The yo-yo effect

Sep 28, 2007 at 9:29 p.m. ET

Ninety-five percent of those who lose weight on a diet gain it back within two years, while adding more weight. Don't get discouraged. They generally had short-term diet goals, and thus no long-term results. You'll be different, right?

Briefly stated, here's how the yo-yo effect works:

  • During an unrealistic restrictive diet many fail to consume enough protein and/or calories to sustain the required levels of lean body mass (LBM).
  • The lack of calories for fuel causes the body to burn muscle in conjunction with fat and carbohydrates for energy, especially if sufficient amounts of protein are not being consumed. (This we do not want.) Muscle is a calorie-burning machine. If we starve it away, we will severely hinder the weight-loss process.
  • As the body recognizes that calories are being restricted, it forces the metabolism to slow down, and thus burn fewer calories. When caloric intake is severely restricted, in addition to burning muscle, our body adjusts to the changes by not burning as many calories as it once did. As a result, our brain signals for food, and hunger is dramatically increased; weight is regained, and more is added to prepare for any future starvation.

NOTE: Consuming 10 percent to 20 percent below your maintenance level is not starving the body; severely restricting calories and nutrients is.

Preventing the yo-yo effect

  1. Incorporate lifestyle changes that last. Don't diet for a short period of time.
  2. Avoid starvation and unrealistic diets; the fastest way is not the best way.
  3. Consume ample amounts of protein, carbohydrates and fat per meal
  4. Don't skip meals.
  5. Don't make poor short-term decisions that have long-term consequences.
  6. Don't use caffeine or stimulates to control appetite. Allow the body to operate the way it was designed.
  7. And, as we all know, eat small, frequent meals.

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