How to stop yo-yo dieting

Thursday, 3 June 2010

It’s natural for your weight to fluctuate a little. Most people’s weight goes up and down in small amounts every so often, and this is nothing to worry about. But if you feel like you’re constantly dieting, and your successes tend to be short-lived, it’s time to take a look at your dieting behaviour.

Crash dieting is not only an unhealthy way to lose weight, it is also unsustainable, and can actually cause your metabolism to slow down, making it harder and harder for you to lose weight and keep it off in the long term. You’re not alone- yo-yo dieting is becoming more and more common. But if what you’ve been doing to lose weight isn’t working, then it’s time to try something else. Here are a few strategies to help you break out of the yo-yo dieting cycle…



Identify Your Habits

It’s important to try to identify your dieting patterns so that you can learn to develop a healthier approach to weight loss. Think about when you have gained or lost weight in the past. Have gains or losses coincided with particular life events, either positive or negative? If you are triggered to eat more or less, or exercise more or less by emotional or circumstantial factors, it is important to note these down.

Recognising your weight loss patterns means you can more readily identify potential methods and tools that will work for you in the long term. For example, if you notice that you tend to gain weight during stressful times at work, you might need to come up with better strategies for stress management to address the underlying issue. Or, if you find that you lose weight when you’re busy, you can start by trying to add more physical activity into your day to keep your mind and body active.

It can also be helpful to analyse your attitude towards food, exercise, and weight loss. If you think about weight loss as a ‘diet’ that you will follow for a while and then stop once you reach your ideal weight, you are more likely to yo-yo than someone who sees weight loss as making positive long-term changes to their lifestyle. 

Focus on behaviour, not the scale


When you’re trying to lose weight, you will be more likely to achieve long term results if you concentrate on modifying your eating and exercise patterns, rather than just the numbers on the scale. While it’s important to have specific goals and a target weight you are working towards, on a day-to-day level it is more effective to focus on making smarter food choices than to be constantly thinking, ‘I must lose 10 kilos.’ Working at a small-scale, practical level means you are more likely to make real improvements to your diet and will see results that are lasting. Making small healthy lifestyle changes that you can do consistently will be easier to stick to than strict, restrictive diets, and will make a bigger difference in the long term.

When you do weigh yourself, use it as motivation. Even a small weight loss is getting you one step closer to your goal- so congratulate yourself on the achievement rather than beating yourself up for not losing enough quickly enough. And remember that maintaining a weight loss is an achievement as well, even if you haven’t yet lost any more.  


Say no to fad diets

It’s always tempting to follow the diets-of-the-moment, whether it’s the lemon detox diet, the soup diet, the cottage cheese diet, or any other ‘miracle’ weight loss secret celebrities are promoting. It seems like everyone you know has the answer to instant weight loss- but before you start filling your fridge with nothing but cabbage, stop and think. Realistically, the reason these diets ‘work’ is that you’re starving yourself. If you eat nothing but the one food for a few days or more, of course you will lose a lot of weight quickly. But this is not sustainable weight loss. As soon as you start eating properly again, the weight will come back.

Doing this repeatedly can cause your metabolism to slow down, making it harder and harder for you to slim down healthily. So instead of following these fad diets, aim for a healthy weight loss of no more than one to two kilos per week. Rather than depriving yourself, make sensible changes to your diet plan that you can stick to. For example, make a commitment to walk an extra 2,000 steps each day, or to shave 100 calories off your dinner. The weight loss might not be instant, but you will see results over time and they will be much more likely to last.


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