Are You a Yo-Yo Dieter?

For many people, losing weight is a source of great pride and accomplishment. After all, dieting can be a grueling endeavor, and the pounds you've shed represent a lot of hard work. Once you've lost the weight, you have both a slimmer body and improved health to show for your efforts.

But if weight loss is so satisfying, why is "diet" still considered a four-letter word? Sadly, most dieters' success is fleeting. According to UCLA researchers who analyzed 31 long-term diet studies, only a very small percentage of study participants managed to sustain their weight loss, while the vast majority put the weight back on. In some cases, the subjects eventually gained even more weight than they'd initially lost.

The Dangers of Yo-Yo Dieting

If any of this sounds familiar, chances are, you're a yo-yo-dieter-and the constant ups and downs are may be undermining your weight-loss efforts and your health. In addition to the discouragement that may accompany rapid weight cycling, according to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), yo-yo dieting has been linked to long-lasting negative impacts on metabolism.

What's more, a study by the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research in Dallas showed that men who are yo-yo dieters are more likely to suffer heart attacks, high blood pressure, and diabetes than non-dieters. Further, yo-yo dieters may experience physical problems such as a decrease of muscular strength and endurance, thinning hair, loss of coordination, fainting, weakness, and slowed heart rates, the NEDA reports.

Stopping the Cycle

Creating a food plan is a great idea-it can help you lead a healthier life and reach your goal weight. But take a closer look. Does yours restrict certain foods completely or promote eating from only certain food groups? Did you find it in a magazine at the grocery-store checkout? Is it really more like a diet than a healthy food plan? If so, it could put you at risk for yo-yo dieting.

Instead, talk with your doctor or nutritionist about finding a meal plan that will meet your long-term dietary needs. In addition, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that you make sure your plan meets the following criteria:

  • It enables you to burn at least as many calories as you take in.
  • It encourages you to eat a variety of nutrient-rich foods.
  • It emphasizes vegetables and fruits, as well as whole-grain, high-fiber foods.
  • It includes fish, lean meats, and poultry without skin, cooked without added saturated or trans fats.
  • It helps you cut back on beverages and foods with added sugars.
  • It cuts back on foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable.

In addition to eating a healthy meal plan, you should be sure to combine it with at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week.