More research is coming out to show that yo yo dieting in general is harmful to your body (your mind and your metabolism), and that it most likely isn’t making you healthier in most situations. However, yo-yo dieting, where you are constantly back and forth between being on and off a diet, can be even worse for you.
This is when you either bounce to different types of diets constantly, or you are on a perpetual restrict and binge cycle. Your body is going through a lot of changes at a rapid pace, which can be far unhealthier than if you had stayed overweight.
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I know what you're probably thinking, "yes but I don't do yo yo dieting, i use xxxx plan and it is a lifestyle, not a diet". Is this you? Well I have news for you, any time you are purposely reducing or restricting anything from your body, you are yo yo dieting! No matter what it is that you seek to reduce or avoid, you will always boomerang back to it at some point in time and find yourself binging or overeating that food. See why all diets are actually yo yo dieting in disguise?
To start with, when you diet, especially back and forth between eating and restricting, your hormones are completely out of control. Severe calorie restriction and yo-yo dieting where you have a lot of changes in what you eat over a long period of time can cause your cortisol levels to increase. Cortisol is a stress hormone, and can actually increase your risk for heart disease and diabetes!
Yo-Yo dieting also changes your appetite and what you crave. It may seem like you are out of control, but this is not about willpower, it is actually from dieting itself. In your body, you have two different hunger hormones – leptin and ghrelin. Ghrelin is the hormone that increases your appetite, while leptin decreases your appetite, and ca help you feel full. If you are dieting, the hormone leptin often decreases, while ghrelin increases, creating an imbalance. Feel like you are constantly starving? Your diet might be why, and not just because you aren’t eating enough.
Wonder why when you start a diet, you seem to hit a plateau quickly? This is probably the result of your metabolism slowing down because of all the feast and famine periods your body has gone through. Your body is very smart and knows what it’s doing. But when you put it through the ringer from yo-yo diets, you are actually making it harder to lose weight thanks to your metabolism slowing down. Stop under-eating, give up the diets, and start to eat intuitively.
When you have pre-determined portions, types of food, and meal eating windows, you lose all sense of when you are actually hungry or full. When you are on a diet, you don’t rely on your hunger, but instead on numbers. How many calories you can have, how many carbs, making sure your sugar is low and protein is high, watching your fiber, or watching your portion sizes. You might also get into timed meals, eating every 2-3 hours, or intermittent fasting. All of this damages your ability to know when you are hungry or full.
I remember a time when eating very small amounts of food during a small window of time in the day used to be called anorexia. Now we call it intermittent fasting. Sorry, but it's just not healthy no matter how you look at it. The only difference with intermittent fasting is that your body is in a place where it is still able to override your intentions and cause you to binge at some point. This is the very definition of disordered eating and may lead you down a very dangerous path in the future.
You may have the intention to be on a diet and stick to it, but you are fighting against your very nature. When your body is hungry and you refuse to feed it, or you do not eat until you are full, you are causing your body to store food as fat because this is what it was designed to do during times of scarcity. Instead of fighting against your body, why not consider fixing your metabolism and gently move your body into a better place with food through intuitive eating.
Not sure where to start? I can help you work through it! See my intuitive eating coaching package below.
Jennifer Smith is a certified Holistic Nutritionist, Biblical Health Coach and Faith-Based Clinical Counselor. She has completed advanced certifications in Functional Nutrition, Biblical Naturopathy and Biblical Eating and Clinical Nutrition.