Yo-yo dieting describes the cycle of repeatedly losing and gaining weight.

It’s often the result of restrictive or extreme dieting, and people often find that they gain back even more weight with each cycle.

Yoyo dieting presents several health risks, both physical and emotional.



Restricting food intake can cause seriously low energy levels and fatigue. This can lead to limited cognitive function, mood swings, depression, and of course, overeating and weight regain.

Muscle Loss

Many yo-yo dieters resort to very low-energy diets to lose weight. While this does help to burn fat, the body is often forced to burn muscle, too. 

When you lose muscle, the metabolism slows down, which can make it harder to maintain weight loss when you return to normal eating habits.

Metabolic Dysfunction

On a restrictive diet, the body goes into ‘starvation mode because it thinks that food is unavailable. The metabolism slows right down to conserve energy. 

As soon as food scarcity is over, the body works to regain lost fat supplies and replenish them in preparation for the next time. That’s why many people find that they gain back even more weight than they lost.

Depression & Low Self-Esteem

It can be incredibly frustrating and upsetting to regain weight after working so hard to lose it. Feelings of failure, guilt, disappointment, and shame can lead to depression and low self-esteem, which in turn can lead to emotional eating.

It can be difficult to break this cycle.

Increased Risk Factors for Disease

Dietary restriction increases cortisol levels, a stress hormone. 

As a result, chronic inflammation can occur, as well as an increased risk of cancer and heart disease. Additionally, it stimulates insulin resistance and impairs insulin sensitivity.

Heart Disease

Yo-yo dieting can damage the arteries, increase blood pressure, and cause levels of blood triglycerides to rise. It can also increase the risk of heart disease and cardiac-related death, especially in women.

Compared to their peers with stable weights, women who yo-yo diet are 3.5 times more likely to die from cardiac diseases.

Hormone Disruption

Levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, are increased significantly by restrictive dieting. Levels start to rise almost immediately and by as much as 25%. This helps to explain why people find it difficult to stick to restrictive diets and maintain their weight loss.

Weight Gain

Ironically, people often end up gaining even more weight back after a period of restrictive dieting. This is due to several factors.

  • First, restrictive eating causes muscle loss as well as fat loss, and the metabolism slows right down to conserve energy. When a regular diet is resumed, the body works to ‘catch up and replenish the lost fat supplies.
  • Secondly, a restrictive diet may cause extreme cravings. Eventually, you’ll give in to the cravings as your body attempts to protect you from starvation. Because of your increased hunger, you’re likely to eat more than usual.

Disordered Eating

Restrictive dieting can lead to a very unhealthy relationship with food. It creates a perception of food as inherently bad and unhealthy. 

When you eventually return to a normal diet, this can cause feelings of distress and anxiety. In some cases, it can even lead to eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia


To stay healthy, you need macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals in your diet. If you eat very little food, chances are you aren’t getting them. Over time, deficiencies in certain essential vitamins and minerals can lead to serious problems and lead to an increase in eating.


If you’re not getting enough energy from food, you may turn to other sources to see you go. These can range from the relatively benign, like coffee, to dangerously addictive substances like amphetamines.



Although there is not a universally perfect, one-size-fits-all diet, there are certain dietary truths that should guide you. 


Fill Up On Protein

A powerful tool to lose weight is protein. It helps you stay fuller for longer, which reduces your desire to overeat or snack between meals.  A high-protein diet can reduce energy intake by as much as 20 %.

The process of digesting protein requires much more energy than digesting fat or carbohydrates, which is why it is such a wonderful metabolism booster. Additionally, it helps build metabolically active muscle tissue, which increases your basal metabolic rate.


Don’t Shy Away From Fat

Low-fat diets simply aren’t an effective long-term solution.

Eating fat does not make people fat! Quite the opposite – fat is satiating and satisfying. Even though it is high in calories, you will likely have to eat less of it to feel full. 

Embrace energy-rich, healthy fats – specifically monounsaturated fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish, nuts, avocados, and oils. These are linked to lower hunger levels and increased satiety.


Limit Simple Carbohydrates

Low-carbohydrate diets are great weight loss diets, but severe carbohydrate restriction has several drawbacks. 

The secret to reaping the weight-loss benefits of both carbohydrates and low-carbohydrate diets lies in which carbohydrates you restrict. Refined sugars and starches are out. Instead, get your carbohydrates from vegetables like:

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Leafy greens
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Celery

These vegetables are loaded with essential nutrients, and due to their high fiber content, you can fill up on them. You get all the benefits of complex, fiber-rich, nutrient-packed carbohydrates, while still maintaining a satisfying, insulin-steady diet.


Get Plenty Of Fiber

Speaking of fiber, a good idea is to get at least 25 grams (better than 30-35 grams)  per day from a range of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Like protein, fiber helps to keep you fuller for longer, meaning you’re less likely to snack or overeat. It also helps to maintain good gut health and promote bowel regularity.


Enjoy in Moderation

It’s been proven time and time again that diets based on deprivation simply don’t work. If you love chocolate, it’s simply not realistic to expect you never to eat it again. If anything, such restrictions will only breed resentment around healthy eating. Instead of deprivation, focus on reframing your relationship with your favorite foods. To avoid overindulging, find a place for small amounts within an otherwise healthy diet.


Don’t Go Hungry/Plan Ahead

Fasting aside, allowing yourself to become ravenously hungry makes it difficult to practice self-control. You may be able to go longer than others between meals. Establish your hunger patterns, and create an eating plan to help them manage hunger appropriately.

In addition, plan so that you do not turn too fast food or convenient food because you have no other quick option. Stashing vegetable side dishes away in the refrigerator is a healthy, quick go-to meal or snack.


And of course, you know that food isn’t all. Here are some additional bonus tips for healthy weight loss without the Yo-Yo dieting effects.

  • Include regular physical activity
  • Be mindful of stress and sleep
  • Develop a positive relationship with food and eating 
  • Set non-number goals focused on behavior or an outcome rather than an arbitrary number.
  • Building a strong support system is essential for overcoming obesity. 
  • Practice mindful eating to help you slow down
  • Address underlying mindset issues and limiting beliefs


Yoyo dieting is certainly not the answer, and a more sustainable, holistic approach to healthy weight loss is the way to go. Examine the root causes of your struggles and start by implementing one step at a time. 

If you want more help, our “Healthy habits for weight loss” program helps you to lose weight without restrictive dieting or deprivation, even if you have no time and tried every diet.


Build simple habits with my step-by-step system for busy people and never diet again. Lose weight without constantly thinking about food so that you finally can feel confident and be more active.

  1. Learn healthy habits and routines that you can sustain 
  2. Address the root causes of your weight struggles
  3. Improve your relationship with food 
  4. Stay motivated without feeling deprived
  5. Quick meals for busy people

Sign up here for the healthy habits program or if you have more questions on how to overcome yo-yo dieting for good to lose weight healthily, book a “Forever perfect weight loss consultation” here