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How to Stop Yo-Yo Dieting: 10 Reasons You Regain Fat and Undo Your Weight Loss by Sarah Vass

Have you ever been on a weight loss diet to find yourself, only weeks later, gaining back the weight and then some?

After weeks of hardcore dedication to your diet plan, strict discipline of resisting sweet temptations and tiresome hours of sweat-inducing workouts, it’s nothing short of disappointing to find you not only haven’t lost weight, but gained weight! How is this possible?

A growing body of evidence suggests that diets just don’t work. Yo-yo diets not only don’t work, but they trap individuals in a cycle of deprivation and binging, leading to weight gain over the long term.


But is it really that simple?

Of course not. The human body is a complex system existing in a complex world of temptations and misleading information. This complexity starts to reveal itself when you delve into the black-hole of research surrounding obesity, the causes of weight gain, the mechanisms behind weight loss and what exactly is going on in the body during these processes.

One recent study published by The Obesity Society followed the lives of a small group of individuals for six years to explore how the body responds after significant weight loss and whether it is indeed, sustainable over the long term. Is it possible that everything you thought you were doing right is the reason you find yourself regaining the lost weight and undoing all your hard work?

This study was conducted to measure how the body responds to long-term changes in resting metabolic rate (RMR) and body composition as a result of rapid and significant weight loss.

The results were shocking. But to anyone who has embarked on their own weight loss journey can probably attest to, not all that surprising.


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The Metabolic Effect

At the conclusion of the study, many of the individuals gained back the pounds even when eating a lower caloric diet from when they started. Their metabolisms simply could not recover.

Despite weight loss, their metabolic rates actually dropped. Upon losing said weight, their bodies struggled to readjust to the new set point and many regained a significant portion, and in some cases more, of their lost weight. Is it no wonder people lament over their ability to gain weight by just looking at a donut while their slender friends can eat several without gaining a pound?

“Old habits die hard” couldn’t be closer to the truth. When it comes to the body, it appears to have a weight set point that it operates optimally at and when veered from, it will not adjust to as effectively as we may hope.

One individual the study was following shed an incredible 239 pounds in just 7 months. A weight loss of this amount is nothing to cough at. It’s a sizable amount that’s enough to send any body into shock. The study followed this individual for six years to find he had since gained back over 100 pounds. Even a restrictive diet of 800 calories a day wasn’t enough to keep the fat at bay.

Whether you’re trying to shed 10 pounds or 100 pounds, the same struggle to lose weight exists. This is because many fad diets and weight loss programs still follow the same principles that keep people stuck in the yo-yo dieting cycle.

Here are ten reasons you regain fat and undo your weight loss. Take this as a lesson on how not to lose weight.


1. Losing Too Much Weight Too Quickly

One of the key findings of this research revealed that after significant weight loss, your body will fight to regain the weight in order to maintain its previous state of equilibrium. This means your metabolism won’t just readjust to your new weight overnight.

Your body likes balance and when that balance is thrown off, it will do its job to try and regain that balance. This is why, even despite every effort to exercise more and cut more calories, metabolic rates remained the same, and even slowed down, making weight loss, and maintaining that weight loss, even more difficult.

Rapid weight loss also means you will more rapidly deplete your body of the key appetite regulating hormone, leptin, which is stored in body fat. Participants of this study had their leptin levels tested and by the end, their leptin stores had been depleted. Leptin’s job is to tell you when you are hungry and when you are full. It’s no wonder many individuals on weight loss plans are faced with an insatiable hunger. Unfortunately, this leaves many in a constant state of starvation which encourages binge cycles; stalling further weight loss.

Sustainable weight loss takes time and patience.


2. Rigorous Exercise Regimes

It’s not uncommon for people to fall into the ‘exercise more’ to ‘lose more’ trap. Despite common belief, more does not always equate to better.

Excessive exercise can lead to fatigue, injuries and creating an unsustainable lifestyle that’s focused on quick, short term results. This ‘no pain, no gain’ mentality encourages people to focus on working harder, faster and longer while ignoring the importance of learning how to exercise properly and more effectively.

Few people would readily admit to enjoying hours spent grinding it out on the treadmill. So why do we put ourselves through this kind of mental torture?

Studies suggest that shorter bursts of higher intensity workouts are more effective for fat loss and overall body composition. A good workout plan for women incorporates strength building to sculpt the body as opposed to a focus on burning fat.

Too much cardio without balancing with body strength training will waste away vital muscle tissue. You want to build and preserve muscle as you lose weight. Muscle tissue increases your metabolic potential by burning more calories than fat.

Strength training through body or weight bearing exercises helps to build muscle. And no, you won’t build muscle like a body-builder unless you go about it very intentionally. The average person lifting weights a couple times a week will find it far easier to maintain a healthy weight than someone running miles and miles everyday.

Coupled with exercise and movement you actually enjoy, you can easily incorporate fitness as a lifestyle habit for the long term without burning out.


3. Not Enough Restorative Time

By not allowing your body enough recovery time after exercise, you are short-cutting its ability to perform the next time you hit the gym or exercise. Rest is as important as the exercise itself.

Your muscles need time to build and rebuild. Even elite athletes swear by rest days in their preparation for competitions.

Prioritize adequate sleep of at least 8 hours a day and set aside rest days without feeling guilty.


4. Not Enjoying The Lifestyle

This one may come as a surprise to many because our culture treats diets like a form of punishment for misbehaving and eating one too many pieces of cake for all those years. How could it ever be enjoyable to lose weight?! We see weight gain as a consequence of greed and gluttony and the diet as the punishment. But it’s not that simple and nor fair to judge another on such grounds.

