it didn’t really matter all that much to us anyway, thank you very much.

Quick-fix diets leading to yo-yo weight has some commonly accepted truths:

  1. You’ll put on more weight afterwards

Short term diets rarely work, but for some in the long term they make the situation worse. Those who were overweight before the diet gain their weight back until they reach their starting point and so there’s little real harm done. Those who were at a healthy weight before the diet, however, often regain the weight they lost plus interest.

  1. You lose muscle, not fat

A quick fix diet often sees the person severely restrict calories, and this means restricting protein. Insufficient protein removes the building blocks for muscle – and many other body functions – and so loss of that metabolically active tissue is increased. The number on the scales looks better (however briefly) but tone and firmness are lost.

  1. Diets make you crabby

Severe restriction makes just about anyone crabby. There’s even a TV ad (for a chocolate bar, of all things) that addresses the problem of ‘hanger’. Nobody needs a chocolate bar to fix hanger; any nutrient-dense food will do.

Repeated quick fix diets, with yo-yo weight loss-gain, can lead many to have low mood. Perhaps it’s because they become nutrient-deprived, perhaps it’s because they feel that they’re missing out, or it might be that repeated ‘failure’ that causes them to give up hope.

Despite these disadvantages, are there any advantages?

Sure. Each time you lose weight, it reinforces that your body is able to lose weight. This sounds like we’re looking for the silver lining, and perhaps that’s true, but hope is what keeps people trying again. “Perhaps this time it will work.”

For those who are overweight, losing any weight has health benefits. If the weight is lost from the tummy area, it’s especially beneficial as this is where the dangerous visceral fat is stored, in and around the organs.

Eliminating junk foods, foods that are highly processed, and alcohol, as happens on many quick fix diets, can only be a good thing. Of course, for most the return to normal eating patterns after the diet also mean a return to these foods.

So, what’s the solution?

In short, lifestyle change. And yes, change can be hard.

Accept that there are no short-cuts, no quick fixes, no magic cures. Everything you’ve done up until this point has given you the body you currently have. No matter what weight loss strategy you choose, going back to normal will see your body return to normal – exactly where it is now, or worse.

Lifestyle change may include changes to foods, drinks, exercise, sleep, stress, relaxation, and mindset. Fortunately, it doesn’t need to happen all at once. Some prefer one change at a time. Others prefer the big picture and go all out.

What you choose, we can help. Regular and ongoing support and accountability to determine, implement, and sustain change is essential for long-term success.