Monday, August 30, 2010

Yo-Yo Dieting Could Have Long Lasting Effects on Weight Control

I’ve never understood how people crash diet and get very thin. The level of self-deprivation and glucose for brain functioning would make me more irritable then a 2 year old who hasn’t had a nap in days. I do, however, get the 2nd half of that equation – when the former master dieter gets so doggone hungry and sick of their POW status (prisoner of weight) that they eat everything and gain their weight + some back. And, my problem with this pattern is that it wrecks havoc on a person’s psyche. The dieter is exuberant and on top of the world after their weight loss and then feels like an absolute failure and hides from people and social activities after they gain the weight back. And that, my friends, is no way to live life.

But, aside from sabotaging self-confidence, yo-yoing could make it harder to keep that weight off in the long run. A newly published study in the Journal Nutrition and Metabolism found that gaining weight, even in the short term, is difficult to shed later. In this study, eighteen young adults overate and under-exercised for 4 weeks (all in the name of science). Average weight gain was about 14 lbs (6.4 kg). After the study ended, they were monitored for a 12-month period during which the subjects collectively lost a good bit of their excess weight gain (10 lbs or 4.7 kg) within 6 months. However, at the end of the 12-month period, they gained a few lbs back. Two and one-half years later their weight was still an average 6.6 lbs +/- 8.8 lbs (3.1 kg) higher than their initial weight and this weight gain wasn’t muscle – it was fat. The age-matched controls showed no changes from their initial weight at the start of the study.

What can we make of this study? According to the authors, brief periods of overeating and under exercising may have longer-term consequences. And the lesson learned here is that we should leave yo-yos to the toy manufacturers and instead stick with a nutrition plan that we can maintain for a lifetime. Even if that means your progress is gradual – at least you’ll be moving forward consistently versus taking one step forward and two steps back. For those who have struggled with yo-yo dieting in the past, it’s time to get off this road to nowhere and work on a healthy diet, weight and body image. Learning to love your body pays great dividends that no diet can match.

For a great video that depicts this shame and yo-yoing, check out this video from Oprah’s TV show.

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