What Is Yo-Yo Dieting And How To Stop It

by Dr. Ahmed Zayed
Published on March 13, 2019
measuring tape

Obesity is one thing that anyone won’t like to have. Being obese comes with its price: countless health problems including diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular diseases, cholesterol problems, and high blood pressure. However, statistics tell that about 35.5% of adults in the US are overweight (1). Because of this, we can conclude obesity to be a major cause of deaths all over the world.

One good thing about obesity is the fact that it is preventable. There are many methods to either prevent or get rid of obesity. Some people prefer dieting, some go for exercise, while others like to combine both dieting and exercise. Either way, the significance of dieting can be seen.

Yo-yo Dieting

However, a great percentage of people going for dieting these days are getting caught up with yo-yo dieting. For those of you who don’t know about yo-yo dieting, it is basically the process of starting dieting resulting in a weight-loss and soon afterward, leaving dieting that causes a gain in weight again. Continue this cycle for 2-3 times, and there you go, you’re another victim to this dangerous type of dieting. How can it be dangerous? Well, let’s discuss some of its effects then.

Effects of Yo-yo Dieting

Extra Weight-gain

According to research, it has been found that yo-yo dieting inflicts the exact opposite effects of regular dieting on the human body. Accordingly, people can gain even more weight than they initially had by continuously starting and leaving dieting (2).

Gut Dysfunction

A study from the University of New South Wales suggests that yo-yo dieting is not only bad for your weight, but also your stomach. And, by the stomach, we don’t mean your waistline. The effects of yo-yo dieting go beyond the realm of physical appearance, as they can also have an impact on the gut bacteria. Because of the disruption caused to these bacteria, the outcomes can include gastrointestinal conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (3).

Other Medical Conditions

The purpose of dieting is to remain physically fit and free from all the diseases that could be caused by obesity. However, researchers have found that yo-yo dieting can result in the development of diseases such as diabetes, coronary artery disease, and high blood pressure.

With all this information, it is okay to assume that nobody reading this would doubt the danger that accompanies such dieting. Now that we know of its effects, it’s about time to discuss what we can do to stop yo-yo dieting — the rules that are actually possible to follow.

How to Stop Yourself from Yo-yo Dieting

Rule#1 Don’t go extreme

It is best to have a diet plan that you can stick to for a long-term, as research has shown such plans to be the most useful. Also, you will have fewer difficulties with continuing a plan that suggests getting rid of only some of your foods. On the contrary, if you try going for a plan that cuts off most of the stuff you are used to having, you will face extreme difficulties in continuing the plan. You may be able to start it, but eventually, the motivation will wear off, and you’ll get back to your regular diet again, causing you to get caught up in a never-ending cycle.

Therefore, it is best to construct a diet plan that you can actually follow without any problems. An extreme diet may yield positive effects, but they’re only going to last for a short period of time. However, a normal diet with keeps benefiting you for a long-term.

Rule#2 Don’t think of a diet as ‘diet.’

Most people often consider dieting to be a form of eating where you don’t get to have any good foods, and that lasts only for a specific period of time. However, this is not the case — dieting can be done in a way that benefits your body and doesn’t keep you away from eating your favorite foods. It’s only a limitation of how much of your favorite food you should eat. Thinking of dieting to be a unique and different form of eating is wrong, as it is actually the most normal form of eating that gives you better health by restraining only some of the foods you eat — not all.

Rule#3 Exercise with dieting

The reason why some of the people don’t see the effects of long-term dieting is the fact that they don’t pay attention to exercise. Getting rid of your body fat only by dieting can be quite difficult and also the reason why people get used to yo-yo dieting. It is important to note that exercise works best with long-term, easy dieting plans where you don’t restrain yourself from eating anything. Trying exercise with extreme dieting plans is virtually impossible, as you won’t have the energy left for anything. Let alone, for exercise.

Information about individuals living in the US who have lost many weight and maintained it for more than a year is present in the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR). Why am I mentioning this? Well, it is important to look at the characteristics of all these great achievers. One thing to note is that 90% of these individuals share a common characteristic: exercising for at least an hour a day. From this, we can see the significance of exercise for long-term dieting. Accordingly, exercising will prevent you from yo-yo dieting.