Holding onto this mindset is a recipe for long term failure. Jumping on a diet bandwagon, to only fall off just weeks, or even days, later, is a problem in and of itself. Not only is this not enjoyable, it’s demotivating and setting you up for long term disappointment.

After all, why would you want to sustain a lifestyle that relies on exercising willpower, deprivation, and rigorous exercise regimes? Where’s the motivation or enjoyment in that?

If you promise yourself every diet cycle that this time, it will be different while adopting the same protocols and mindset, it’s time to stop.

It’s time to ditch the diet dogma and start embracing a positive attitude that will help you enjoy the journey.

Unfortunately the world doesn’t stop for you to lose weight and it can be difficult to find ways to incorporate healthier habits into your daily routine when healthy isn’t always the more convenient or enjoyable option. Take-out pizza and beers with friends on a Friday night is easy. Getting up at 5am on Saturday morning to go for a 10 mile run while it’s raining outside isn’t.

The answer? Find ways to incorporate enjoyable foods, activities and habits into your daily routine that promote your positive weight loss journey.

Examples including setting aside one dinner a week where you learn to cook a new healthy meal from around the world. Make it convenient for yourself to eat healthfully by preparing several days worth of meals in one batch cooking session. Invite friends over to share in a healthy meal that you’ve prepared from scratch.

Exercise doesn’t just mean spending endless hours at the gym. Walk rather than drive. Spend time playing with your children or walking the dog. Play a team sport. Take the stairs. Go hiking in nature.

Doing things that you enjoy reinforces a positive message to your body that this way of life is sustainable and that it doesn’t need to stress out that its survival is being threatened.


5. Relying On External Motivation

If you had a drill sergeant breathing down the back of your neck and yelling at you to get down and do 20 push-ups, you would probably muster up the energy to obey. But many of us do not have the means or money to hire a private personal trainer to keep us motivated day in, day out.

You need to find motivation from within yourself that compels you to take each step you need towards better health. Because you don’t want to be so reliant on external motivators that the moment they’re pulled away from you, you are left feeling lost and anxious and cave into a whole pizza with a side of chips and large soft drink to wash it down.

This doesn’t mean you can’t enlist the support from fellow friends, peers and trainers. By all means, do. Just be aware when you fall into the trap of relying on these people to motivate you to exercise consistently or to eat well.


6. Cutting Calories Far Too Low

Your body needs calories for energy. It’s your fuel for the fire that is your metabolism. By cutting calories far below your required daily burn rate, you are jeopardizing the biological system that was designed to keep you alive. The body is far more complicated than that. This does make weight loss more complicated than simply cutting the number of calories you eat.

When you body is in a heightened state of stress and thinking it is being starved, it will do all in its power to counteract the threat – of further weight loss – by holding onto fat.

This new research shows that no amount of calorie cutting will compensate for a body that has adjusted to a higher set-weight if other systems within the body aren’t balanced first. This isn’t to say weight loss isn’t possible but it does suggest, you need to look at the bigger picture rather than just the number of calories you consume.


7. Starving Your Body Of Nutrients

When you cut calories, there’s a high chance you’re also cutting the number of vital nutrients your body requires to function effectively. Many faddish low calorie diets focus on low-fat, low-carb and low nutrient foods. This is extremely disruptive to your body’s biological systems that relies on a steady income of vitamins and minerals to operate.

Focus on eating nutrient dense foods that give you more bang for your buck such as wholesome vegetables and fruits, nuts, seeds, high quality fats and meat.


8. Stress And Pressure

Losing weight when you are under high amounts of physical, mental and emotional stress is near impossible. On a daily basis, you are faced with stress your body views in much the same light as a raging bull about to charge at you. Whether you’re stressing out about a job interview, are running late for work, just had a fight with your spouse, or the baby won’t stop screaming – these external events all signal the stress hormones in your body to rise.

Your body can’t differentiate the threat of a tiger, from being stuck in a traffic jam or from the threat of a personal trainer drilling you for not finishing your workout. It responds in the same manner – release adrenaline and pump cortisol.

If you’re going through a period of loss, grief, depression, or hardship, it’s not the ideal time to be focusing on weight loss. Your body will over-ride such attempts by prioritizing other needs first – like maintaining mental sanity.

When you are stressed, it’s harder to lose weight. It’s a survival state. Be gentle on yourself. Your body will thank you for it.


9. Focusing On The Wrong Thing

If you haven’t taken the time to explore why you want to lose weight, you’ll find it hard to justify waking up to go for a run at 5am in the morning when it’s raining and cold outside. You’ll struggle with the willpower to stop at just one cookie. When temptation comes knocking on your door, you’ll more than likely welcome it in with a big hug.

Weight loss in and of itself is a fickle goal to work towards. There’s little meaning behind a number on the scale. There’s no emotion behind it. There’s little compelling you.

Ask yourself, why do I want to lose this weight?

Do you want to be able to play chase with your child without losing your breath?
Do you want to be able to wear your favorite little black dress again so you can feel sexy?
Do you want to be able to go to the doctor and not feel anxious about what the blood results will reveal?

Understand your why and the how will become clearer.


10. Comparison and Competition

Human beings are a diverse and complex species. Comparing your results and progress to another person’s is futile. Everyone has unique health circumstances which means one weight loss approach may not be suitable for everyone.

You can’t compare your personal experience and compete for weight loss against another. Every body is different. But chin up. The greatest prize of all awaits you – a future of good health. That’s worth fighting for.


Sarah Vass is a writer for FitAffinity.com – an online destination for women to get lean and sculpted with workout plans and natural supplements. She’s a health and wellness advocate with a love for the great outdoors, making (and eating) guacamole and has a slight addiction to really bad reality TV. Follow on Instagram and Facebook.


MyDeal Editors note:

Engage in strength training as the article suggests using our exercise equipment.

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