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Weight cycling and yo-yo dieting

A yo-yo dieter is someone who loses weight, only to put it back on again later. This is also called weight cycling.

There is no standard definition of weight cycling, but moderate weight cyclers are often defined as those who lose between 10 and 20 pounds before putting it back on.

Severe weight cyclers lose 20 pounds (10kg) or more on 3 or more occasions before putting it back on.

There is no evidence weight cycling is harmful to health, but yo-yo dieters may need more structured weight loss programmes to keep weight off longer term.

Are weight cycling and yo-yo dieting harmful?

So far, studies have not definitively shown that weight cycling and yo-yo dieting are harmful. However, further research on the effects of weight cycling is needed.

In the meantime, a fear of weight cycling should not stop an obese person 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 are not obese and have no risk factors for obesity-related illness, focus on preventing further weight gain by increasing your exercise and eating healthy foods, rather than trying to lose weight. If you do need to lose weight, you should be ready to commit to lifelong changes in your eating behaviours, diet, and physical activity.

Is regained weight harder to lose again?

Not necessarily. People who repeatedly lose and gain weight through weight cycling and yo-yo dieting should not experience more difficulty losing weight each time they diet.

If I weight cycle or yo-yo diet, will it make me fatter?

Weight cycling and yo-yo dieting do not appear to increase the amount of fat tissue in people who lose and regain weight. Researchers in the US have found that after a weight cycle, people have the same amount of fat and lean tissue as they did prior to weight cycling.

Some people are concerned that weight cycling can cause more fat to collect in the abdominal ( stomach) area. People who tend to carry their excess fat in the abdominal area, instead of in the hips and buttocks, are more likely to develop the health problems associated with obesity. However, studies have not found that after a weight cycle people have more abdominal fat than they did before weight cycling.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on October 04, 2017

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