When Yo-Yo Dieting Goes Wrong

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.