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The Risks of Yo-Yo Dieting

With yo-yo diets becoming increasingly popular at this time of year, we explore the risks associated with yo-yo dieting and why we always promote sustainable, healthy weight loss goals.
Weight loss infographic

Yo-yo diets and quick-fix fads have become increasingly popular over the years, whether it’s a juice fast, cleansing coffee or meal replacements, whilst they gain popularity for their seemingly quick and easy results, they are not effective in the long run.

When you drop large amounts of weight rapidly, unfortunately, you are likely to regain that weight at the same speed. Hence the term ‘yo-yo’ diet.

Why does yo-yo dieting cause weight gain?

Yo-yo dieting achieve fast results with drastic drops in calories and increased activity, but why is it often the case that later down the line, that weight is re-gained at the same pace?

Slower Metabolism

When calories are decreased, your body slows down its metabolism to try and conserve energy. A slower metabolism caused by rapid weight loss means your body requires fewer calories to do its job, which can then lead to weight gain despite fewer calories.

Increased Hunger Hormones

Hormonal signals change when we start dieting. The body increases a hunger hormone called ghrelin, which tries to get you to eat more. This is why it can be difficult to stick to a restrive diet and where often people re-bound. Our weight loss programmes include prescription medications that work to silence hunger hormones allowing our patients to sustainably lose weight.

These benefits are listed as part of Better Heath’s weight loss awareness campaign, explored in the infographic below:

The Tug of War of weight management infographic

Image courtesey of NovoNordisk

Decreased Fullness Hormones

Typically, we find that after yo-yo weight loss the hormones affecting satiety (ie.. feeling full) are disrupted, meaning that it requires more food for you to feel full. The hormones which increase our feelings of fullness are what tell your brain to stop eating and when reduced can lead to over-eating and even binging.

The health risks of yo-yo dieting

Now we understand why we often re-gain weight as rapidly as we lose it when yo-yo dieting, let’s explore the health effects associated with this vicious cycle.

Weight cycling in this manner is defined as losing and regaining at least 5010lbs per cycle.

The most common dangers associated with yo-yo dieting include high blood pressure, risk of type 2 diabetes and increased difficulty losing weight with each weight-loss cycle.

A study conducted in 2007 found that of 2,500 men and women, participants who kept their weight stable had better markers of health than those who gained weight when the researchers followed up 15 years later. This was even the case for those with obese BMI’s who maintained a stable weight.

When you lose weight, if you are overweight or have weight to lose, your blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugar, and kidney function tend to improve. However, if the weight is gained back quickly, these measures can temporarily shoot up into unhealthy ranges.

The problem is that these overshoots can be seriously harmful if repeated many times, which is often the case with yo-yo dieting. In the long term, this can cause damage to your heart and kidneys.

Hope to stop the yo-yo dieting cycle?

Successful weight loss where the weight is kept off for over a year can be fantastic for health purposes when you’re overweight. Crash and yo-yo diets however are unsustainable and can actually make you gain more weight in the long run.

If it takes 3 years to get to the current weight, then it’s not going to take 3 months to lose it sustainably. We need to focus on making long-term lifestyle changes, taking a gradual and consistent approach and understanding the causes of weight gain.


At PrivateDoc we use prescription medication to address the hormonal changes associated with weight management whilst taking a gradual and holistic look at weight loss.

We set manageable targets and combine prescriptions with dietary guidance and even mindfulness sessions for those who want to further address their triggers.

To find out more about our prescription weight loss treatments click the link below

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