Rule#4 Keep a Notebook

Focus on what you eat and take relevant actions. It is often the case with many people that they subconsciously eat many stuff without thinking and don’t recall what they ate throughout the day. The best practice is to keep a notebook with yourself in which you note all the things you ate during the day. If you had more than you were supposed to, try reducing the diet a bit for tomorrow; if you ate less, you could give yourself a small treat. One should note all the things that they had on that day before sleeping at night. The next morning, you should have a look at the journal, so you can make relevant changes to your diet for that day. By making this a habit, you will have fewer chances of getting stuck in a yo-yo cycle.

Rule#5 Have Breakfast

Having breakfast is normal for a person who’s not dieting, but people who want to lose weight often tend to avoid having it. People think that their weight-loss will benefit from skipping breakfast in the short-term. However, these short-term results can also lead to migraines, psychological effects, binge-eating, and even weight gain (4). Also, leaving breakfast can be the reason for some people who get caught up in yo-yo dieting.

On the other hand, research states that breakfast is part of the daily diet of 78% of the individuals who have lost their weight and maintained it for more than a year. Because of these factors, you should try adding breakfast to your diet plan, instead of avoiding it.

Rule#6 Get Rid of Your Stress and Sleep More

Stress and sleep deprivation can really cause you to eat more as they will really reduce the motivation you have for dieting. Continue breaking your diet for a couple of days, and you’ll get caught up in a yo-yo diet. Moreover, they can also result in the slowing down of your metabolism, which really affects the weight-loss that you’re trying to achieve. They can also make your exercise go in waste by reducing its impact to a great extent. Accordingly, it is necessary to get rid of such unhealthy practices for you to actually benefit from a diet.

Rule#7 When Eating, Focus on Your Eating

As discussed earlier, subconscious eating can really do a number on your dieting. If this is made a habit, yo-yo dieting will be the end result.

To counter it, you should really focus on what you’re eating and not watch TV, use your phone, or do anything while eating. In addition to that, you should also savor the flavors of the food and chew it slowly. Slow chewing can also psychologically make you think that you’ve eaten more than you actually have. This way, you won’t feel like you’re being deprived of your favorite food — the main cause of yo-yo dieting — and also lose weight quicker.

Rule#8 Don’t Consume Excessive Alcohol

Alcohol has also proved to affect your diet plan negatively. By consuming alcohol, one is at a great disadvantage as it provokes you to eat more, makes you lose control of yourself, and also has calories. Although it has it has a negative impact on your diet, it is not necessary to leave it either. If you’re really fond of drinking, you can limit the amount of alcohol you consume — the best way to counter yo-yo dieting.

Rule#9 Monitor Yourself

When you stop having a look at your body or adopt ways that make you ignorant of your weight, getting caught up in yo-yo dieting is destined for you. Therefore, you should try to avoid wearing baggy clothes that hide your body. Because of such clothes, you will experience weight gain, and you will not even notice it. If this continues, the weight-gain will come to your notice, but it will be really hard to get rid of all that excess body weight by that time. Moreover, you should also get yourself weighed regularly, so you can see any changes in weight and take relevant measures. Accordingly, getting yourself weighed at least once a week and avoided wearing baggy clothes are key to avoiding the yo-yo cycle.

Rule#10 Drink Plenty of Water

We can’t discuss diet without mentioning the significance of drinking water. The reason for this is that drinking water throughout the day and in-between meals can burn fat, make you feel fuller and help with digestion. According to some researches, weight loss can be achieved by drinking water before taking your meals. This way of weight loss can really help people who experience the yo-yo effect, as it doesn’t require anything and also has many benefits.


Dieting doesn’t have to be all that extreme or painful. If someone makes it that way, yo-yo dieting is destined to be the outcome, which has a number of harmful effects. However, countering the yo-yo effect is not that difficult either. Taking the right steps, it is possible to prevent it and continue a diet plan for not just months but even years. The steps or rules mentioned in this article share the same characteristic, that is of being practical. Alongside that, they are also really easy to follow. However, it is important to note that patience is key for an effective diet that has long-term results. If done right, dieting can be quite enjoyable and beneficial.


(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obesity_in_the_United_States
(2) https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-12/uoe-ydm112916.php
(3) https://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/health/weekend-binge-just-bad-gut-regular-junk-food-diet-study-suggests
(4) http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v444/n7121/abs/nature05488.html
(5) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8002684
(6) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21760629

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