A Summary of Issues Regarding Yo-Yo Dieting


What Is Weight Cycling?

Weight cycling is the repeated loss and regain of body weight. When weight cycling is the result of dieting, it is often called "yo-yo" dieting. A weight cycle can rangefrom small weight losses and gains (5-10 lbs. per cycle) to large changes in weight (50 lbs. or more per cycle).

You may have heard stories in the press claiming that weight cycling may be harmful to your health. You also may have heard that staying at one weight is better for you than weight cycling, even if you are obese. However, no convincing evidence supports these claims, and most obesity researchers believe that obese individuals should continue to try to control their body weight.

If I Regain Lost Weight, Won't Losing It Again Be Even Harder?

People who repeatedly lose and regain weight should not experience more difficulty losing weight each time they diet. Most studies have shown that weight cycling does not affect one's metabolic rate.

Is Weight Cycling Harmful to My Health?

A number of studies have suggested that weight cycling (and weight loss) may be associated with an increase in mortality. Unfortunately, these studies were not designed to answer the question of how intentional weight loss by an obese person affects health. Some studies have looked at the relationship between weight cycling and risk factors for illness, such as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, or high blood sugar. Most of these studies have not found an association between weight cycling and harmful changes in risk factors.

Is Remaining Overweight Healthier Than Weight Cycling?

At this time, no conclusive studies have shown that weight cycling is harmful to the health of an obese person. On the other hand, the health risks of obesity are well known. Obesity is linked to serious medical conditions such as: High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, certain types of cancer, gout, and gallbladder disease.


Further research on the effects of weight cycling is needed. In the meantime, if you are obese, don't let fear of weight cycling stop you from achieving a modest weight loss. Although health problems associated with weight cycling have not been proven, the health-related problems of obesity are well known. If you do need to lose weight, you should be ready to commit to lifelong changes in your eating behaviors, diet, and physical activity.