Here’s What Yo-yo Dieting Actually Does To Your Body

yo-yo diet

If you’re like most moms, there’s been a time in life when you had to lose weight fast. Maybe summer was around the corner and you wanted to look a certain way for it, or you wanted to fit into the perfect dress for that bridal shower.


So you work hard: heavy lifting, lots of cardio and a super-restrictive diet. And you do drop that weight and fit into that perfect outfit…only to have the weight creep back up on you, plus a couple of extra pounds. And when you have to lose them again, the cycle starts all over!


This is called yo-yo dieting, and it can really mess with your body. Here’s what actually happens when you put yourself through dramatic dietary changes.


Homeostasis and Weight Loss


Everything our bodies do helps make sure we’re still alive tomorrow. Our internal systems are programmed to keep a perfect balance, to keep us healthy!


This is called homeostasis. This pretty much means that your body is constantly working to do what it needs to keep you alive. If you’re cold, your body shivers with intent to warm you and when you diet, your body slows down your metabolism in order to prevent you from starving.


How Fat Cells Work


You are born with an X amount of fat cells and when you diet, contrary to popular belief,  these cells don’t disappear, they simply shrink, then you look slimmer.


So, when you start ‘’eating again’’ the cells start to fill up or swell.


The problem is that, when coming off a very restrictive diet, you tend to stuff our face, as I will be talking about in the next point.


And, this excessive caloric intake (when the cells are in a depleted state) can trigger your body to produce more fat cells… to accommodate all the food you are taking in, in case you ‘’starve’’ again.


If this happens, you will now have even MORE fat cells to fill out, which can be one of the explanations why there can be more weight gain after the diet than when you began with it.


Every time you yo-yo diet, it’s harder to keep the pounds off because you might have even more fat cells to ‘’shrink’’.


The Minnesota Starvation Experiment


Let’s look at one of the ultimate studies on restrictive dieting, The Minnesota Starvation Experiment. It took place in 1945 when scientists were trying to understand how starvation affects the human mind and body. In the study, participants ate about 25% of their pre-starvation body weight for 24 weeks.


Afterward, all participants were given rehabilitative diets where calories increased incrementally. But here’s the important part: even though participants were warned not to overeat, some engaged in extreme overeating anyway.


In other words, extreme overeating after extremely restrictive dieting is a common pattern of behavior. With all the hormonal changes occurring during restrictive dieting, you have a hard time knowing when to stop eating, thanks to higher levels of ghrelin (hunger hormone) and lower levels of leptin (satiety hormone).


Basically, your body keeps on telling you that you’re hungry, without telling you you’re full.

Of course, you can crank up the intensity of your training and Nutrition, so you can get yourself ‘’ready’’ for an event… or just to see how far you can push yourself, but it is EXTREMELY important to have the correct guidance to know how to come out of the extreme caloric restriction, and add calories back into your diet without excessive weight gain.


The bottom line? Yo-yo diets or weight cycling do more harm than good. Losing massive amounts of weight should never happen quickly; it should be a sustainable part of your life.


After all, you gained your excess weight in more than a month’s time, so you shouldn’t expect to lose those pounds in a month!