When Yo-Yo Dieting Goes Wrong

by Tom Ewer

I recently argued that yo-yo dieting can be good for you if you take a holistic approach to health. However, I recognize that such a statement, if not properly qualified, could be misconstrued. There is no doubt in my mind that the healthy bounds of yo-yo dieting can be (and often are) abused, but that in itself does not make yo-yo dieting a bad thing.

In my most recent post on yo-yo dieting I outlined my approach to dieting:

…when I think of my own tendency to yo-yo diet, I don’t just think about the physiological health implications … I also think about how my eating habits affect my overall physiological and psychological state.

Yo-yo dieting allows me to eat whatever I want, most of the time. When I start to get a little more “malleable” than I would like, I know it’s time to cut back, but I know that it’s not forever. It’s how I operate and it works for me. Furthermore, I think a lot of people out there would benefit greatly from an adjusted approach to weight management that doesn’t involve seeing yo-yo dieting as the enemy.

This might be seen as a simplistic approach to what can be a far greater challenge. After all, if every person had an “off” switch that put them back into weight loss mode whenever they got a little too heavy, obesity wouldn’t exist.

In my opinion, the best (and worst) argument against yo-yo dieting is that allowing weight gain under any circumstances can lead to unstoppable momentum – i.e. once you start gaining weight, you might never stop. I understand the sentiment, but there’s just one problem: it has nothing to do with yo-yo dieting. It is in fact an argument for the importance of willpower.

Blaming yo-yo dieting for “encouraging” excess weight gain is like a workman blaming good tools for a poor job. It’s what you do with them that matters.

If you are worried that yo-yo dieting would lead you down a path of perpetual weight gain, don’t yo-yo diet. But more importantly, seek to address the underlying issue – that you lack the discipline or willpower to control your weight. Don’t use yo-yo dieting as a scapegoat.

Get Free Weekly Updates

At Healthy Enough, we're on a mission to help you become as fit and healthy as possible while still enjoying all of the things you love (and avoiding all of the things you hate). Sign up for free updates and find out how to:

  • lose weight without making major sacrifices to your diet,
  • enjoy exercise and get fitter at the same time, and
  • cook delicious and nutritious meals

Just enter your email address below and hit "Get Updates":

You’ll get just one email from me per week, I will never send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.