How to Stop Yo Yo Dieting Using Real Food

September 16, 2019

How to Stop Yo Yo Dieting Using Real Food

What is Yo Yo Dieting?

If you don’t know what yo yo dieting is, it’s the pattern of losing and regaining weight, also referred to as weight cycling1. I’m sure you’ve heard of it before, but you maybe haven’t given it a ton of thought. Maybe you just think your weight “fluctuates”. Maybe you think that the diet you tried just wasn’t the right one for you, and the next one will be. But yo yo dieting? You may think that’s not you. 

Are You Stuck?

So how do you know if you are stuck in this pattern? What does it actually look like? Answer these questions and find out once and for all if you’ve fallen into the cycle:

  1. Have you been on a diet that you couldn’t stick to?
  2. Are you looking for your next diet?
  3. Are you looking for the next thing to eliminate or restrict from your diet?
  4. Are you currently on a diet that you know (even if you won’t admit it to yourself) is not something you can do for the rest of your life?
  5. Have you ever been on a diet that “worked” until something happened and now you can’t get back to it, or are beating yourself up for having “dropped the ball”?

If you answered yes to ANY ONE of these questions, chances are that you’re either already in a yo yo diet pattern, or you’re about to be. 

What Causes Yo Yo Dieting

There are 3 main factors that lead to this pattern. 

  • The first is the restrict-binge cycle. Bingeing always starts with restrictions. I will say that again: Bingeing ALWAYS starts with restrictions. When you go all day “being good” and eating only “diet” foods aka “low energy, low nutrient” foods, of course you’re going to overeat when you come home. You’re going to snack, eat a huge dinner, and snack some more. Because you’re STARVING.  You’re human. You need food. And nutrients. This is your body’s survival mechanism. And this is the restrict-binge cycle that leads to yo yo dieting. 
  • The second factor is another cycle that I call the “sugar addiction cycle”. No, you can’t actually be “addicted” to sugar. But this cycle works very similarly to the restrict-binge cycle and it goes like this: Eat something sugary→ blood sugar spikes→ insulin spikes→ blood sugar crashes→ you crave more sugar→ eat something sugary. Or it could start here: avoid all sugar→ blood sugar drops too low→ crave sugar→ overeat on sugar→ blood sugar spikes→ insulin spikes→ blood sugar crashes→ crave more sugar→ eat something sugary. Either way, you’re stuck in a pattern.
Related: The Sugar Conundrum: How to Stop Craving it Without Giving It Up
  • Both of these cycles then lead to the 3rd factor. Feelings of failure. Each time you go through this cycle, you’ll feel like you’re failing. You’ll feel like it’s not working. You are slowing your metabolism down and spiraling out of control until you give up. And then you’re in a chronic state of “binge” until you’re finally fed up with it and start your next diet, just to repeat the entire process. 

Using Real Food to Stop Yo Yo Dieting

If you’re still reading, you’re probably realizing that, yes, you are stuck in this pattern. You can probably even date it all the way back to your high school years! So how do you stop? The answer is simple: stop dieting. Simple. But so freaking hard! 

Here are some tips that can help you stop dieting:

  • Always combine your carbs and proteins at every single meal. This tip is for your sugar cycle and it’s also a great one for your metabolism. When you eat a carb alone, your blood sugar spikes. When you eat a protein alone, your blood sugar stays low. When you eat them together, your blood sugar goes up slowly and evenly. This will help prevent sugar cravings and overeating.
  • Stop eating diet foods! Low calorie also means low energy and low nutrients. If all you eat all day are 100 calorie packs of cookies and rice cakes, you’re going to eat the entire house when you get home from work. Instead, try adding peanut butter to your rice cakes for snacks (not enough for a meal, mama) and avocado plus a protein to your salads. Psst, don’t forget the carb ;) Bottom line: EAT REAL FOOD.
  • This one will sound cliche, but seriously- don’t skip meals. Eat throughout the day. Every 3-4 hours. Repeat after me: carb plus protein every 3-4 hours. 
  • Don’t deprive yourself. Don’t let yourself go hungry, and don’t forbid yourself from eating your favorite foods. Otherwise, when those foods do end up being around, you will not be able to stop yourself. It’s not your fault. You’re human. It’s the diet culture’s fault for making you feel like you can’t have that brownie. Brownies are delicious. Eat the brownie for heaven’s sake! 

Your Action Steps

This is all great information and great advice. But how can you apply this to your life? How can you actually make these changes? You can sit here reading this and say “great, I’m done dieting”. But you need a plan to make that happen

Here are a few realistic things you can do right now to make sure this diet-free life you’re fantasizing about actually works for you! 

  • Plan & prep your meals ahead of time. Guys. This is the biggest one. You absolutely can’t manage the stress of everyday life without knowing where your next meal is coming from and without preparing ahead of time for it. And you definitely can’t accomplish ANYTHING with first preparing. The goal of meal prep is not to look like an insta-worthy chef (let Prep and Rally do that for you :) ), but to make your week EASIER and less stressful. If the idea of meal planning is overwhelming to you, there are tons of services out that there that can help, one being Prep and Rally. This service will not only plan your meals, but ALSO walk you through 1 hour of prep work for the entire week’s meals. Can’t get easier than that guys. And if you still find it hard to stick to, just remember this: Life is easier when meals are prepped.
  • The second thing you need to do is change your mindset. You need to change the way you talk to yourself about food and about the words “calories” and “carbs”. These are not bad words. They are not bad things. Calories are energy, and carbs are nutrients. We need both to survive. We need both to have energy and manage stress. Be mindful of the words you use. Notice when you say things like that food is “bad” or “unhealthy” or “I can’t have that”, and try to change it to a positive like “That brownie is delicious and I will have some because I can”. 
  • This brings us to the 3rd step: Allow yourself the foods you really want. Remember, restriction leads to bingeing. This means that when you forbid yourself from eating your favorite foods, you will overeat on it when it’s finally around. 

This week's blog post was written by Amanda Goodwin, MS RDN LDN. Amanda is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Lifestyle Coach, and founder of Happy Nourished


1- Is yo-yo dieting making you fat? (2018, June 09)