If you are one of those individuals who always regain the lost weight after phases of intense dieting, then the Yo-Yo effect could be the culprit.
The Yo-Yo effect leads to unintentional weight gain after dieting and may prevent people from maintaining the lost weight.
A recent study reports brain-level changes during dieting, increasing hunger and appetite.
Keep reading to learn how to combat the Yo-Yo effect and tips to prevent weight regain after dieting.
Did You Know?
Your genes may be one reason why you tend to regain weight after you lose it. Learn more:
Some people are just not able to maintain their weight after a period of intense dieting. The excess weight starts creeping up right after they stop the diet.
In a few months, they regain the weight they lost during dieting.
This is what researchers called the Yo-Yo effect.
If you also struggle with the Yo-Yo effect, there could be a scientific explanation behind this.
A 2023 article published by the Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Research suggests that the brain may increase hunger and appetite after dieting, leading to weight regain.
Why Do Dieters Regain Weight?
There can be several reasons why dieters regain weight after weight loss.
- Increased Appetite
When the body loses fat and muscle, thanks to dieting, it goes into shock and tries to replenish the lost nutrition.
According to researchers, the body starts producing excess hunger-inducing hormones, which can increase appetite.
As a result, the person starts eating more after a period of the diet, gaining the lost weight quickly.
- More Fat Storage
While losing weight through diet, people generally lose fat and muscle together.
After discontinuing the diet and starting to eat regular food, fat accumulates much faster than muscles.
The body encourages the person to eat more to build muscle. In this process, the person gains back weight after dieting.
- Binge Or Stress Eating
Diet, stress, and mental health are related. A 2020 study reports that specific diets that lack macro and micronutrients can increase the risk of developing stress-related mental disorders.
Stress increases cortisol levels in the body.
Cortisol, in turn, increases appetite and leads to emotional eating or binge eating.
This could be another reason why people regain the weight.
- Lowered Metabolism
Calorie-deficit diets bring down muscle mass.
Loss of muscle mass affects the metabolism rate. Metabolism is the process by which food is burnt for energy. A higher metabolism means your body digests food easily and quickly uses nutrients.
People with a low metabolism burn calories much slower, increasing their risk of putting on weight.
A 2015 study reports that a calorie-deficit feeding habit bought down the metabolism rate.
This can lead to weight regain.
What Is The Yo-Yo Effect?
Psychologist Kelly D. Brownell from Yale University coined the word Yo-Yo effect.
Yo-Yo effect is also called weight cycling.
This happens when people go through periods of intentional weight loss followed by unintentional weight regain.
This cycle may continue for long periods without the person being able to maintain the lost weight.
In fact, a 2014 study reports that 80% of people who lost weight after following a specific diet regained their weight within one year.
Science Behind The Yo-Yo Effect
Scientists believe that a drastic diet affects the metabolism rate. This could be one reason people regain weight after losing body fat.
Following a calorie-restricted diet or fasting for longer periods may put the body in a ‘starvation mode.’
When the body goes into starvation mode, it focuses on preserving energy. As a result, the body may start burning calories slower than the average rate.
For instance, if your body needed 2100 calories to maintain your weight before the diet, after dieting, the body may need just 1800 calories to support itself.
As a result, after dieting, when you consume the same pre-diet calories of 2100, the excess calories remain unused, leading to weight gain.
Preventing The Yo-Yo Effect: A New Study
A 2023 study published by the Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Research and Harvard Medical School discusses the role of the brain in causing the Yo-Yo effect.
This study put research mice on a diet and then analyzed their brain signals during and after the diet.
The study reported that after dieting, the communication in the brain of these mice changed significantly.
In the brain, the AgRP neurons in the hypothalamus region are responsible for giving out hunger signals.
While on a diet, these neurons started giving out stronger hunger signals to the brain.
As a result, during the diet and long afterward, the brain received stronger hunger signals.
According to this study, the AgRP neurons kept sending stronger hunger signals for a long time after the diet phase.
So, to combat the Yo-Yo effect, the researchers suggest combining dieting with drugs that suppress the brain's hunger signals.
This may prevent people from regaining the lost weight after dieting.
Tips To Prevent Weight Regain
- Avoid crash diets - crash diets and extreme calorie deficit diets may cause changes in body metabolism and won’t work in the long run.
- Get out of the diet gradually - do not get out of the diet and indulge in all foods you crave. Just like it is essential to get into a diet slowly, getting off has to be gradual too.
- Get professional help - nutritionists can prescribe healthy and balanced diet options that may suit your physical and mental state. Getting professional advice may prevent future weight gain.
- Stay physically active after dieting - physical activity will help burn excess calories and keep the body from regaining weight after dieting.
- Take care of your mental health - mood disorders, depression, stress, and other mental health conditions may lead to eating disorders post-dieting.
- Focus on losing weight slowly - having achievable weight loss targets may put undue stress on the body and mind and lead to nutritional deficiencies. Have achievable targets and focus on losing weight steadily.
- Yo-Yo effect or weight cycling is the process of intentional weight loss followed by unintentional weight gain. This effect may cause people on a diet to regain the lost weight very soon.
- Extreme calorie deficit and crash diets affect the metabolism, increase appetite and hunger, and lead to the individual overindulging in food after the diet.
- A 2023 study reports that dieting causes brain-level changes and stimulates hunger signals in the brain.
- Active hunger signals encourage people to have a larger appetite and overeat, leading to regaining the lost weight.
- Developing drugs that suppress the hunger signals and being on them while dieting may help prevent the Yo-Yo effect.