4 harmful yo-yo dieting effects you need to know

December 29, 2021

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Yo-yo dieting (the habit of losing weight and regaining it, over and over) effects can be incredibly harmful, but they aren’t often ignored in mainstream health circles, but why?

Well, we’re obsessed with losing weight. The medical community created the obsession, and the diet industry has fueled it for the last several decades. Advertisements, social media, and the diet industry serve up so much education on how to lose weight, how to go on a diet, and how to change our “lifestyles”, but they don’t give any information on yo-yo dieting and its negative effects. That’s why we’re going to review four harmful yo-yo dieting effects that you need to know today – so you can start your journey towards freedom from diet culture. 

Yo-yo dieting effect #1: After a string of diets, you may weigh even more  than you did at the beginning.

When you go on a diet, and you lose weight, your body has less leptin, the hunger hormone. Leptin lets us know when we have enough fat stored up because it lowers our appetite. When we lose weight, we have less leptin. Less leptin = more hunger. When we lose weight, we also slow down our metabolism. This is because our bodies are trying their best to save as much energy as possible. We call this the starvation response, where biochemical and physiological changes seek to conserve energy by reducing the amount of calories the body burns. A larger appetite paired with a slower metabolism can cause you to put on even more weight in the long run. 

Yo-yo dieting effect #2: You’re more susceptible to binge eating. 

Binge eating is a horrible habit that can greatly affect your mental and physical health, but it’s a common side effect of yo-yo dieting. When one diets, they’re living in scarcity and restriction. When we restrict ourselves from food, our bodies obsess over those foods. Think of it like a rubber band pulled tightly. At some point, the rubber band will break. That’s similar to dieting. When we incorporate control into our daily food intake, at some point, the control will break. This leads to binge eating and potentially binge eating disorder. No bueno. 

Yo-yo dieting effect #3: Your mental health can suffer. 

Those who engage in yo-yo dieting can experience negative mental health issues like low self-esteem and depression. Just like how the diets yo-yo one’s weight, they can also yo-yo one’s emotions. When we weight cycle (yo-yo diet), we experience extreme periods of euphoria (I lost all this weight and am getting all these compliments, I feel great!) and extreme periods of sadness and shame (I can’t believe I let myself go, I’d do anything to get my old body back). This rollercoaster of emotions isn’t safe or healthy for our mental states. It also makes the diet that much harder to sustain! Adopting a healthy relationship with food is a healthier and more satisfying way to go. 

Effect #4: You become more at-risk for health issues. 

Yo-yo dieting has been associated with a higher risk factor for diabetes, a higher risk of gallstones, and a higher risk of dementia in later life. One study showed that those who engaged in weight cycling and also had heart disease were doubling their potential to have a heart attack or a stroke. In another, decreased bone density is also an issue that yo-yo dieters may experience. To put it plainly, it’s not worth it!