Weight Cycling and its Adverse Effects
Being fit is pretty new for me. As a teen, I pretty much dieted most of every day, then proceeded to eat junk food, and the next morning I would start my diet again. Me and my friends would take trips to dietician offices for weigh ins, sweat in the gym, starve all morning, and then binge. A typical day during high school was a bottle of Vitamin Water, Snapple and soda, and then a 400 calorie brownie from the vending machine, and oil-soaked chinese food for lunch. The next day, we’d starve to try and “fix” the day before. Unfortunately, my friends and I didn’t understand what kind of effect this erratic behavior would have on our metabolism years later.
After having my sons and gaining a ton of weight, I got terribly ill and decided to lose the weight and change my life. But I went about it the wrong way, and took on every fad diet out there. When you start a fad diet, the brain will record your calorie intake and the body’s stored energy, and use that information to determine whether to release appetite-enhancing or appetite-suppressing hormones. If a “deprivation diet” is used, where you eliminate a certain food group like carbs, the body will go into emergency starvation mode, and start to increase your appetite and store fat quicker. In a deprivation diet, it is clear on the scale that you are losing weight. However, with these diets, the weight you are losing is a mix of not only fat, but muscle as well. So if you decide to diet or lose weight in any way, whether a fad or not, it is imperative that you include exercise in your routine.
Studies have linked weight fluctuation to a greater risk of diabetes, hypertension, gallbladder stones, and rapid aging of telomeres. A telomere is the cap at the end of each strand of a chromosome. When telomeres are damaged, cells become damaged, and the body will age rapidly and immunity will decrease. Making changes to your diet to improve your health and your weight need to be permanent changes, not temporary.
Why is gaining weight back harmful? In addition to storing fat in the body, rebound weight gain can cause negative consequences such as insulin resistance, higher triglycerides, reduced immune function, and even increase the risk of cancer. As fat tissue grows, more of these pro-inflammatory compounds are produced, leading to chronic inflammation, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer.
As I hear experiences of daily life struggles with my new clients, I start to see previous moments in my life flash in front of me. I do not want to see any of my clients go through these vicious cycles or suffer permanent metabolic or emotional damage.
“Weight cycling” and “yo-yo dieting” are terms referring to starting a diet, losing X pounds, stopping the diet, gaining 2X pounds, and starting the next diet. Weight loss steps should be simple and healthy. Modify your diet, lose weight, and keep your new healthier way of eating forever. If your diet seems impossible, and it doesn't make sense to maintain it forever, you are most likely to return to your previous eating habits.
It is important to have a well-rounded diet. Food groups such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vegetables, and WATER are essential to staying healthy. Exercise to help you decrease belly fat, increase cardiovascular strength, (decrease chances of a heart attack) and release endorphins (decrease chances of developing stress related medical conditions).
Remember that “healthy food” is not always actually healthy. For instance, an acai bowl can be healthy, but not when it’s 1000 calories, contains 40g of sugar and over 50 grams of carbohydrates.
Whole foods are helping me and my clients with short term and long term weight management. Along with proper portioning, and substituting healthier snack options and cooking ingredients, the FlavorfulFIT program has virtually eliminated weight cycling.