Break the Cycle of Yo-Yo Dieting

January 9, 2018 Jennifer Hubert, DO


With the New Year upon us, it's tempting to set a resolution to lose those last 3 (or 5, or 10) pounds as fast as possible. In pursuit of those weight-loss goals, it's easy to fall prey to fad diets that may achieve the quick fix; but, as soon as you're off the diet, you gain back the weight (and then some). Keep that up enough times, and you'll be stuck in the cycle of yo-yo dieting. And that's not great for your health.

"That continuous pattern of shedding and gaining pounds, which is also known as weight cycling, can take a toll on the body. For instance, recent studies have shown there may be an increased risk of heart issues or stroke for postmenopausal women and people who already have heart problems," says Jennifer Hubert, DO, a specialist in wellness and weight loss, geriatric medicine, and internal medicine at St. Joseph Health Medical Group. "Other findings indicate that yo-yo dieting may lead to a higher risk of increased body fat, which means these diets, in the long run, can have the opposite of the intended effect of losing weight. What's worse is that most yo-yo dieting is done with the trendy diets of the moment, which are poor nutritionally compared to eating a regular diet of whole foods."

Yo-yo dieting can have other effects as well, Dr. Hubert adds. "It can be frustrating to constantly battle the scale, and that can lead to stress or feelings of depression, which can present health issues of their own--stress can trigger increased cortisol production in the body, and too much of that hormone can raise blood pressure and cholesterol levels, contribute to chronic diseases and mental health issues, and even put you at risk for obesity."

But that's not to say you shouldn't try to lose excess weight. Dr. Hubert offers the following suggestions to help you achieve your weight-loss goal and break the cycle of yo-yo dieting.

  • Seek out a doctor's guidance. "Most successful weight loss takes place when it's supervised by a doctor and there is continuity of care," Dr. Hubert says. "A medical team can ensure you are following a healthy nutrition plan, keep tabs on any medical issues that could be affected by your diet and help you work through any underlying issues that may be keeping you from your weight-loss goals. Doctors are also a good resource of sound nutritional advice; there are a lot of dieting myths out there."
  • Avoid the fads. "Those types of diets won't give you lasting results--they're usually too hard to maintain over the long term, and once you're off them, the body tends to put back the weight you lost," Dr. Hubert says. The best option is medical weight management, she adds. "It's very individualized to each patient. We offer different types of programs, but the majority of people start with a very low-calorie diet that we are monitoring to make sure their health is good, then we slowly integrate foods back into their lives. The goal is to find the program that works for each person."
  • Be prepared to change your habits. "Again, this can be tailored to each person, depending on their circumstances," Dr. Hubert says. "It can include strategies to avoid emotional eating, incorporating healthy snacks into the diet or grocery shopping plans that emphasize whole foods. It can also encompass habits that aren't food-based but have an effect on your weight, such as poor stress management. I want people to develop the foundation for a healthy lifestyle."

Also, look at the reasons why you want to lose weight. "Trying to drop pounds to fit into a bathing suit is a short-term goal, and once you've reached it, you may lose the desire or willpower to maintain it," Dr. Hubert says. "But if you have goal in mind with a more lasting impact--such as cutting your risk of type 2 diabetes or wanting to lower your blood pressure--it can provide the motivation you need to stick with your plan.

To learn more about Dr. Hubert's medical weight loss plans, visit

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.


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