Restrictive Diets May Cause Weight Gain

Crystal Champagne
Unfortunately, statistics show that an estimated 80% of people who have lost weight, regain all of it (or more) after 2 years. “My weight has been like a roller coaster the past 3 years.”, said one of my new clients during a phone assessment.  In 2009 he lost 70 pounds by diligently counting every calorie that went into his mouth, combined with a demanding running routine that would have exhausted even an Iron Man athlete.  A year later, busy with his ever expanding business and demanding family life, this person started to blow off the training sessions. He stopped monitoring his food portions, and shot back up to where he initially started. Needless to say he was totally disappointed, frustrated and is now totally discouraged.

Along with the emotional toll there are many physical ones that occur from yo-yo dieting. Extra weight becomes a health issue which stresses the body’s joints. It also stresses the heart due to the increased chances of elevated blood pressure and an increased risk of diabetes.

Another negative effect of yo-yo dieting is a sluggish metabolism. The next time this person wants to lose weight, it will be much harder than the first time. When we let our weight go on a roller coaster ride, ultimately our body’s defense mechanisms kicks in. It starts to protect and reserve (calories) for the next time it goes into survival mode. The body perceives the diet as a threat and slows down the rate by which it burns calories.

Small fluctuations on the scale are normal; unhealthy behaviour known as “cycling” is not. Cycling is marked with an increase or decrease of body weight...about 10 lbs or more, that occurs multiple times. This yo-yo pattern is often a result of diets that are too restrictive.

We live in a society that has become accustomed to quick results and instant gratification. Desperate for quick weight loss, some men and women go on diets that have too few calories. Though helping almost instant weight loss, this type of eating cannot be sustained for long term. When pre-diet eating habits resume, so does the weight.

Yo-Yo Dieting Infographic

Even on a sensible diet your body drops weight reluctantly. One of the reasons it is hard to keep weight off, is due to what is called metabolic overcompensation for lost weight. Ideally if you lost 10% of your body mass you would think your metabolism would slow down only 10% as well, but it doesn’t. It can slow down as much as 15% or more than before.

With so many downsides you might ask yourself if it is really worth trying to lose weight. However the hazards that come from obesity definitely surpass the cost of yo-yo'ing.  The key is to stop the pattern of poor dieting habits.  It is definitely possible to do so, and below are a few tips to help you stay on track to lose the weight and keep it off.

  • Patience: The slower the process the better.  For example; lose 10% of your weight in 6 months not in 6 weeks.
    I weigh 120 pounds, so using the above mentioned ratio that would mean I would lose 2 pounds a month. It doesn’t sound like much, but trust me, it will be easier to keep them off since my metabolism has not slowed down as a result of my dieting.
  • Fads don’t last: Fad diets or crash dieting cannot be maintained long term. Make your changed eating habits a way of life that you can continue for the long term, not just for the time being
  • Get support: It is a known fact that interacting with others who have lost weight or who are trying to, will increase your chances to stay on track.
  • Stick with the program: Have a clear plan of action in case you fall off the wagon. If you lose 20 pounds and regain 2 lbs it’s easy to ignore especially if you have a yo-yo weight history. Keep track of your weight and stick to your end goal.
  • Dieting alone does not work, include exercise: You don’t have to train like a professional athlete. If you are not used to exercising even adding a 30 minute walk a day, will increase your metabolism and build muscle. If you are training already, increase your resistance training and add to the weight you are presently using in your program by 10%. More muscle mass = increased metabolic rate.
  • Stay positive: Most importantly; maintain a healthy outlook on your weight loss. Do not let past failed attempts prevent you from trying again. We learn from our mistakes. Ask yourself what you did wrong the last time and change the pattern.


“Fall seven times, stand up eight.” ~ Japanese Proverb

Photo: Ambro /

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Crystal Champagne - Personal Trainer
Crystal combines 10 years of competitive equestrian riding to her certifications as a personal and group trainer to inspire individuals in achieving their fitness objectives. As well, she enjoys working as a strength coach for elite athletic sports teams.

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