Weight Cycling...Facts About "Yo-Yo" Dieting
What is Weight Cycling?
Weight cycling is the repeated loss and regain of body weight. When weight
cycling is the result of dieting, it is often called "yo-yo" dieting.
A weight cycle can range from small weight losses and gains (5-10 lbs. per
cycle) to large changes in weight (50 lbs. or more per cycle).
Some research links weight cycling with certain health risks. To avoid
potential risks, most experts recommend that obese adults adopt healthy eating
and regular physical activity habits to achieve and maintain a healthier weight
for life. Non-obese adults should try to maintain their weight through healthy
eating and regular physical activity.
If I regain lost weight, won't losing it again be even harder?
A person who
repeatedly loses and gains weight should not have more trouble trying to reach
and maintain a healthy weight than a person attempting to lose weight for the
first time. Most studies show that weight cycling does not affect one's
metabolic rate-the rate at which the body burns fuel (food) for energy. Based
on these findings, weight cycling should not affect the success of future
weight-loss efforts. Metabolism does, however, slow down as a person ages. In
addition, older people are often less physically active than when they were
younger. Regardless of your age, making regular physical activity as well as
healthy eating habits a part of your life will aid weight loss and improve
Will weight cycling leave me with more fat and less muscle than if I had not
dieted at all?
Weight cycling has not been proven to increase the amount of fat
tissue in people who lose and regain weight. Researchers have found that after a
weight cycle, those who return to their original weights have the same amount of
fat and lean tissue (muscle) as they did prior to weight cycling. People who
exercise during a weight cycle may actually gain muscle.
Some people are concerned that weight cycling can put more fat around their
abdominal (stomach) area. People who tend to carry excess fat in the stomach
area (apple-shaped), instead of in the hips, thighs, and buttocks (pear-shaped),
are more likely to develop type 2
diabetes, heart disease, and
pressure. Studies have not found, however, that after a weight cycle, people
have more fat around their stomachs than they did before weight cycling.
Is weight cycling harmful to my health?
Some studies suggest that weight
cycling may increase the risk for certain health problems. These include high
blood pressure, high cholesterol, and gallbladder disease. For adults who are
not obese and do not have weight-related health problems, experts recommend
maintaining a stable weight to avoid any potential health risks associated with
weight cycling. Obese adults, however, should continue to try to achieve modest
weight loss to improve overall health and reduce the risk of developing obesity-related diseases.
Losing and regaining weight may have a negative psychological effect if you
let yourself become discouraged or depressed. Weight cycling should not be a
reason to "feel like a failure." Instead it is a reason to refocus on making
long-term changes in your diet and level of physical activity to help you keep
off the pounds you lose.
Is staying overweight healthier than weight cycling?
It is not known for
certain whether weight cycling causes health problems. The diseases associated
with being obese, however, are well known. These include:
Not every adult who is overweight or obese
has the same risk for disease. Whether you are a man or woman, the amount and
location of your fat, and your family history of disease all play a role in
determining your disease risk. Experts agree, however, that even a modest weight
loss of 10 percent of body weight over a period of six months or more can
improve the health of an adult who is overweight or obese.
Last Editorial Review: 8/27/2003
Further research on the effects of weight cycling is needed. In
the meantime, if you are obese or are overweight and suffer from weight-related
health problems, try to improve your health by achieving a modest weight loss.
Although weight cycling may have some effect on disease risk, the serious health
problems resulting from obesity are clearly understood. If you need to lose
weight, you should be ready to commit to lifelong changes in your eating and
physical activity behaviors.
If you are not obese or overweight with weight-related health problems,
maintain your weight. Focus on adopting healthful eating habits and enjoying
regular physical activity to manage weight and promote health for life.
For additional information, please visit the Obesity Center.
Portions of the above information has been provided with the kind permission
of the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive & Kidney Diseases, National
Institutes of Health (www.niddk.nih.gov).