When a purported expert says something incongruent to my common sense, I flip open my laptop and start Googling. Call it a hobby.
The topic that recently piqued my interest was the supposed dangers of weight cycling, aka yo-yo dieting. I come across it all the time — articles in newspapers, famed experts on television, and blogs/Tweets. All cite dangerous yo-yo dieting as a reason to not do this or that.
The focus usually has something to do with the difficulties of weight loss and how to do it “the right way.” A complicated solution is often given, along with a finger-wagging warning: yo-yo dieting has health consequences — it makes fat harder and harder to shed — you’ll slow your metabolism down. Some warnings are just frightfully vague. I think I read “deleterious health consequences” from a university professor once.
My common sense, called BS. I just can’t, in a million years, see how being obese, and staying obese, is healthier than repeatedly trying to get the dang weight off. I’m not promoting crazy, fad-eating plans or exercise prescriptions beyond a person’s current ability. I’m a fan of reasonable eating and activity — all aimed at a daily caloric deficit. And if that means you lose 30 pounds, gain 20 back, climb back up on that horse and try again — losing another 20 then gaining back 25, then so be it. In a perfect world we’d all lose it once and be done, but chances are it’ll take a few runs at the mountain to pull it off and keep it off. We’ll go a few rounds before we “get it.” But that’s just my common sense — what does it know?
So, I do what I always do when I want an answer — I research it. One of the easiest websites for me to get data-driven answers is the handy, tax-paid, National Institute of Health’s website. Within a few minutes of searching for “weight cycling” and “yo-yo diet” I had around seven articles to review (there were more but I figured seven was enough, and lemme tell ya, science writing ain’t exactly spell-binding). The articles either said it’s better to yo-yo diet than stay fat, or there’s no health danger in yo-yo dieting (diabetes risk, cardiovascular risk, slowed resting metabolism, or increased morbidity/mortality). One concluded there probably wasn’t any risk but encouraged more research to be extra sure. NONE of the articles concluded it was better to stay fat than yo-yo diet.
If multiple studies say it’s better to weight cycle than stay obese (or at a minimum it’s no greater risk), why do I continually read and hear the opposite? My common sense says no one bothers to research it — they just regurgitate what THEY heard, and/or they’ve got some complicated solution to sell you. I know, shame on my jadedness. Over the years, my cynical side has danced one too many neener-neeners in the face of my optimism.
If you are obese, keep trying to lose that weight. Every little bit helps, even if you gain some back and lose it again. Keep at it. And my common sense just said, “Neener neener.”
NSCA certified personal trainer Shannon Sorrels has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and an MBA. Her Ahwatukee-based company, Physix LLC, works with Valley individuals and groups to improve their overall fitness. Reach her at (480) 528-5660 or visit www.azphysix.com.