Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Policy Point Wednesday: A Yo-yo Diet Might Be Better Than No Diet

Yo-yo dieting, or "weight cycling" as it's called in clinical terms, receives a lot of media attention - many celebrities famous for their weight loss are also famous for weight gain, prompting celebrity-watching doctors to discuss the negative health effects of regaining weight that's been lost over time.

Initial studies linked weight cycling to health risks and disease, and this information is frequently cited on television shows and in magazines.   However, there is a study error that indicates these health risks may be overstated, as studies did not screen out individuals who came into the study with risk factors, such as weight loss due to illness.  At least some of the reported health risks of weight cycling are due to the inclusion of this group.  

Another concern, that weight cycling changes metabolism and reduces a dieter's ability to lose weight, was studied by a large group of doctors from various institutions in the US and Canada.  This study, involving over 400 women, found that weight cycling does not negatively affect future weight loss. These women were put on various regimens of diet and exercise.  Women who had a history of regular weight cycling were just as able as other women to take part in diet and exercise programs and showed no difference in physiological measures of factors thought to increase weight gain and metabolic rate, such as insulin, blood pressure, and hormones.  (Differences between women did appear, but could be accounted for by a higher or lower BMI.  Weight cycling did not appear to be a factor.)  

The take-away from this study?  It may be that taking two steps forward and one step back in both healthier diet and improved exercise, may be a legitimate way to reduce your BMI and improve your overall health.


Courtney at RRI said...

Hey Michele! While it may be true that yo-yo dieting won't negatively affect you physically, I think the emotional toll it takes on people is a different story--after all, if you keep trying to lose weight only to put it back on, it's easy to just throw your hands up and give up. That seems to be the real danger, honestly.

That's why I think it's so important for people to focus less on any one diet or exercise plan that's the "magic bullet" and to approach the problem from the other end of the equation: what made them gain weight to begin with? After all, most of us know what you need to eat and do in order to not be unhealthy, but what you know and what you do are often pretty different. The video in my link does a great job explaining the different mental hangups people can have sometimes when it comes to weight loss--it might be worth checking out.

Michele Hays said...

Hi, Courtney - thanks for your comment. I agree that it's not an ideal diet plan - I think the study is just pointing out not to give up on a healthier diet even if you tend to re-gain weight after you lose it.

Prior studies seemed to push people in that direction.

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