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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 the work of health scientist Kelly Brownell (Kelly D. Brownellto describe cyclical weight loss and gain (resembling a yo-yo up and down movement).

In this process, the weight is initially successfully lost, but the newly acquired weight cannot be maintained for a long time. Sometimes within a few months, sometimes after a year, but the weight returns. And often it gets bigger than before.

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

This cycle of weight loss and weight gain is quite common because most people who want to lose weight choose diets that cannot be followed for a long time, and when returning to the "old" eating habits, weight also returns.

Well, what's so special 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 due to cyclical weight loss and return, it becomes more and more difficult to lose weight every time.

How and why - keep reading.


Weight loss increases appetite

Following any diet for weight loss reduces body fat. To a greater or lesser extent, depending on the diet you follow.

Fat loss causes leptin levels to drop.

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, appetite increases, as the body tries to restore depleted energy reserves.

During a weight loss diet, you usually lose muscle mass as well, 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 - consume much 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 gained it again, and - the percentage of fat in your body is now higher than before.

Why does this happen?

It's simple - fat is formed much easier than muscle, because our body "automatically" stores unused energy in reserve, but in order to build muscles, they need to be used. Read more about how muscles are formed 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 after fad diets , weight loss 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 deposits excess fat in liver cells.

As fat deposits increase, inflammatory processes can develop, which in turn can lead to more serious diseases – cirrhosis of the liver, insufficiency, and 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 getting acquainted with both fatty liver disease and other manifestations of the metabolic syndrome, such as diabetes and lipid metabolism disorders, also increases.


Increased risk of diabetes

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

This is evidenced by several studies:


The risk of diabetes is higher in those who gained more weight after dieting than they lost during the diet.


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).

Accordingly, weight gain (fat mass) 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, that 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 regaining after dieting, is also associated with high blood pressure.

Even worse, the Yo-Yo effect can reduce the health 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. There are long-term studies, which indicates 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 fad diets are 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 sense of frustration and doom, but failure does not indicate your personal weakness or the impossibility of change. This is not a personal failure — it's just an opportunity to try something else.

Change your lifestyle and focus on healthy eating - habits that you can follow for the rest of your life and, thus, gradually, but inevitably lose weight. And thus avoid unwanted weight gain and loss.


Short-term thinking hinders long-term change

Most diets are very strict — a set of mandatory rules that are difficult to follow for a long time. In some diets, nutrients are limited 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 signing up for consultations and weight loss challenges, girls often write to me that they want "a diet after which the weight will not return." Unfortunately, this is not possible.

If your current lifestyle and eating habits have made you someone you don't want to be, short-term changes won't help. What makes you think that going back to your old eating habits won't get you back to your old weight? These eating habits have already caused this once. And they will result again if will not 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.


Key takeaways

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

But it is clear that losing excess weight improves heart health, reduces the risk of developing diabetes, and improves both physical and mental well-being.

And that the best way to reduce excess weight is not short–term promotions, but a change in lifestyle and eating habits.

It should be remembered that muscle mass usually decreases with 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 in your diet enough quality protein.

Diet, activity, and other health-related behaviors in college-age women

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

Medical, metabolic, and psychological effects of weight cycling

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

Medical, metabolic, and psychological effects of weight cycling

Psychological effects of weight cycling in obese persons

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

Optimized dietary strategies to protect skeletal muscle mass during periods of unavoidable energy deficit

The effects of a higher protein intake during energy restriction on changes in body composition and physical function in older women

Effects of protein intake and gender on body composition changes

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

History of weight cycling does not impede future weight loss or metabolic improvements in postmenopausal women

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