What does yoyo dieting do to your health?

Yoyo dieting has had some negative press – but there is some good news about weight fluctuations, too.

Losing weight, regaining some, losing some again… for many, it’s a never-ending cycle.

But yoyo dieting has gathered a bad reputation, with some experts linking fluctuating weight to an increased risk of diabetes, stroke and heart attack.

But a study in 2018 by Indiana University School of Public Health found repeatedly losing weight, regaining and losing weight again may increase our lifespan when compared to remaining obese.

Although the study was done in mice, researchers believe the findings could apply to people.

“This suggests that people with obesity may benefit from weight loss in terms of longevity, even if the lost weight is regained and the loss-gain cycle is repeated multiple times,” reported lead researcher David B Allison.

Why yoyo dieting may be better for our health

Professor John Dixon, a global expert in obesity at the Baker Heart & Diabetes Institute, agrees that losing weight, regaining and then losing weight again is better for our health in the long term than carrying excess kilos.

He says yoyoing is our body’s natural response to losing weight.

“It’s inevitable that when you lose weight you will regain some of that weight over time,” he says.

But Professor Dixon says it’s vital for people who are heavily overweight to try to lose excess kilos, even if they later regain some weight, lose some again and so on.

“Obesity is a chronic condition and we need strategies to target weight regain,” he says.

“Many people have kept their weight down over years through yoyo dieting.

“It’s better to lose some weight, regain it, lose again. Few people lose weight and keep it all off.”

3 myths about weight loss and yoyo dieting

Professor Dixon is keen to tackle these three misconceptions about dieting:

Myth 1: Rapid weight loss goes back on faster than slow weight loss

A study led by the University of Melbourne and Austin Health found 81 per cent of people lost weight on a 12-week rapid weight loss program using a very low-calorie diet.

This compared with just over 50 per cent of people who followed a 36-week gradual weight loss program.

Weight regain of 71 per cent after three years was the same for both groups.

Myth 2: Weight loss equals muscle loss

“There’s also an idea that if you lose weight, you lose muscle and put on fat,” says Professor Dixon.

“That’s rubbish. Lose 10 per cent of your body weight and 80 to 90 per cent will be fat.”

Myth 3: Very low-calorie diets and meal replacements are unhealthy

“They work and they are healthy,” says Professor Dixon.

“Replacing one or two meals a day helps many people lose 10 to 20 per cent of their weight.

“When people do inevitably regain some weight, reintroducing a low-calorie diet from time to time works.”

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Written by Sarah Marinos.