New Study Warns Against Yo-Yo Dieting


Many people pursue weight loss and weight management in various ways. However, some methods may be more harmful than others. A recent study from North Carolina State University highlighted the negative interpersonal and psychological consequences associated with yo-yo dieting— or weight cycling. While study participants noted that they entered the yo-yo dieting cycle for different reasons, from weight-related social stigma to self-comparisons to celebrities and peers, many reported engaging in various weight loss strategies that resulted in initial weight loss but eventual regain.

Researchers defined yo-yo dieting as the unintentional weight regain after dieting, an unhealthy cycle unfortunately prevalent in American culture. With so many fad diets and instant weight loss plans or drugs normalized among people, doctors don't recommend dieting unless medically necessary.

Notably, the study emphasizes that unhealthy diet behaviors are typically unsustainable. Participants who regained weight after losing often gained more than they had initially lost. This can lead to an unhealthy obsession with weight and negatively impact one's relationship with food, creating a lifelong struggle with weight.

Better strategies to manage weight

Instead of indulging in fast-paced and restrictive fad diets, experts recommend focusing on building healthier habits and making small lifestyle changes that are sustainable in the long term. Below are some key strategies for losing weight and preventing eventual regain:

Personalized weight loss plans

As mentioned above, long-term changes in habits and behaviors are essential for pursuing healthy weight loss. By focusing on the many aspects of your lifestyle — instead of solely on what and when to eat — you can work on keeping your body healthy while matching your weight goals.

The WeightWatchers weight loss program recognizes that dieting is a personal endeavor and that the process is different for everyone. Therefore, no one-size-fits-all solution exists. Instead, the program supports members with holistic strategies considering other lifestyle factors, such as sleep quality and physical activity. For those who qualify and may need the aid, the new WeightWatchers clinic also provides access to prescription solutions and doctors who care.

Healthy ingredients

While food and dietary habits shouldn't be the sole focus of your healthy weight loss strategy, it's still important to pick up healthier eating habits that support your health and weight. In a previous post discussing harmful ingredients in processed foods, we highlighted how these contain dangerous fats that impact your immune system and organs.

While there were undoubtedly attempts throughout history to lower the harms of edible oils, such as Monsanto's genetically engineered seeds, researchers in the late 1990s realized they may still have adverse health effects. Still, this doesn't mean you should avoid eating at all. Instead, you can substitute harmful ingredients with healthier ones, such as organic butter in place of margarine and vegetable oil spreads, or go for raw fats from whole foods instead of saturated ones from processed junk food.

Don't skip meals

Finally, another harmful aspect of fad diets is their focus on reducing and eliminating necessary eating habits. For example, many restrictive diets promote the unhealthy habit of skipping meals or only eating at certain times of the day. However, studies over the years have shown this causes more harm and will only result in short-term weight loss.

A Nutrients examined research findings in countries like the US, Japan, Spain, and Iran. Throughout years of studies, researchers found that skipping meals was significantly associated with more than 10% weight gain and increased rates of overweight or obesity. This may be due to the lower energy intake due to skipping meals, which often leads to unhealthy cravings for snacks to compensate for the lost energy. In the long term, this leads to a lower diet quality, where people may resort to unhealthy food choices and ingredients despite eating less frequently.

If you found this piece helpful or insightful, you can check out more posts from The Medical Advisor on our homepage, where we discuss the latest science-backed findings on health, lifestyle, nutrition, and beauty.



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