Health & Fitness

Yo-yo dieting: playing games with your weight

Yo-yo dieting playing games with your weight

Sticking to the plan can be challenging. We know that. But starting and stopping the plan, on and off, go then stop…. well, that temporary approach hardly ever works.  Yo-yo dieting can be that “all or nothing” tactic to weight loss, which typically starts off strong and then abruptly stops. Then the motivation to start again returns and the cycle starts itself all over. This approach to food is far from buying into a lasting lifestyle change. One’s relationship with food, body image, and exercise, can be very personalized. What we do in private, still shows in public. Yo-yo dieting often leads to feelings of defeat, hopelessness, and mood swings that don’t impress anyone.

Any of this sound familiar? 30-day jump start, 21-day fixes, cabbage diet, grapefruit diet, the list goes on and on. We live in a world that tells us fast, speed, convenient, and quick are good. Here’s the basic truth: “The yo-yo effect is usually caused by weight loss plans that involve missing meals, fasting and crash diets that drastically lower your daily caloric intake” (

Here are the side effects/risks:


  1. Metabolism: “When you deprive your body of the calories it needs for energy, it adapts to the change by slowing down your metabolism. Metabolism is the process where your body burns the food you eat in order to produce energy. Your metabolism may not get back to normal even when you resume your normal lifestyle. A slower metabolism means more weight gain. In some cases, not only will you gain back the weight you lose during the diet, but you may even gain more than before” (
  2. Muscle Loss: When the body is not being sufficiently nourished, it may have to pull from other energy sources like your muscles. So now the body is burning through muscle and the less muscle the body has, the fewer calories it burns at a resting state and all day long. You get my point.
  3. Psychological: This approach doesn’t always “fix” what is truly going on. Rapid weight loss then re-gaining weight can lead to eating disorders, depression, and anxiety with fluctuations.
  4. Other risks: “Fluctuating weight can also result in a higher risk of developing cancer and heart disease. You might also suffer from losing hair and developing osteoporosis, among other health conditions. This is due to the fact that most crash diets are lacking in nutrients that are essential for healthy hair, bones and good health in general. Because of the low caloric intake, fatigue, and difficulty in concentrating might also result from yo-yo dieting” (


No shortcuts!


When there is an event that is near or a purpose behind losing the weight so quickly, temporary gimmicks come to mind first. The truth is that there are no shortcuts. No magic pills. No infomercial that will solve all of our body image problems. Understand this is usually water and muscle loss, not true fat loss. Be determined to adopt lasting, sustainable, lifestyle changes. Maybe the scale won’t move as fast, but at least the scale will keep moving the right direction for a long period of time. Patience is difficult with goals in mind, but trust the process and continue to become the best version of yourself.  





Megan Johnson McCullough is a NASM Master Trainer & Instructor, AFAA Group Exercise Instructor, candidate for her Doctorate in Health & Human Performance, professional natural bodybuilder, she’s a Women’s Health Magazine Action Hero, and she owns a fitness studio in Oceanside, CA, called Every BODY’s Fit. Her mission is to help every BODY become the best version of themselves. Her pug, Steve Nash, is the mascot and her assistant at the studio. She is happily married and loves spreading her passion for health, fitness, and wellness through training and writing.

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