Yo-Yo effect

What is the Yo-Yo Effect? How does it affect your body and health and how to avoid it?

What is the Yo-Yo Effect?

The Yo-Yo Effect is a health scientist Kelly Brownell (Kelly D. Brownell) introduced a term used to denote cyclical weight loss and gain (resembling a yo-yo movement up and down).

In this process, the weight is initially successfully lost, but the newly gained weight cannot be maintained for a long time. Sometimes within a few months, sometimes after a year, but the weight comes back. And often with a twist.

And, you're trying to lose weight again. It works for a while, but after a few months the weight comes back and the cycle starts again.

Such cyclical weight loss and gain is quite common, because most people who want to lose weight choose diets that are impossible to follow for a long time, and when they return to the "old" eating habits, the weight also returns.

Well, what's so great about it - there are so many different diets. It didn't work this time - maybe it will work next time...

Unfortunately, it probably won't.


Because cyclical weight loss and repeated “eating” makes weight loss more difficult each time.

How and why - more on that below.


Losing weight increases your appetite

Following any slimming diet reduces body fat. To a greater or lesser extent, depending on the diet that is followed.

Fat loss causes leptin lowering of the level.

Leptin is a hormone secreted by adipose tissue (body fat) that informs the body that sufficient energy stores (fat) are available and signals the brain to eat less.

If the level of leptin in the blood decreases - your appetite increases, as the body tries to restore depleted energy reserves.

During dieting, muscle mass is also usually lost and therefore your body needs less energy (muscles are the biggest energy consumers).

As a result, your energy consumption decreases, but your appetite increases. The feeling of hunger does not go away, you eat and eat again ... and - take in many more calories than your body needs. Guess where the unused energy accumulates -😊

And so over time, reduced energy consumption + increased appetite leads to weight gain

The statistics are pretty stark:


The percentage of body fat increases

The yo-yo effect increases the percentage of fat in your body.

You have successfully lost weight and regained it again, and the percentage of fat in your body is already higher than before.

Why does this happen?

It's simple - fat is formed much easier than muscles, because our body "automatically" stores unused energy in reserve, but in order to build muscles, they must be used. Of how muscles are formed, read HERE.

Respectively – with each new Yo-Yo cycle, at the same body weight:

  • The fat in your body is increasing;
  • The amount of belly fat increases the most.

This is the main reason why following fad diets weight reduction with each subsequent diet (Yo-Yo phase) becomes more and more difficult - because you have to get rid of more and more fat and belly fat is the most difficult to "get rid of".


Fatty liver

Fatty liver (fatty hepatosis or liver steatosis) is a lifestyle disease - when the body stores excess fat in the liver cells.

As fat deposits increase, inflammatory processes can develop, which in turn can contribute to the occurrence of more serious diseases - liver cirrhosis, failure, tumors.

The liver is responsible for the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fats - so liver health is very important.

Obesity is a risk factor for the development of fatty liver, and as the proportion of body fat increases, the risk of developing both fatty liver disease and other metabolic syndrome manifestations, such as diabetes and lipid metabolism disorders.


Increased risk of diabetes

The Yo-Yo effect is also associated with a greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes.

Several studies show this:


The risk of diabetes is higher in those who regain more weight after dieting than they lost while dieting.


Increased risk of heart disease

Cyclical weight loss followed by weight gain is also associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

And for those with a BMI (Body Mass Index) increases the risk of heart disease is higher than those who are stable (even if they are overweight).

Respectively – weight (fat mass) increase increases the risk of heart disease even more than stable overweight.

In a study involving 9,509 adults, found that the risk of heart disease increases with the size of weight fluctuations – the more weight lost and regained, the greater the risk.

There are also several studies, who show that large fluctuations in weight double the risk of death from heart disease. The greater the weight change or weight gain, the greater the risk.


Increased blood pressure

Weight gain, including weight regain after dieting, is also associated with increased blood pressure.

Even worse, the Yo-Yo effect can reduce the healthy effects of weight loss on your blood pressure in the future.

However, while high blood pressure can persist for years, it seems to go away over time. Is the long-term studies, indicating that this effect may disappear after 15 years. That is, weight changes in youth are unlikely to increase the risk of heart disease in middle age or later.


Low self-esteem

Following fast diets is not easy, and when the weight comes back, you realize that the invested work and suffering were in vain.

If it happens again, a feeling of powerlessness begins to appear. You try, but there is no result.

And the reason for the failure must be found.

This is how myths arise about conditions that cannot be changed - heredity, slow metabolism, heavy/wide bones...etc.

The Yo-Yo effect can create a feeling of disappointment and doom, but failure does not indicate your personal weakness or the impossibility of change. This is not a personal failure - it is simply a reason to try something else.

To change your lifestyle and convert healthy eating habits – for such eating habits that you will be able to follow for the rest of your life and thus reduce your weight little by little, gradually but inevitably. And avoid unwanted weight gain and loss.


Short-term thinking hinders long-term change

Most diets are very restrictive - a set of mandatory rules that are difficult to follow long term. In some diets, nutrients are restricted to such an extent that if they are followed for a long time, very real health problems arise.

Yes, weight is lost in the short term, but…

When applying for consultations and slimming challenges, girls often write to me that they want "a diet so that the weight does not come back". Unfortunately, this is not possible.

If your current lifestyle and eating habits have made you the way you don't want to be - a short-term promotion will not help. What makes you think that returning to your previous eating habits will not bring back your previous weight? But these eating habits have already caused it once. And will create again unless changed.


To break the cycle of temporary success and subsequent disappointment, stop thinking about diets and start thinking about lifestyle.

Do not focus on kilograms, but on a healthy diet and circumferences.


In conclusion

It is unclear from the available research whether cyclical weight loss and regain is better than maintaining a stable excess weight.

But it's clear that losing excess weight improves your heart health, lowers your risk of diabetes, and improves both your physical and mental well-being.

And that the best way to reduce excess weight is not short-term promotions, but changing lifestyle and eating habits.

It should be remembered that muscle mass usually decreases during weight loss.

Muscle loss can be reduced with physical activity, including strength training.

Losing weight also increases the body's need for protein. Therefore, to reduce muscle loss, include enough in your diet quality protein.



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Consequences of Weight Cycling: An Increase in Disease Risk?

How dieting makes the lean fatter

Deep body composition phenotyping during weight cycling

Does weight cycling promote obesity and metabolic risk factors?

Effects of intended weight loss on morbidity and mortality

Pathophysiology of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Effects of yo-yo diet, caloric restriction, and olestra on tissue distribution of hexachlorobenzene

Liver damage is not reversed during the lean period in diet-induced weight cycling in mice

Metabolic syndrome and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

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Weight loss and biomedical health improvement on a very low calorie diet: the moderating role of history of weight cycling

Effect of the timing of weight cycling during adulthood on mortality risk in overweight and obese postmenopausal women

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Dietary protein and resistance training effects on muscle and body composition in older persons

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Master Amino acid Pattern as substitute for dietary proteins during a weight-loss diet to achieve the body's nitrogen balance equilibrium with essentially no calories

Changes in Diet and Lifestyle and Long-Term Weight Gain in Women and Men

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