The True Dangers of Yo-Yo Dieting

You’re not alone, if like many folks, you struggle with gaining and losing those few excess pounds.

The back and forth of continuous weight fluctuations, or weight cycling, is considered yo-yo dieting—especially if you shed a significant amount of weight, but always tend to gain it back. However, while it’s good for you to lose excess pounds and keep them off, this repetitive pattern of weight loss and gain can actually be dangerous to your health in the following ways…

Lowered Metabolism

Research studies consistently show that yo-yo dieting can eventually contribute to decreased metabolism if it’s a continuous cycle. This means that the cycle of losing weight and gaining it back can make it more difficult to shed the excess pounds gain each time.

Increased Cortisol

Many yo-yo dieters don’t realize that when they cut calories too low, the body actually suffers stress because of caloric deprivation and emits more cortisol, a stress hormone that can do damage over time. If you are constantly pumping out cortisol, eventually the body can eventually become prone to certain conditions—like high cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease.

Decrease in Muscle Mass

Many folks yo-yo diet to shed fat mass, however, the back and forth cycle can actually cause muscle wasting, which leaves you with more fat than muscle mass. Many yo-yo dieters also tend to accumulate fat around the middle in a “spare tire” that they just can’t shed.

Mental Stress

While it may be, in part, the continuous losing and gaining of weight that causes mental stress—the constant struggle to be thin mixed with an unhealthy body image can cause undue mental stress, obsessive tendencies over body weight, and even depression.

Mood Swings

Eventually, the constant weight shifts and caloric shifts can cause havoc to your emotions as well. In fact, mood swings are very common in chronic dieters—who suffer with low self-esteem, anger, frustration, guilt, and self-doubt.

Low Energy

It’s no wonder, with the consistent and long term caloric changes, that yo-yo dieters can suffer low energy, low blood sugar, and even exhaustion—particularly if you are robbing yourself of the necessary calories and nutrients of a balanced diet in order to function.

Increased Bone Loss

Many yo-yo dieters, particularly women, eventually suffer bone loss or even develop associated conditions, like osteoporosis, due to repeated calorie and nutrient restrictive diets. This caloric deprivation can lead to injuries, fractures, and even make you prone to broken bones.

Promotes Eating Disorders

Any diet that deprives the body of necessary calories and nutrients can lead to actual starvation to achieve a physical goal. This is why many yo-yo dieters are prone to developing eating disorders, such as bulimia, anorexia, or binge overeating in an attempt for control.

Julie Ching, MS, RDN, CDE

Julie Ching, MS, RDN, CDE

Julie Ching is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator in Los Angeles. She decided to become a Dietitian after traveling through Europe, South America, and Asia and discovered a passion for food. She now works with people of all ages and varying disease states to improve their health. She is passionate about teaching people about nutrition so they can live their best life while still considering their cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.