What is yo-yo dieting, and are you guilty of it?


How many times have you or a friend signed up for some crazy diet (cabbage soup diet anyone?) and lost all the weight in the first few weeks, only to eventually reach a plateau? You’re stuck having lost  those 10 lbs and nothing more. Then, you got tired of being hungry all.the.time. and went back to eating ALL.THE.FOOD….and gained back all the weight you had lost plus more. Does this sound familiar? If yes, then you are guilty of yo-yo dieting. (Sorry!) In this blog I am gonna be explaining a little bit of what yo-yo dieting is and why you should stop with the crazy diets. (Yes! I am talking to you, Brenda, and your cabbage soup!)

Slashing ALL the calories is not the answer

Cutting way down on calories might seem like a fine idea. After all, we all know the formula for weight loss. Take in less calories than you burn, and you’ll lose weight. Simple enough. But wait. It’s actually NOT that simple. You see, there is a such thing as eating too little. Our bodies have a built-in survival mechanism that makes sure we don’t starve to death as soon as food becomes scarce. (Not that most of Western society are at any risk of starvation, mind you!) Your body thinks you’re running low on food, and does this as an act of self-protection. This is known in dieting circles as “starvation mode”. In science, it’s called “starvation-induced metabolic changes”. This means that your body is trying to conserve energy sources. So everything slows down. Our rate of blinking slows, reaction time slows, we fidget less. So all these body mechanisms slow down, and that includes metabolism. And we don’t want a slow metabolisms!

When the body goes into starvation mode, your body can actually be signaled to make MORE fat cells! Your body can produce these extra fat cells in order to store more fat. Basically your body starts acting like a squirrel, gathering all its acorns for the winter. It’s collecting all those acorns (fat) so that it has something to eat during the winter when there isn’t much food. Sadly, in this case our bodies don’t connect very well with our minds and we can’t simply tell our bodies that WE ARE FINE!

A vicious cycle

When you inevitably come off your extreme diet, your body takes time to realize food is no longer “hard to obtain”. So it stores up all those extra calories you’re eating in case you “run out of food” again! Meanwhile, you are sick and tired (and traumatized!) by your extreme diet, so you’re eating fast food more than usual and having dessert with every meal. So those calories are getting packed on. And you end up gaining more weight than you started with. Eventually it hits you that you’re now 10 lbs heavier than before, and cue another extreme diet.

So, as you can see, yo-yo dieting is NOT the answer. Slow and steady wins the race here. Reduce your calories just enough so that you have a deficit, and focus on eating mostly nutrient dense foods, and the weight will come off. No, you won’t lose 20 lbs in 2 weeks, but no one should! Women are not recommended to go below 1200 calories per day. That number is higher if you are very physically active (and you should be!) and if you are taller, for example, as well as if you are breastfeeding (I won’t mention pregnancy because of course you know you shouldn’t be dieting hards during pregnancy!) For more on healthy eating, and the ideal macros for weight loss, check the  Mother Strong League, where you not only get a Nutritional plan made for you, but you also LEARN everything about making your eating habits susteinable.