Yo-Yo Dieting May Lead to Chronic Inflammation, Disease, Unhealthy Weight


Most American Women Have Yo-Yo Dieted

yo-yo dieting linked to chronic inflammationWho among the frequent readers of this blog hasn’t lost and gained weight numerous times?  If you’re like many American women, this describes you.  It certainly does me in my younger days when I was determined to lose weight.  Which I did over and over again in between bouts of gaining it back.

In professional parlance, this is called weight cycling.  Many of us also know it as yo-yo dieting.  Regardless what we call it, it’s not as harmless as many of us might think.

Yo-Yo Dieting Linked to Health Issues

Yo-yo dieting is linked to inflammation which is linked to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, unhealthy body fat.

 There’s growing consensus that inflammation is at the root of many of the chronic diseases that are affecting us today — everything from arthritis, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and, yes, even unhealthy levels of fat on our bodies.

Taming that inflammation is the major focus of new approaches to self-care.  So for those of us who have already flamed the fire through frequent weight loss and regain, there is hope for recovery.  If we continue to yo-yo diet, however, we only fuel the flames.

4 Ways to Stop Yo-Yo Dieting

The drive to lose weight is so ingrained in the American psyche, it’s hard to change your focus. We understand. But here are our basic recommendations to help you do that.

  1. Stop trying to lose weight. Practically, that translates into stop dieting.  When you continue to diet, you continue the behaviors that may have contributed greatly to getting you where you are right now with your health.  As the saying goes, “If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always gotten.” If you think you don’t diet anymore, but still make food choices based on “good” or “bad” or “fattening” or any such label, or if you “watch” your calories, you are likely still trapped in the diet mentality.
  2. Focus instead on adopting healthy behaviors. Mindful eating (also called intuitive eating and attuned eating) leads to healthier eating for many weight strugglers.  Also start to move your body to feel good, not to burn calories.  And focus on managing the stress that often leads us to emotional eating and creates a host of other problems as well.
  3. Adopt a non-diet approach that’s focused on health. Make sure any plan or program you decide to follow for health is truly non-diet. A lot of programs say they’re not diets, but any program that has you counting points or other numbers or otherwise limiting your food intake in order to (try to) control or lose weight is a weight loss diet.
  4. If you have health problems, focus on healing the health problems. While weight loss could be an outcome of getting healthier, it’s not the cure for health problems per se. So if you struggle with issues such as gastrointestinal disturbances, muscle/joint pains, or even unexplained hunger and food cravings — all problems that can interfere with our ability to live a healthy lifestyle — get to the root of the problem instead of trying to resolve one symptom.

Doing all this adds up to changing our focus from weight to health.  It’s what the Health at Every Size approach is about.  It can do a body good.

What’s your focus — your weight or how you feel?  Can you separate the two?

5 responses to “Yo-Yo Dieting May Lead to Chronic Inflammation, Disease, Unhealthy Weight”

  1. I love this post. Such a great reminder that eating well and exercise should always be about health and how we feel. If we focus on good health, the rest will naturally fall into place — leading to healthy contentment.

    Thanks for this!

  2. Sagan says:

    I definitely can’t ALWAYS separate the two… but I’m well within my healthy range so at least it’s good to know that any time I gain a few pounds, it’s not hazardous to my health.

    I really like what you’ve said about “stop trying to lose weight”- that’s key! I think that if we focus on being happy and healthy, that’s when weight loss kicks in (if we need to lose weight). Our bodies tend to follow how our MINDS are… it’s the mental adjustment that’s the first step!
    .-= Sagan’s last blog post..The Living Healthy in the Real World Guide to Grocery Shopping, Part One: Preparation =-.

  3. […] to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, unhealthy body fat,” writes Marsha Hudnall, RD, in today’s post on A Weight […]

  4. Marsha says:

    “Healthy contentment” — now that’s a goal, Dara!

    I’m with you, Rachel. At least I don’t want any part of chronic inflammation. Inflammation is essential to healing but chronic inflammation is a different story. And there’s way too much of it going around these days for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is because of a misplaced focus on weight instead of health.

    You are so right, Sagan. There’s no separating mind and body. And our minds have much more power than we give them credit for.

    That is so fabulous, Karen!

  5. Sarah Dickerson says:

    Perfect timing – I was just contemplating yet another diet, even though I know it won’t work. Thank you for the reminder!

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About the Author

Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD

If you’re looking for an embodiment of dedication disguised as obsession, look no further. Marsha is a registered dietitian who has spent the last four decades working to help women give up dieting rules and understand how to truly take care of themselves. Her mission in life is to help women learn to enjoy eating and living well, without worries about their weight. She encourages women to embrace their love of food, which you might call being a foodie. If so, it’s appropriate because being a foodie means you pay attention when you eat. That’s a recipe made in heaven for eating well. Marsha is the President and Co-Owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run.

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