Say Goodbye to The "Yo-yo Effect": How to Lose Weight and Keep it Off

Discover how to say goodbye to the yo-yo effect and achieve sustainable weight loss. Find practical tips and strategies here.
Say Goodbye to The "Yo-yo Effect": How to Lose Weight and Keep it Off
Leonardo Biolatto

Reviewed and approved by the doctor Leonardo Biolatto.

Written by Editorial Team

Last update: 21 June, 2023

You watched in disbelief as the numbers on the scale dropped after transforming your eating habits. At some point, however, you realized that following a strict diet was not your path, or that perhaps you lacked the necessary commitment. What worked in the short term was not sustainable and, little by little, you went back to your old ways. The weight crept back on and, to add to your frustration, you fell into the trap of the “yo-yo effect.”

If you find yourself stuck on an emotional roller coaster, where every attempt to lose weight becomes a battle to maintain your results, you’re not alone. In this article, we’re going to walk you through the process of understanding this phenomenon and what to do to avoid it.

What is the “yo-yo effect”?

The “yo-yo effect,” also known as the weight cycling or rebound effect, refers to the loss and subsequent regaining of body weight that often occurs in connection with dieting. In general, it’s a consequence of “miracle diets“, which are characterized by being unbalanced and promising fast and effective results, in the short term. What their followers are unaware of, however, is that they’re rarely designed for a lasting change.

According to a publication by Obesity Reviews, 80% of people who lose a significant amount of weight (defined as at least 10% of their initial body weight) regain it within a year. It has even been shown that the up-and-down cycle is also counterproductive and ultimately leads away from the goal.

It’s essential to raise awareness of the importance of adopting healthy habits, which include a balanced and nutritious diet, in addition to regular physical exercise.

To better understand this phenomenon, we offer an illustrative example:

Imagine the rebound effect as an intriguing dance between your body and the scales. It begins with a seductive promise of rapid weight loss, tempting you to join the latest fad diet. The tune begins to play as the pounds begin to melt away, but at what cost? Your body, in a desperate attempt to maintain balance, sacrifices not only glycogen, your sugar reserve, but muscles as well.

As you move forward, succumbing to the spell of reducing calories, your body begins to adapt. It’s as if the metabolism whispers an “energy saver” in response, slowing its pace. Now, you find yourself in a delicate balance between the illusion of weight loss and the hidden reality lurking in the shadows.

However, the time comes when the promise and excitement fade. You return to your daily habits, unaware that your body is still holding memories of its previous dance.

When you increase your daily calorie intake, the curtain rises again. The body, now in “energy saving” mode, receives this avalanche of nutrients with open arms, storing the excess as fat.

We think you may also enjoy reading this article: Two Foods to Cut Out of Your Diet to Reduce Swelling and Lose Weight

When does the “yo-yo effect” appear?

According to the Spanish Nutrition Foundation (FEN), there are three aspects that could explain the appearance of this phenomenon:

  1. After abandoning a “magic” diet, the organism deploys physiological mechanisms to compensate for the period of restriction imposed on it. As a result, it’s likely to experience an increased appetite and a greater propensity to regain lost weight.
  2. When the body is subjected to an unbalanced hypocaloric diet, it reacts by slowing down the metabolism to expend less energy and counteract this deficiency. In fact, Bangkok Hospital reports that this slower metabolism may explain, in part, why people regain weight once they abandon their calorie restriction.
  3. Furthermore, it’s critical to keep in mind that the rapid weight loss achieved in a short period of time is mainly due to the loss of water and glycogen. However, both are needed for the proper functioning of the body.

In addition to the above-mentioned causes, there are others:

  • Use of slimming pills: the function of these drugs is to prevent the body from absorbing fats and fat-soluble vitamins. However, when their use is discontinued, the person experiences a rapid weight gain, due to the rebound effect.
  • Lack of professional follow-up: this can be a determining factor in the appearance of the yo-yo effect. Without proper guidance, it’s easy to fall into extreme methods that are not sustainable in the long term.

How to lose weight without the “yo-yo effect.: Is there a strategy?

You may be wondering if there’s an effective approach to losing weight without falling into the dreaded “yo-yo effect”. While it’s important to keep in mind that there are no miracle solutions, we can mention strategies that are healthier and more sustainable.

Seek the support of a professional

Specialized support can make a big difference in avoiding the “yo-yo effect”. Nutritionists have the knowledge and experience to design a customized plan that fits your needs and goals.

Instead of restricting foods and opting for extreme plans, prefer a balanced, flexible approach with a variety of foods. Incorporate fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains into your meals; avoid ultra-processed foods.

Set realistic goals

One of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to lose weight is setting unrealistic goals. It can be very frustrating to see your hard work fall short of expectations. In fact, adults who have experienced weight cycling report feeling dissatisfied with their life and health.

Instead of aiming for a quick transformation, it’s best to set achievable short-term goals. This will allow your body to gradually adapt to the changes and give you feelings of constant accomplishment.

Enjoy your meals

When we deprive ourselves of foods we enjoy, we tend to feel dissatisfied and resentful. This can lead to cravings and binge eating, breaking balance.

Allow yourself to enjoy your favorite foods in moderation and with mindfulness. Balance is key.

Exercise regularly

Exercise not only burns calories, but also strengthens your body and improves your overall well-being. According to the aforementioned article from Bangkok Hospital, they recommend regular physical activity, at least 150 minutes per week, for the first six months of dieting.

Then, to maintain a healthy weight, it should be increased to 200-300 minutes per week. And of course, continue consistently for at least 1 year.

Find a physical activity that you enjoy. It can be walking, running, swimming, yoga, or anything else you enjoy. The key is to find something that motivates you and keeps you committed for the long haul.

Like this article? You may also like to read: 7 Strategies to Lose Weight Without a Restrictive Diet

Build a support network

Losing weight and keeping it off can be a challenge, but you don’t have to do it alone! Lean on your friends or family to make this process more bearable. Sharing your experiences, successes, and challenges with others who are in the same boat is motivating and enriching.

With hard work and determination, you can reach your ideal weight

Ditch the “yo-yo effect” and embrace a healthier, more sustainable approach to weight loss. Remember to set realistic goals, adopt a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and seek support when you need it. With patience and perseverance, you can achieve your goals… and maintain them.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.