NYC Dietitian Discusses 3 Health Problems for Yo-Yo Dieters

How Weight Cycling Takes its Toll on Your Body

NYC DietitianIn the New Year, many begin new regimens, diets, weight-loss programs, and exercise programs. Many of these New Year plans include intense exercise and extreme calorie restrictions. Results are quick, but, as I discussed before, we can get ensnared in a resolution trap, and our bodies and health end up paying a heavy price. Wanting to be healthy is a great thing! But buying into quick weight-loss programs isn’t the road we should take.

Weight cycling is the repeated loss and regain of body weight that can range from 5 – 10 pounds per cycle up to 50 pounds per cycle. When this weight loss occurs during dieting, it’s referred to as  yo-yo dieting. Yo-yo dieting  is one of the biggest side-effects of the New Year. We’re inspired. We’re ready to lose weight. We do lose weight, quickly. And then many of us, if not most, gain it back.

There are some serious health implications for yo-yo dieters – most because of health problems related to being overweight or obese, and others because of the act of the body losing and gaining weight, quickly, in cycles, takes its toll.

Cardiovascular Disease: Obesity is directly linked to heart disease. It’s the number one cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Healthy weight means a healthy heart.

Metabolism: Metabolism varies from individual to individual and fluctuates in life during pregnancy, or the loss or gain of muscle. But to get significant calorie expenditure, you have to significantly increase muscle. Burning calories during cardiovascular exercise is different. It doesn’t build muscle and permanently elevate metabolism, instead metabolism is elevated for a number of hours after cardio depending on the duration and intensity. Our bodies need calories to keep our metabolism going. Our bodies’ natural reaction to starvation (extreme calorie restriction, fewer than 1000 calories each day), will be to turn its metabolism down. Again, this isn’t permanent, but the effect of a yo-yo quick loss will also be lowered metabolism and, in turn, lowered energy levels.

NYC DietitianIncrease of our primary stress hormone cortisol: When our bodies are exposed to stress (whether it be through extreme calorie  restriction, work, or life stress), our bodies release our primary stress hormone called cortisol. Our bodies’ machinery is so elegant because this physiological response is what keeps us safe during moments of extreme stress, increasing glucose (sugar) and fat in the blood stream and curbing non-essential s during critical periods,  alternating our bodies’ systems: immune system, reproductive system, growth system and digestive system. Normally, our bodies re-adjust and go back to normal. But under extreme, constant stress, the cortisol remains, and our bodies can experience: anxiety, digestive problems, heart disease, sleep problems, weight gain, memory and concentration problems.  Read more about chronic stress from the Mayo Clinic.

Obesity has become a health epidemic in the United States. And though I support initiative for change and being healthy, without taking the right steps toward healthy weight loss and maintenance, we’re not doing our bodies many favors (not to mention our self esteem). It shouldn’t be about a number on a scale, instead about maintaining a healthy weight.

Next week, come by for some healthy weight loss and maintenance tips. I’m going to share some of my favorite habits and changes you can make part of your everyday lives to become healthier.