Can Yo Yo Dieting Cause Weight Gain?
Every year, losing weight is an attempt made by millions. As dieters succumb to the media promotions of slim images, they also contribute to a dieting industry worth more than $150 billion in just the United States and Europe. Unfortunately, all that money spent on dieting products, meal plans, and weight loss services hasn’t helped the majority of dieters get slim.
In fact, studies with long-term outcomes show at least one-third of dieters regain weight that was lost within a year. Within five years, most of the remaining two-thirds of dieters regain. Children and teens who diet unfortunately gain rather than lose weight.
With unintentional weight gain, dieters begin a repeated cycle of intentional weight loss. This destructive yo yo dieting pattern not only affects weight and self-image, but it also endangers their biochemical pathways and health as it leads to a high risk for chronic disease and death. According to Obesity Reviews, yo yo dieting is likely to become an increasingly serious public health issue.
Why is Yo Yo Dieting Detrimental to Health?
Your body’s cells are constantly working, carrying out numerous chemical reactions to keep you functioning properly. The set of chemical reactions that happen within a cell is your metabolism. Linked together, these chemical reactions make up chains or pathways to help your body convert food and water into energy to help you perform all of your activities throughout the day such as brushing your teeth, walking, playing, and even breathing.
How Does Yo Yo Dieting Affect Metabolism?
It’s common for people to think that a slow or high metabolism is a result of genetics. However, this is rarely the case. Metabolism is usually dependent upon an individual’s eating and lifestyle habits.
While there are some rare underlying conditions that may contribute to a slow metabolism, most of these disorders are also linked to eating and lifestyle habits (i.e., hypothyroidism). Most overweight and obese people do not have underlying conditions as their weight gain is usually due to an energy imbalance (high calorie intake through food and little calorie expenditure through exercise and activity).
Because yo yo dieting is a continuous cycle of restriction and overconsumption, the body is overworking itself. This leads to slowing biochemical or metabolic pathways. Your metabolic pathways are usually classified as catabolism, anabolism, and waste disposal. Catabolism breaks down the body by excreting energy, while anabolism allows your body to build new cells and maintain all tissues. Waste disposal eliminates the toxic waste produced by the other pathways. Learn how they stay balanced.
Catabolism provides your body with energy it needs for physical activity from the cellular level on up to whole body movements. When you eat, your body breaks down the organic nutrients such as proteins, carbohydrates, and fats which release energy. Some catabolic hormones that help you stay balanced include:
Cortisol: Produced by the adrenal cortex, cortisol is also known as the “stress” hormone. It raises blood pressure and blood sugar while reducing immune responses.
Glucagon: Produced by the alpha cells in your pancreas, glucagon stimulates breakdown of glycogen by the liver which causes blood sugars to increase. (Glycogen is carbohydrates stored in your liver and used for fuel during physical activity and exercise.)
Adrenaline: Produced by the medulla of the adrenal gland, adrenaline is also known as the fight or flight reaction in response to fear. It will cause your heart to beat faster, strengthening force of heart contractions.
Cytokines. Especially during immune response or injury, cytokines are small proteins that are released by cells of the immune system and act as mediators between cells. Inflammation occurs when cytokines are doing their job.
Like a home contractor uses bricks and mortar to build a new home, your anabolic processes use a few simple chemicals and molecules to build more complex molecules (i.e., proteins, carbohydrates, and fats) for your body. For example, bone growth and muscle mass increase are caused by anabolic processes. Some other benefits of anabolic hormones include:
Bodily Growth: Growth hormones of the pituitary gland stimulate the release of the liver hormone, which in turn causes growth.
Fetus Reproductive Growth: IGF-1 and other insulin-like growth hormones activate the growth of the uterus and placenta, as well as the early growth of the fetus during pregnancy.
Female Reproductive Growth: Estrogen develops female gender characteristics, strengthens bones, and regulates the menstrual cycle.
Male Reproductive Growth: Testosterone develops male gender characteristics, as well as strengthens bones and muscles.
Sugar Regulation: Insulin regulates sugar levels in the bloodstream.
Regarding weight loss, catabolism creates the energy that anabolism consumes. If catabolism creates more energy than anabolism requires, there will be excess energy in which your body stores glycogen or body fat.
Waste Disposal Pathways
Useless stuff that you don’t need any longer usually gets put in the trash, and the same happens with your cells. They also get rid of the things they don’t need. Waste disposal in your cells are done through two pathways.
Lysosomes: Organelles that contain digestive enzymes to break down almost anything your cells don’t need. They digest excess or worn out organelles, food particles, as well as viruses and bacteria.
Proteasomes: Extremely important in the breakdown of damaged and unneeded protein, proteasomes are protein complexes located inside of cells that cause a chemical reaction (proteolysis) breaking peptide bonds.
How do Biochemical Pathways Affect Cells?
As mentioned in the previous section, your biochemical pathways (also known as metabolic pathway) are involved with taking in or releasing energy. You are on a continuous cycle of eating food and releasing its toxins, and the same is true for your body’s cells.
In fact, the food you eat is where your cells obtain energy. After you eat, the nutrients within the food are broken down in your gastrointestinal tract and they eventually feed your body’s cells. If you provide them with nutrient dense foods, your metabolism will be healthy and make your body smart in times of crisis. For instance, it will help your body stay warm on cold winter days as it pulls conserved energy. However, processed and junky foods will cause a metabolism decline and make your cells sick as it relies on nutrient-dense foods to function properly and make energy. Unfortunately, empty calories will not feed your cells.
With the right nutrients, your biochemical pathways will allow you to grow, reproduce, repair damage, and respond to your environment in a positive way.
What are Yo Yo Dieting Health Risks?
As mentioned earlier, weight cycling occurs in almost all people who diet as they gain weight back. This is known as yo yo dieting. Based on studies, weight gain during relapse appears to induce fat growth and hyperplasia more rapidly due to metabolic shifts that favor fat storage. These metabolic shifts or cycles are linked with failed immunologic memory.
Not only are you risking weight regain and hyperplasia with yo yo dieting. Several other chronic diseases have also been linked to weight cycling, and both women and men are at risk.
Yo Yo Dieting Risks for Women
- Heart attacks
- HDL cholesterol reduction (clinically significant)
- Metabolic syndrome
- Breast, endometrial, lung, and other cancer
- Total and hip fractures.
Yo Yo Dieting Risks for Men
Over the last two decades, weight cycling has been associated with a number of morbid health issues and increased mortality. If you need to lose weight, do it once and continue to eat right and live healthily so that you don’t regain the weight. This will only tempt you to diet again.
Instead of yo yo dieting, remember to take care of your cells as they are your children. After all, they kind of are as they feed off of nutrients you give them. Be sure to feed them nutrient dense foods. Exercise, sunshine, sleep, and stress reduction are also important for keeping weight off.
If you would like to learn beneficial ways to losing weight, please read Is Calorie Counting the Best Way to Lose Weight?