A healthy weight leads to optimal physical health and mental wellbeing. But, what determines a healthy weight. We often find ourselves obsessing over the scale weight that we don’t consider the dangers of yo-yo dieting.
Health factors like blood cholesterol and sugar levels, acute and chronic health conditions, such as hypertension, heart diseases, musculoskeletal disorders, stress, and anxiety. The scale weight can consume our goals and make us forget the detrimental effects that dieting can cause. And by that, I mean yo-yo dieting.
Yes, there are many types of dieting techniques or strategies, such as the paleo diet, intermittent fasting, weight watchers (WW) and veganism. Although each dieting method has its pros and cons, research shows that yo-yo dieting can significantly harm your physical and mental health.
Yo-yo dieting, also known as weight cycling, is when a person works hard to lose weight by implementing dietary restrictions only for the person to regain it. This can be due to the diet being too harsh, possibly too extreme and essentially unsustainable.
This weight cycling disturbs your metabolic and homeostatic functions. Research studies have highlighted the adverse effects and the dangers of yo-yo dieting on the body and mind. Read on!
During the weight loss process of a “quick fix/fad diet”, you lose both fats and muscle mass. However, when you regain weight due to not keeping up with restrictions, your body builds up more fat than muscles.
Weakened muscles can significantly affect your physical strength, causing musculoskeletal disorders, such as osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome, and degenerative disc disease.
Although you can reduce the risk of these health conditions by performing strengthening exercises, yo-yo dieting comes with a host of long-term complications.
Studies show that frequent weight cycling affects the leptin hormone, causing you to feel hungrier all the time. The reduced amount of leptin in your blood signals the brain and triggers the appetite-causing neurons in your brain.
Increased appetite causes you to eat more food and gain weight significantly. One study highlights that people who continue yo-yo dieting will regain 65% more weight, leading to higher risks of hypertension, diabetes, stroke, and depression.
Yo-yo diets can cause cardiovascular conditions, such as coronary artery disease characterized by narrows arteries. The accumulation of cholesterol or fats in blood cells narrows the arteries and limits blood supply to other vital organs.
Studies consistently report that cardiovascular conditions, such as ischemic heart disease, pulmonary disease, and stroke, are the leading causes of death worldwide. People who lose weight and regain it in frequent cycles are at higher risk of developing cardiovascular conditions.
Every 1 in 6 individuals in the U.S dies of untreated hypertension. The condition can lead to angina, heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease, and even blindness. Because yo-yo diets lead to weight gain after weight loss, the rapid fat build-up and deteriorating muscles lead to increased blood pressure.
A recent research study found that 66 adults who followed “fad diets and restrictive unsustainable quick fixes had difficulty improving their blood pressure levels. Frequent fluctuation in weight, blood sugar, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure are associated with heart failure and strokes.
Although there is a need for more research, health professionals and dieticians believe that yo-yo dieting can increase the risk of developing type-2 diabetes. A recent review study that examined and analyzed 17 research papers found that yo-yo dieting is associated with diabetes.
Although an enzyme called Lipase can help digest fats in the body, higher levels can lead to a condition “pancreatitis,” which inflames the pancreas. Rapid malnutrition as a result of yo-yo dieting damages the pancreas and affects the insulin-producing cells. Consequently, you may develop pancreatitis, which can eventually lead to diabetes.
Rapid weight loss and regain can significantly affect your hormones and cause chemical imbalances in your brain. For instance, reduced serotonin production, dopamine, and endorphin can cause mental health conditions, such as depression, stress, and anxiety.
The weight loss-gain cycle increases appetite levels, which elevate cortisol levels in the brain. Recent research shows that weight gain is one of the leading causes of increased cortisol levels, eventually causing major depressive disorders.
For example, many people consume coffee to reduce weight quickly. However, too much consumption of coffee means higher levels of caffeine content in the cells. Caffeine can significantly elevate cortisol, a chemical that causes chronic stress and depression.
A growing body of research evidence confirms the dangers of yo-yo diets on the body and brain. Finding your healthy balance and happy, sustainable body weight is an essential part of a holistic health approach to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It is crucial to avoid unhealthy dieting methods like a fad, quick fixes, very restrictive diets that result in the rise and fall of your body weight.
Lastly, those who want to ensure optimal physical health and mental wellbeing should opt for a balanced approach, including consuming a healthy diet and steadily performing regular exercise.
For more details about dieting, you might like to read a previous blog I wrote and how weight loss is about more than the food we eat.