Why Yo Yo Dieting is Making you Fatter



To quote the National Institutes of Health Technology Assessment Conference Panel:

“Weight regain is generally the rule, with long-term follow up studies indicating that one-third to two-thirds of the weight lost is regained within 1 year and almost all is regained within 5 years.” (1)

The issue is never losing the weight, it’s always how to keep the weight off for years on end.


The Reason Yo-Yo Dieting Makes you Fatter

Repeated cycles of weight loss and weight regain, referred to as “weight cycling” or “yo-yo dieting” are a frequent occurrence.

Mann and colleagues found that the long-term outcomes of energy-restricted diets show that at least one-third of dieter’s regain more weight than they lost (2). There’s another term for this and it’s called “fat- overshooting,” a phenomenon where you gain more excess body fat yet your metabolic rate is still suppressed from dieting.

We all know that metabolic adaptations are common occurrences from long-term and low calorie dieting. It’s a self-defense mechanism our bodies react to and it’s part of our biology (3). The imperative thing we must understand is to mitigate these adaptations and not let them run loose like a wild fire.

There is evidence to suggest that adipocyte hyperplasia (fat cell enlargement) may occur early in the weight regain process (4), and that repeated cycles of weight loss and regain by athletes in sports with weight classes are associated with long-term weight gain (5).

On the physiological side of things, your body makes specific adaptations when dieting. Such as (3):

  • Decreased energy expenditure
  • Increased metabolic efficiency
  • Adaptive thermogenesis
  • Reduction in adipocytes
  • Increased mitochondrial efficiency
  • Decreased sympathetic nervous system
  • Decreased fat oxidation
  • Decreased thyroid hormones (plays significant role in metabolism)
  • Increased cortisol
  • Increased GIP (increases food intake)
  • Decreased leptin
  • Decreased insulin
  • Increased Ghrelin
  • Increased appetite
  • Increased cravings for high fat food and sugars
  • Decreased satiety signals



Over one-third of lost weight tends to return within the first year, and the majority is gained back within 3 to 5 years (6).

Let’s face it, losing weight and keeping it off isn’t an easy task by any means. But if we can understand why we’re not losing the weight, why we’re not keeping it off, some of the metabolic adaptations, how to mitigate them, looking at the bigger picture in weight loss, and finally, finding a nutrition program that’s going to be sustainable and fit our life-styles, goals, and schedules then we will all be in a better position to lose fat and keep it off permanently.


If you’re looking to learn more on how to keep the weight off for good, let us help you through our individual coaching services. Schedule a call HERE



  1. National Institutes of Health Technology Assessment Conference Panel (1993). Methods for voluntary weight loss and control. Ann Intern Med.
  2. Mann T. Tomiyama AJ, Westling E et al (2007). Medicare’s search for effective obesity treatments: Diets are not the answer. Am Psychol
  3. Maclean et al. Biology’s response to dieting: the impetus for weight regain. 2011
  4. Jackman MR. Weight regain after sustained weight reduction in accompanied by suppressed oxidation of dietary fat and adipocyte hyperplasia. 2008
  5. Saarni SE. Weight cycling of athletes and subsequent weigh regain in middle aged men. 2006
  6. Cornier et al. The effects of overfeeding on the neuronal response to visual food cues in thin and reduced obese individuals. 2009