It’s not unusual for weight to fluctuate over time. But health officials say the clinical loss and gain of more substantial amounts of weight in a dieting pattern could play a negative role in one’s health in the future.
According to Brittney Zack, a clinical dietician at the Uniontown Hospital, the fluctuation is called “yo-yo dieting,” which resembles the up-and-down motion of a yo-yo.
“This fluctuation process typically begins when a person has a desire to lose weight very quickly and thus engages in extreme calorie deprivation,” she wrote. “Although these results can and will occur, a body is essentially starving in the process, which means that intended fat and unintended lean muscle mass stores can be broken down and lost.”
The very act of weight loss — especially the loss of muscle that accompanies all weight loss — triggers the body to fight back by increasing hunger, slowing metabolism and encouraging fat storage.
That calorie level decrease could lead to bad news when an individual allows him/herself to satisfy a craving, and ends up regaining the weight little by little.
Michele Pfarr, a clinical nutrition manager at Monongahela Valley Hospital, said another factor that could lead to yo-yo dieting is the failure to address core problems.
“If they’re not addressed, you fall back into a pattern,” Pfarr said, noting that common issues are eating when you’re emotional, bored or tired.
Poor eating habits from earlier years could also be the culprit, she said. “They tend to come to the forefront,” she noted.
Yoyo dieting is also not a phenomenon that occurs over one given amount of time — it instead could be years or months, depending on the individual. Zack added that the human body will “rebound with a starvation response that can result in a quick regain of weight, primarily in the form of fat stores.”
“Doing this repeatedly over time, or cycling (yo-yo dieting), can affect a body’s overall fat-to-muscle ratio, which ultimately dictates how well the metabolism functions and how easily weight can be maintained in the future,” Zack added.
Research has indicated that yo-yo dieting in people who have BMI’s at high or below the normal range appears to increase risk of Type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Pfarr, however, noted that studies are “pretty divided with a true correlation of yo-yo dieting and health risks.”
“You may go through this pattern many times, and it’s regained as fat tissue instead of lean muscle like we desire,” Pfarr said. “There are increased risks of health disease, but it can vary in terms of the original weight status.”
Quick and easy weightloss solutions with lifelong results simply don’t exist, according to Zack.
"One must be dedicated and committed to learning the process of nutritious, mindful eating and pair it with regular exercise,” Zack wrote. “Once these are learned and comfortable, they become part of a healthy lifestyle, not just an ‘I’m on a diet.’”
"‘Everything in moderation’ begins to be understood,” she added.
Overall, it’s about making a lifestyle change. Pfarr said it’s crucial to be able to implement and maintain good, healthy lifestyle patterns.
“Even if it’s just one new change,” Pfarr said. “Once you’re comfortable, move on to the next one.”
She suggested increasing exercise, even if it’s just through walking or general activity.
Reduced fat in a diet while increasing fruits and vegetables is also a good way to manage calories, she said.
“As you start to adopt changes, your overall lifestyle will change and you’ll be able to maintain your weight,” Pfarr said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.