Stopping the Yo-Yo Dieting Cycle

You know this happens all the time – gaining and losing the same 5 or 10 pounds over and over again.

Let’s say you need to lose 20 pounds or more, but instead of losing all your weight, you keep losing 7 pounds and then gaining back the same 7 pounds over and over again. Or you may even lose 15 pounds and then keep staying in the same 5 pound range for months, seemingly unable to lose any more weight.

This scenario really should be listed under the dictionary definition of “dieting frustration” shouldn’t it?

I first experienced this frustrating phenomena after I got married. I gained weight fairly quickly because of a sedentary lifestyle and a newly found love of restaurant foods. I’d go on a diet, lose a few pounds, and then the very next week I’d gain back those same pounds. Oftentimes the pounds I gained back brought a few “friends” and I ended up gaining more pounds than I had initially lost. It was a frustrating cycle.

And as you know, I eventually ended up 150 pounds overweight, which made the 5 pounds I’d gain and lose over and over again seem inconsequential, although they still frustrated me.

During the 14 months it took me to lose half my body weight, I did have some short periods where I did seem to gain 3 pounds, lose 3 pounds, gain 5 pounds, lose 5 pounds, etc. Fortunately none of these mini yo-yos lasted very long, and I was able to lose all the weight I needed to.

If this describes your dieting experience, I want to encourage you that it doesn’t always have to be like that, and you can move past this. Here are some possible reasons for a mini yo-yo and some ways to try and break the cycle.

Problem #1: You have reached a balance point with your weight. You are eating and burning the right balance of calories to maintain your weight instead of lose.

Fix: Try eating a few less calories or ramp up your exercise. Try the new National Institutes of Health weight loss tool.

Problem #2:   You are becoming complacent. This isn’t awful because it happens to the best of us. It can be hard to continually make good choices.

Fix:  Try writing down all your reasons for trying to lose weight, recommit yourself to a healthy lifestyle, and add some new foods and/or exercise into your life.

Problem #3: You are fearful. This is very common and not often acknowledged. I’ve seen this a lot and it usually occurs close to the mid-point of the journey.

Fix: Confront your fears and acknowledge that although it may be scary to lose weight, you are strong enough to handle the changes in your life that will occur as you continue to lose.

Problem #4:  You have stress in your life. I found that stress was a very big predictor of weight loss success and the tendency to get stuck in a mini yo-yo cycle.

Fix: Acknowledge the stress and find ways to “destress.” Massage, yoga, time with friends or family, exercise, or even a hot bath can help.

Problem #5:  You are purposefully maintaining for a while, even though you aren’t “done.” This is a good thing because this time gives you practice for lifetime maintenance.

Fix: Don’t let the temporary maintenance become permanent unless you are satisfied with your weight.

Remember that in order to get out of the mini yo-yo cycle, you have to figure out what is holding you back from forward progress. Oftentimes it is a combination of things rather than just one issue.

Understanding where you are is very important. The main point is to stay committed because if you just give up, you will likely end up regaining some or all of the weight you have lost.

Ever had a mini yo-yo cycle? Did you get past the cycle or did it cause you to stumble? Diane

5 thoughts on “Stopping the Yo-Yo Dieting Cycle

  1. Sahron says:

    I am currently stumbling – in fact, it’s more like falling flat on my face! I know what I have to do but just can’t seem to motivate myself to do it. Ugh! I recognize myself in Problem #2 and need to concentrate on your Fix suggestions.

  2. Martha G says:

    My problem wasn’t mini yo-yo dieting, rather I would lose 50 or 60 pounds and keep it off for a short time and then immediately gain it all back. Lost count of the number of times I did that. What worked for me – finally – was to stop thinking of this as a diet. instead I focused on getting healthy and that meant choosing to eat healthy most of the time, tracking my food and moving every day.

    Over time, I changed the way I eat to be more plant-based and now I love to exercise and that is a non negotiable part of every day.

  3. Annie says:

    Oh, the yo-yo makes me crazy, I have lost 55 pounds since January, but the last month or two it seems to have really slowed down with a lot of that yo-yo going on!!! – Annie @

  4. AnnaDownUnder says:

    I’m 8 pounds from goal after having lost 129 pounds. I had hoped to be at goal before making a trip home to the States to see my family for the first time in years, but while not quite there I am pretty close. My fears now are being overseas for four weeks and eating things I miss from home. I have two or three things I would like to have once but other than that I plan to stick to my new way of eating as best I can. When I get back I am determined to reach my goal. I have yo-yo dieted my whole life, lost and regained many times, but only once before have I ever reached my goal weight and that was in 1984. This time I am determined to stay there. I’ll be coming back to your blog for tips Dianne since you have been a successful maintainer. 🙂

  5. Tina S says:

    Thank you for this posting. The various tips and ideas you’ve given are pretty insightful. And, yes, I’ve been looping around the “same 5 pounds” for months now — take it off, put it on; repeat. Need to get on the stick and am printing off your post to put in front of my notebook where I track my activity and meals.

    Thank you!

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