You’re officially familiar with yo yo dieting if you’ve ever said something like this more than once:
“I want to be 130 pounds by Christmas.”
“I want to wear my size 4 dress to the holiday party in 3 weeks.”
“I don’t get rid of the size 32 belt because I know it will fit when I get back to working out this spring.”
All of these quotes come from actual clients of mine. They’re familiar or at least very relatable to so many of us who work hard to lose weight, only to find it creep back on (plus a few more pounds), to then again buckle down to lose again, gain again, lose again . . . sigh.
It is a really frustrating cycle, and there’s no more dreaded time for this miserable game than the holiday season.
Yes, we are there friends. Trying to figure out how to lose weight, again.
You have a favorite pair of cords that let you know exactly where you stand, and your adjustable waist pants are on standby when the cords finally exhaust their stretch. You have your favorite weight loss tips bookmarked on your computer, along with healthy dinner ideas and healthy snacks and healthy foods and healthy diet plans…
But between the lingering Halloween candy, the leftover Thanksgiving pie, and the endless Christmas cookies, you’re exhausted from the overload of constant hard choices you have to make – eat it, don’t eat it, eat just a little, skip it altogether, ok have a nibble, cut a whole piece, no wait a half piece, maybe if I eat it fast enough it won’t count, get it away from me because if I see it I’ll eat the whole thing, can I have just a taste, darn I can’t believe I ate that, ugh my pants are getting tight…
You know how losing and gaining weight messes with your head, but do you know how yo yo dieting really messes with your body?
What Yo Yo Dieting Does to your Body
Hormonal havoc. Extreme dieting, including severe calorie restriction and dramatic dietary changes can increase the hormone cortisol, which wreaks havoc on your health. It increases your risk of developing certain diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
There is tons of evidence that people who live the longest, with the best mortality rates are those who are constantly eating slightly less than they need to be satisfied and maintaining a low body weight for their height.
This is, in part, due to hormonal actions being optimized. If the caloric restriction is too severe, hormones don’t work as efficiently and health is compromised. You can see this as nutrient deficiencies that pop up with symptoms such as dry skin, brittle hair and nails and poorer immune functioning.
The bottom line is that seriously decreased caloric intake negatively affects hormones that you need for good health.
Metabolic meltdown. So the deal is this: if you over-restrict your calories, your body responds by slowing down your metabolic rate, or your ability to burn calories. It also causes muscle loss.
The truth of the matter is that yo yo dieting doesn’t appear to permanently ruin metabolism, but the process of losing muscle (which is what your body uses for fuel when there isn’t enough food calories coming in) is damaging to your wellness.
You need your lean body mass to support your bones, keep you fit, strong and burning calories, so don’t compromise it by breaking it down to use for fuel!
Don’t exercise to lose weight, either. Exercise to maintain your lean body mass (which helps with weight loss) and to keep your brain focused on your fitness.
Feeling fit is a great motivator to say no thank you to the second helping of Thanksgiving stuffing.
Danger zone. Extreme weight loss is hard on your vital organs, including your brain, heart, liver and kidneys. These organs need carbohydrates and calories to do their jobs. Without enough nutrition, these organs are at risk for damage.
Severely decreased calories can also lead to nutrient deficiencies, which in prolonged states may cause damage to bones, skin and immune functioning.
Do yourself a favor and don’t cut out all carbs or fats. Reduce ‘em, (the “bad” ones) yes. Eliminate a whole food group entirely and you’ll end up back on that whole yo yo dieting cycle again, guaranteed.
What to do? Rather than dramatically reduce calories, or drop all fats or carbohydrates, the research out there would have you eat a little less of everything at every meal and snack, so that you’re ‘satisfied’ rather than ‘full’ in order to get and keep a healthy weight.
Eat a balanced diet and choose clean, healthy foods. This is something I always stress (as in point out not the bad kind of stress!) by having my clients gauge their appetite using the hunger quotient (HQ).
Rather than binging on candy or mashed potatoes or latkes or fruitcake through Halloween or Thanksgiving or Hanukkah or Christmas, and then sticking to 600 calories a day for the next two weeks, choose to eat a little less all the time, and strategically place your indulgences.
This is easier said than done, but, it can be done. Be focused, consistent and patient. Listen to your body telling you it is “slightly satisfied” and “slightly hungry”. And, plan for your indulgences.
Another example is to have a cup of soup and a salad, instead of a bowl of soup, a salad and a roll. Then have a couple of Halloween mini tootsie rolls or a single Christmas cookie with a cup of tea as a treat.
Rather than going on a crash diet, reduce your intake at each meal or snack to successfully lose weight, but not so much that you’re starved.
Yo Yos are toys for kids. They’re not how you should manage your weight. This holiday season, choose to focus on your healthiest goals and your weight will find it’s perfect place.
The Nutritious Life Editors are a team of healthy lifestyle enthusiasts who not only subscribe to — and live! — the 8 Pillars of a Nutritious Life, but also have access to some of the savviest thought leaders in the health and wellness space — including our founder and resident dietitian, Keri Glassman. From the hottest trends in wellness to the latest medical science, we stay on top of it all in order to deliver the info YOU need to live your most nutritious life.
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