Why does yo-yo dieting always end up with more weight gained?
Time to read 2 mins 30 secs.
I was reading a rather complicated scientific paper on the subject of weight gain called ‘Biology’s response to dieting: the impetus for weight regain, by Paul S. MacLean et al and there was a section which helped explain it quite well although heavy in science speak. So here is my attempt to extract out the relevant information and cover it in layman’s terms as best as I can.
So where do we begin…at the beginning I guess, before the time when there was food aplenty and temptation wasn’t even on the cards the body was a happy chap, it ran along at its genetic potential mildly fluctuating between neither being too thin or too fat. Our body was automatically wired to protect ourselves from either starving or eating ourselves to death.
Of course as life became more comfortable and we became more affluent then food was everywhere so was temptation and so was the fact that food became much more calorie dense.
Initial weight gain
So what happens is that the environment and our behaviour changes and we consume more than we can usually work off. The obvious nett effect is that we store that excess energy as fat.
The body catches on to what we are doing the first time.
Next the body see’s this happening and thinks it should compensate (It always wants to reach something called homeostasis, a balance) it puts into place those elements which tells us enough is enough and we had better stop eating (well normally anyway). As it does this the body re-balances and comes to a new stable but higher weight.
Going on that diet
So now we think we need to do something about the extra weight we decide to go on a diet. All is well in the world and we see weight loss and it can be quite rapid if we go to extremes.
The body catches on to what we are doing the second time.
Now we all reach a point where the body again suspects something is not right as we aren’t consuming enough food to survive so it does what it can to prevent us from wasting away, that homeostatic element again. It switches on those internal processes which, all other things being equal, lead us to stall our weight loss. This is the typical part where most dieters have hit where nothing seems to remove that extra weight anymore.
And now the bad part…
So now we have our body telling itself to try and preserve calories (as fat) because we were consuming too little but at this point we ease off the diet ( or just give it up as it’s impossible to maintain anyway ) Now what happens is that the body is primed to store as much as it can as fat and craves the extra energy and our behaviour changes as we have come off a diet. We see all the lovely food available and we go off on one and consume as much as we did before we started and then more on top of that!
There is only one outcome. A new bigger version of you and of course you know what happens next……and so it continues….
How do you break the cycle?
As you can see it’s like a balance swinging from one side to another, from weight loss to weight gain and back again. The problem is that the weight loss part doesn’t usually get back to the start but at a new higher weight. Of course in reality it’s much more complicated than that but the principles remain the same. In essence the ideal is where the body is in balance but what is important here is that when the balance is broken the temptation is to take drastic and over-compensating action either restricting our diets or eating like no tomorrow.
My advice would be this, if you feel as though you need to rebalance the body from either weight-loss or weight-gain then only make small changes. Take your time, nothing drastic. This is incredibly tough to do but is really the best way.
Although these actions tend to be slower working they also tend to have a much better re-balancing effect and tend to be more permanent in nature. In this case slow and steady can really win the race.