Stopping the Yo-yo Dieting Cycle

by Ashley Carpenter, RD

How many times have you heard this? “I was on this new diet, and it worked really well, but when I started slipping off the diet, I gained all my weight back!”

Losing weight and then regaining it is called weight cycling, and it can be caused by yo-yo dieting between fad diets. Fad diets may help with losing weight in the short term, but they do not promote long-term success like consistent healthy eating habits provide. Additionally, most fad diets tend to restrict or eliminate certain foods like fruits, vegetables, dairy products and whole grains, which are loaded with nutrients that help prevent many chronic conditions.

Fad diets tend to have a diet overhaul, which can be overwhelming. Switching to a restrictive diet may lead to feelings of deprivation. Dieters don’t just notice food; food actually begins to look more appetizing. Giving in or falling off a diet may also lead to feelings of disappointment.

Although being at a healthy weight will help reduce the risk of chronic conditions like obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes, weight cycling can have a negative impact on women’s health overall.

A 2013 study showed that women who lost and then regained weight one or more times were twice as likely to develop endometrial cancer. Weight cycling can also have a negative impact on metabolism. New research has found that women whose weight fluctuates experience a drop in metabolism. A lower metabolism means your body is able to function on fewer calories, which may impact future weight-management efforts. Typically, people who follow fad diets do not have long-term success.

So what can women do to ensure healthy weight loss and maintenance? Start by picking a priority area and make small healthy changes that are practical and will stand the test of time. After a week or two of following your new habit, choose another priority area to add.

Not eating enough fruits and vegetables? Make a point of adding one fruit and one vegetable into your diet each day. Eating too much processed food? Cut out one junk food or processed snack item each day and replace with a cup of plain yogurt or a small handful of nuts. Drinking too many sweetened beverages? Replace with sparkling water, which will in turn help with staying hydrated.
Break the yo-yo dieting that causes weight cycling, forgo the urge to try a fad diet for quick weight loss, and stick with the tried-and-true method of nutritious eating that promotes healthy living.

Carpenter, a registered dietitian and Wellcoaches Certified Health and Wellness Coach with FirstHealth Fitness, can be reached at 910-715-2674 or email or visit