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Weight Cycling - Yo-Yo Dieting
Health Risks and Prevention of Repetitive Weight Loss and Regain
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Repetitive Weight Loss & Weight Gain, Called Yo-Yo Dieting

Weight Cycling

What is Weight Cycling?

  • Weight cycling is the repeated loss and regain of body weight. When weight cycling is the result of dieting, it is often called "yo-yo" dieting.
  • Weight cycling can range from small weight losses and gains (5-10 lbs. per cycle) to large changes in weight (50 lbs. or more per cycle).

Weight Cycling - Health Risks

Some research links weight cycling with certain health risks. These include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and gallbladder disease. To avoid potential risks, most experts recommend that obese adults adopt healthy eating and regular physical activity habits to achieve and maintain a healthier weight for life. Non-obese adults should try to maintain their weight through healthy eating and regular physical activity.

Weight Cycling - Future Weight Loss No More Difficult

A person who repeatedly loses and gains weight should not have more trouble trying to reach and maintain a healthy weight than a person attempting to lose weight for the first time.

Most studies show that weight cycling does not affect one’s metabolic rate - the rate at which the body burns fuel (food) for energy.

Based on these findings, weight cycling should not affect the success of future weight-loss efforts.

Weight Cycling & Exercise

Metabolism does, however, slow down as a person ages. In addition, older people are often less physically active than when they were younger. Regardless of your age, making regular physical activity as well as healthy eating habits a part of your life will aid weight loss and improve health overall.

Weight Cycling - Fat-Muscle-Ratio

Weight cycling has not been proven to increase the amount of fat tissue in people who lose and regain weight. Researchers have found that after a weight cycle, those who return to their original weights have the same amount of fat and lean tissue (muscle) as they did prior to weight cycling. People who exercise during a weight cycle may actually gain muscle.

Weight Cycling - Intra-Abdominal Fat

Some people are concerned that weight cycling can put more fat around their abdominal (stomach) area. People who tend to carry excess fat in the stomach area (apple-shaped), instead of in the hips, thighs, and buttocks (pear-shaped), are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Studies have not found, however, that after a weight cycle, people have more fat around their stomachs than they did before weight cycling.

Weight Cycling - Mental Effects

Losing and regaining weight may have a negative psychological effect if you let yourself become discouraged or depressed. Weight cycling should not be a reason to “feel like a failure.” Instead it is a reason to re-focus on making long-term changes in your diet and level of physical activity to help you keep off the pounds you lose.

Weight Cycling Health Risks vs. Obesity Health Risks

It is not known for certain whether weight cycling causes health problems. The diseases associated with being obese, however, are well known. These include:

High blood pressure - Heart disease - Stroke - Type 2 diabetes - Certain types of cancer - Arthritis and Gallbladder disease.

Weight-Related Risk Factors - How to Reduce

Not every adult who is overweight or obese has the same risk for disease.

Whether you are a man or woman, the amount and location of your fat, and your family history of disease all play a role in determining your disease risk.

Experts agree, however, that even a modest weight loss of 10 percent of body weight over a period of six months or more can improve the health of an adult who is overweight or obese.

Weight Cycling - Conclusions

Further research on the effects of weight cycling is needed.

  • In the meantime, if you are obese or are overweight and suffer from weight-related health problems, try to improve your health by achieving a modest weight loss. Although weight cycling may have some effect on disease risk, the serious health problems resulting from obesity are clearly understood. If you need to lose weight, you should be ready to commit to lifelong changes in your eating and physical activity behaviors.
  • If you are not obese or overweight with weight-related health problems, maintain your weight. Focus on adopting healthful eating habits and enjoying regular physical activity to manage weight and promote health for life.

Weight Cycling - Counter Opinion

Some experts consider that weight-cycling does lead to increased fat-muscle ratio (i.e. a greater proportion of body fat) and greater difficulty in losing weight. Even so, as stated, when balanced against the known health risks of obesity, weight-cycling may be a risk worth taking.

Sources include: The Weight-control Information Network (WIN). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), National Institutes of Health (NIH).


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