The Problems with Yo-yo Weight Loss


Written By: Emma Squillace

The majority of people who are obese have lost weight at some point in their lives. In fact, many people we meet with tell our surgeons that they’ve lost 50 – 100 pounds multiple times in their adulthood. The amount of work needed to lose this much weight is substantial. Despite their obvious commitment to hard work, and an understanding of how to lose weight, almost all of the people who have lost this much weight through dieting, will regain it. When someone loses weight through dieting alone, maintaining that weight loss is often even more difficult than losing the weight in the first place. They may find themselves in an ongoing pattern of dropping pounds, only to gain them back again. This losing and gaining cycle is called yo-yoing weight, and it can be dangerous.

New research

A recent study discussing weight fluctuations was published in the American Heart Association’s journal. This study looked at whether yo-yo weight cycles are detrimental to someone’s health. The researchers found that changes in weight correlate with higher risk of heart attack and stroke. They also found that it’s not just weight fluctuations that cause these issues; changes in blood pressure, cholesterol, or blood sugar levels are linked to heart attack and stroke also. For people who were in the top 25% of variability, the statistics showed that they were 127% more likely to die, compared to those with stable weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar.

Why does yo-yo dieting make weight loss harder?

It is not completely understood what about this yo-yo cycle of weight loss and gain is dangerous. Beyond the medical complications like potential increases in the risk of heart disease, yo-yo dieting can make future weight loss more difficult. One aspect of losing weight is that it can actually make you feel more hungry, because your body attempts to ‘hold onto’ the weight you’re trying to lose. Your metabolism may slow down as you lose weight, and you will need fewer calories to stay at the same weight. These factors mean that once you stop losing weight, you may be even more likely to gain pounds than you were before you dieted. It’s a very frustrating cycle.

Fat vs. muscle

Some research has shown that it is easier to lose muscle, and easier to regain fat. This combination means that for some yo-yo dieters, they will end up changing their body composition for the worse, even if they end up at the same weight they were previously. Since fat burns fewer calories than muscle does, this adds even more reason that it’s harder to lose weight after yo-yo dieting.

Why bariatric surgery can help

Bariatric surgery is not a type of diet. It is a powerful tool that compliments healthy lifestyle changes. People who have bariatric surgery are often able to lose weight and keep it off successfully. In many case, we have patients who have been yo-yo dieters for years or decades, and are able to maintain significant weight loss after their surgery. Bariatric surgery is able to help you do what a diet usually cannot, because it involves fundamental changes to the way your body works in relation to food. For example, the gastric sleeve can reduce the size of your stomach by up to 80%, and can minimize the ‘hunger’ hormones your body produces. Changes like this can make your commitment  to hard work a true path to success.

If you have been stuck in a cycle of yo-yo dieting, it’s not only frustrating for you but also potentially dangerous for your long term health. We are happy to speak to you about your weight loss options for overcoming a cycle of losing and gaining. You can learn more by calling us at (855) 690-0565.

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