Yo-Yo Dieting: Is It a Problem?

In the past, some studies have indicated that yo-yo dieting or “weight cycling” (losing weight, regaining it, losing it, and so on) may be harmful to health, but important research on thousands of women affirms just the opposite.  The study found that women who intentionally lost weight did not suffer adverse health as a result, even though they’d been yo-yoing for years.*

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Stop the Yo-Yo Dieting Cyle

The problem with past research, points out the new study, is that it often did not tease apart intentional dieters from unintentional ones (i.e., people who were dropping pounds because of poor health). So in these past studies, what looked like problems caused by yo-yoing may in fact have been caused by other things.

In the study, researchers from Harvard Medical School followed nearly 45,000 women, all middle-aged and older, for more than three decades. Between 1972 and 1992, nearly 19% of the women were found to be mild weight cyclers, that, is, they lost and regained at least 10 pounds at least three times. Another 8% were characterized as severe weight cyclers – they lost and regained at least 20 pounds at least three times.

During 12 years of follow-up (through 2004), 2,884 women died. The researchers compared the mortality rates of the cyclers with those of the non­cyclers and found that neither mild nor severe weight cycling were “predictive of greater all-cause or cardiovascular mortality.”

Bottom Line: Keep trying, the scientists urged. But don’t opt for quick-fix solutions. Focus instead on long-term lifestyle change. Short-term diets often produce short-­term weight loss. All too often the pounds come back.

Lifestyle changes, like those taught at the Pritikin Longevity Center, such as exercising daily, upping your daily intake of fruits and veggies, and eliminating high-­calorie beverages, can bring a lifetime of rewards.


And sure, we all need reinforcement. It’s nice to get recharged every now and then. That’s why many Pritikin alumni return to the Pritikin Longevity Center on a regular basis.

Coming back to Pritikin “gives me that extra kick,” says Andrea Coogle of Tampa, Florida, who shed 75 pounds slowly but surely.  “Pritikin,“ she explains, “is not about ‘Can I get this weight off in 30 days before I go to South Beach?’ It’s about feeling a lot better every day – and for all the days to come.”


* Archives of Internal Medicine; May 11, 2009, Vol 169 (9): 881-886.

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