Are You a "Yo-Yo" Dieter?


We all could likely imagine a time in our lives that we “went on a diet” or changed the way we eat due to external cues (and not those expressed by our own body including natural hunger and satiety signals). But how does this influence us long term? What are the lasting effects of diet culture on our lives, families and friends? This blog will review some of the ways to spot “yo-yo” dieting characteristics as well as methods to best improve our relationship with food and create a sustainable nutrition practice.

Historically, and even in the last few years, diet culture has been influencing young teenagers and adults alike to modify the way they eat to meet their goal of ______ (fill in the blank here with something related to physical appearance or weight loss). Not all of this attention to “eating healthier” and “living healthy” is a negative change, but the overly strict and elimination diets can have lasting effects on our relationship with food

How to Spot a Yo-Yo Diet:

First, when evaluating any new fad or program you should first do your research. Is this information backed by science? Does it make sense? Is the diet or program eliminating a food group, or does the diet sound like I could do this long term?

If the answer to any of the above questions have your head spinning with questions, it might be best to reflect and reach out to a health nutrition professional (a Registered Dietitian!) to further dissect your findings and determine if implementing any or all of this program poses any risk to your short or long term health. More often than not, finding and adapting your own nutrition practice can be more sustainable and lasting in terms of impact and happiness. It’s also important to consult what new findings are available to best provide the most up-to-date facts for your to include in your own practice (and is another reason we LOVE research and science!).

If you feel your new “diet” hits one of these marks, or seems completely out of the ballpark when it comes to making any sense or seems like a normal, adult human could not follow this diet for more than a day - you might have yourself a “yo-yo” diet.

Are you a “yo-yo dieter”?

Acknowledging WHAT is a yo-yo diet is the first step in determining if you are in on the circle of “yo-yo dieting”. If you have found that on more than one occasion you have fell into a yo-yo diet, then there could be a likelihood that you have experienced the circular effect of this phrase. Often, a diet will propose overly strict or outlandish requirements that redirect your eating habits to fit a certain mold for a short period of time. This might not seem too terrible at first (or with true transparency, it might be completely terrible - depending on the diet). Once you have taxed and drained your initial momentum and dedication in this phase, most often the next steps is to “slip” and go back to your prior eating habits. After potentially feeling guilty or even angry that you “fell off the wagon” you might go back to your strict diet with greater intensity [initially] until it once again becomes too much and too restrictive and you “fall of the wagon” for a second time. This repetition is the “yo-yo”. These phases do not have to occur quickly (days or weeks) but can occur at any time frame (months to years). The determining factor is the idea of “stopping and starting” your diet again and not creating a long term, sustainable nutrition practice which leads to this mindset. A sustainable practice is one that you can implement long term and not feel like you are on a “diet” but simply, this is the way you eat to nourish your body and enjoy life!

More often a “yo-yo dieter” will experience fluctuations with weight as well. During these periods of time either on, or off their “diet” an individual might also gain back the weight lost during their diet phase. This not only is a physical set back, but emotional as well. Establishing a more sustainable nutrition practice is less likely to produce these frequent fluctuations because there is no “off”, it’s simply your own practice that you enjoy and implement...well, forever! (Not to say it can’t and won’t change over time).

Diet culture has us stuck in a world where this has become the “norm”  but it’s time to take back control and listen to our bodies and fuel them to do the amazing things they are capable of, plus following an overly restrictive diet that eliminates the foods you love and enjoy is no way to have a little fun with nutrition now and again!

Heather Gerrish