Stop Yo-Yo Dieting For Good

slim waist with a tape measure...
slim waist with a tape measure...

By Dr. Mike Roussell for

Q: Why is it harder to lose weight each time I gain it back?

A: Ironically, it probably isn't physically harder to re-lose weight that you have dropped in the past, but it can definitely be physiologically harder.

A 2012 study published in the Journal of Metabolism Clinical and Experimental looked at the impact of yo-yo dieting (or weight cycling, as scientists like to call it) on future weight-loss success by putting a group of women on a diet. At the beginning of the study, the yo-yo dieters in the group were heavier and in worse shape than the women who'd never yo-yoed. But by the end of study, both sets of women had lost about the same amount of weight.

That being said, if you have done metabolic damage, then losing weight over again may prove to be more difficult. Diet-induced metabolic damage is an interesting concept because the scientific community hasn't really begun to grasp what it is and the physiological ramifications. But by stepping out of the lab and into the client world, you quickly see that there are lots of women (and men) who have repeatedly beaten their bodies down with endless hours of steady-state cardio and low-calorie and low-fat diets, and damage has been done.

If this is the case for you, then there is much to be fixed hormonally, metabolically, and behaviorally. Finding a professional that can help you is a big first step, but in the interim I would recommend picking up a copy of the book Ultimate You; it outlines how to perform a metabolic makeover better than anything else I've read.

All of that said, shedding pounds a second time it is frustrating, annoying, and a waste of your time. To avoid regaining again, follow these tips:

1. Know That You Can't Go Back To "Eating Normal." Eating normal got you in trouble in the first place. You don't need to diet your whole life, but you can't go back to your past relationship with food.

2. Consistent Application Is Your Trump Card. We all have a way of thinking we are more consistent with our diets than we truly are. You need to track your eating with an app, spreadsheet, or pen and paper to keep you honest—and do it for the rest of your life.

3. Weigh Yourself Every Day. While the scale is a terrible measure of short-term weight-loss progress, it is a nice and simple long-term marker. Don't pay much attention to the day-to-day variation, but track the number so you can spot longer-term trends in weight changes. Catching yourself when you've only gained 5 pounds is a lot better than “suddenly” realizing you are 15 pounds heavier.