What really happens to your body when you yo-yo diet?

Kim Lenga

If you've ever tried to lose weight, you know there are dozens of diets out there that promise fast, dramatic results. But jumping on an overly restrictive diet usually causes people to lose weight fast, only to regain it when normal eating resumes.

Regaining weight is heavily influenced by how your body signals your hormones to react based on an evolutionary response to periods of perceived "starvation".  During periods of weight loss, especially if your focus is on caloric restriction, your body's pre-programmed defense response can be triggered, slowing your metabolism, increasing your ghrelin (hunger) hormone, and muting your leptin (full) signaling.

Losing weight only to gain it back is not a successful diet plan.  If the food you're eating is not something you can live with daily, it's probably not going to work in the long-term.

Here are some things that can also happen with restrictive yo-yo dieting:

  • Your Muscle Mass May Decrease:  Because yo-yo dieters tend to lose weight quickly, they typically shed muscle along with fat.
  • Your Digestive System May Take a Hit:  When they stop restrictive eating and resume normal eating, people tend to overeat (ghrelin hormone is increased/leptin hormone muted). This has been shown to cause digestive issues like reflux, stomachaches and even intermittent constipation or diarrhea depending on what you're eating and how much.
  • Your Gut Health Declines:  Yo-Yo dieting can contribute to chronic inflammation over time, and that's where the brain and gut health may be affected.  Any type of restriction diet can throw the gut microbiome out of whack, disrupting production of important hormones.
  • Your Heart May Feel Stress:  Yo-Yo dieting could also wreak havoc on your heart. Cycling through periods of weight loss and gain may cause your heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar and lipids to fluctuate and that can put stress on the cardiovascular system.
  • Your Self Esteem Takes A Dip:  Weight loss and regain could be associated with feelings of failure. 

The solution????  Instead of bouncing from one quick fix to another, adopt healthier habits for life.  Invest in a personalized roadmap for your body that will tell you everything that you should focus on to shed the weight for good.  The ultimate goal:  to create a healthy sustainable eating and exercise plan that will work for you.

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