When home-maker and mother Karishma Sharma (35) was trying to lose weight, she tried different kinds of diets. While some were low in calorie, others required her to consume only protein-rich food. While she lost a few pounds initially, over a period of time, Sharma’s body stopped reacting to all form of dieting.
Sharma is among a host of people who end up opting for unhealthy and extreme fad diets to lose weight. This phenomenon is referred to as yo-yo dieting or weight cycling where you lose and then regain at least 5 to 10 pounds of weight repeatedly.
As with other diets, celebrities are also guilty of promoting this kind of weight loss. Singers Christina Aguilera and Mariah Carey, actor Chris Pratt, and talk show host Oprah Winfrey are among several celebs who have been in the spotlight for weight cycling.
In the past, there has been conflicting studies on the topic. While a study by Ohio University reported that it is better to attempt to lose weight despite repeated failures, experts also warned that such dieting fads cause grave damage to physical and mental health. Most experts caution that this type of dieting leads to health issues such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and cancer.
Dr Vinny Makhijani, senior dietitian, Masina Hospital says that yo-yo dieting can actually be more hazardous than being overweight. “Most weight cyclers eventually gain back more weight than they had lost because the shame and stress involved with gaining weight can lead to eating more. It also damages the heart; women who were weight cyclers had a great risk of heart disease beginning shortly after menopause,” says Makhijani.
Nutritionist Anjali Peswani elaborates on some more effects of this diet: “It can disturb the hormones and interfere with our absorption and digestion of food. It creates havoc in your hormones thus affecting your metabolism which is directly proportional to weight loss,” says Peswani.
And the effects are not just physical; it can impact your mental health as well. “Studies have reported that yo-yo dieting can increase the risk for mental distress and depression,” says Makhijani.
Both experts agree that yo-yo dieting has become increasingly common today as people seek a quick fix without making lifestyle changes. Instead of jumping from diet to diet and facing erratic weight loss, Peswani suggests a way out: “Don’t go overboard with anything, be it your workouts or your diet. Have control on the portion sizes and eat till you are 80% full. When eating out, stick to one dish only.”
Makhijani also advises a gradual way of losing weight: “Lose weight through a consistent loss of 1 kg per week. Consume non-starchy vegetables and fruits, moderate amounts of lean protein and dairy products, legumes and whole grains, and few or no refined carbohydrates and saturated fats.”