While we’re still in the depths of summer, the weather’s being incredible (we love you, sun), and you might have some late beach holidays booked in, the temptation to lose some weight and get that elusive bikini bod is strong.
If you’re like the rest of us, you’ve probably left your weight loss to the last minute. And just realised that you’re going to be spending a week wearing a bikini in front of ten friends and the whole tanned, slender population of the Spanish resort town you’re staying in. You can see why it’s tempting to just jump on a fad diet.
Although it might initially seem like a great idea to try out an extreme weight loss plan, the long-term repercussions aren’t great.
In this post, we’ll be exploring why yo-yo dieting and weight loss fads simply aren’t sustainable.
1. They’re difficult to maintain
One of the main reasons why yo-yo dieting and weight loss fads aren’t sustainable is because they are based on deprivation and desperation; pretty much all of these diets mean chopping out a huge chunk of your regular diet — whether it’s carbs, fat, processed foods or heavily cutting your calorie count. And need we bring up the Cabbage Soup diet?
Changing your diet suddenly — not to mention cutting out a whole food group or not giving your body the normal amount of nutrients it needs to function — makes fad diets super difficult to maintain. A lot of the time, your body responds to dieting by increasing your appetite in the hope that you will feed it. How are you going to argue with that?!
As a result of extreme food deprivation, you are far more likely to cave in and crash out of a diet in a big way — piling all of those pounds back on.
It’s much better to find a slower and safer way to lose weight, add exercise into your routine such as exercise bike workouts.
2. Starvation mode can actually lead to weight gain
Although you might think that one of these diets is going to make you lose a shedload of weight quickly and easily, they can often lead to weight gain — especially if you take a break from your diet.
This is because many fad diets work by depriving you of your normal calories; the idea is that by cutting your calorie count, you will use up the fat you already have stored on your body for energy, rather than energy from the food you’ve just eaten.
The issue is that this isn’t the case, and you’ve probably already heard of the reason why: starvation mode.
There are many myths around weight loss and what constitutes as safe weight loss (this post by The Independent Pharmacy separates fact from fiction), but starvation mode is a legitimate thing. Starvation mode, as explained by Healthline, is your body’s natural reaction to a reduction in food: your metabolism slows down, reduces the number of calories you burn, and your body stores fat. It’s your brain natural mechanism to protect you from starvation (which is how it interprets a fad diet) and continue your gene line.
Ultimately, the result is that you can keep trying and trying to cut out lots of calories, but your weight will plateau or even increase.
3. You’re not giving your body what it actually needs nutritionally
Most fad diets tend to rely on eating predominantly from one food group (like the Atkins diet), or cutting out others entirely (like the Dukan Diet).
While this approach can work in the short term for weight loss, in the long term, you are denying your body a lot of the nutrients it needs by restricting your diet.
We need to vary our diets to make sure that it’s nutritionally beneficial for us — giving our bodies sufficient levels of vitamins, minerals, proteins and carbs to keep us functioning.
It’s worth noting as well that weight loss isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ type of thing. Every individual needs something different from their diet if they want to lose weight, and things like age, sex and race can all play a part. Fad diets don’t take individual needs into account, which means they’re going to have less success than a diet tailored to your actual needs.
4. There are serious long-term health risks
Not only is yo-yo dieting not sustainable in terms of weight loss, your eating habits and your general lifestyle, but it’s got huge repercussions for your health long-term.
Here are just some of the health risks that yo-yo dieting and weight loss diets can have on your body:
An increased risk of heart disease: if your weight fluctuates dramatically, your risk of heart disease increases too.
It could possibly lead to diabetes: yo-yo dieting is associated with a higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes because it increases your insulin and belly fat levels.
It can increase your blood pressure: weight gain during yo-yo dieting can increase your blood pressure to dangerous levels.
Liver problems are more likely: the weight gain part of yo-yo dieting can have a detrimental effect on your liver, storing excess fat inside the liver. This can lead to chronic liver failure (also known as cirrhosis).
5. It’s so bad for your mental health
Yo-yo dieting doesn’t just impact your physical health; it can have a detrimental effect on your mental health too.
If you’re jumping between different fad diets, coming off weight loss plans, then starting all over again, then your weight will constantly fluctuate for as long as your doing this.
And although instant weight loss may make you feel a temporary buzz about being a step closer to that bikini bod, it gives you a totally unrealistic expectation — meaning the frustration and disappointment you feel when your weight begins to creep up again will sting even more.
This can lead to a really unhealthy relationship with food, your weight and your body — obsessing with calories and the number on the scales, rather than nourishing your body with the food it needs.
6. Short-term weight loss fads prevent long-term lifestyle changes
Crash diets can seem like the dream answer when you’re trying to squeeze into a dress for that wedding, but they don’t have longevity.
And as well as not being sustainable, these quick fixes also get in the way of you making any meaningful long-term lifestyle changes.
Instead of chopping out a food group or keeping your calorie count in the hundreds, you could address the underlying causes of your weight unhappiness (such as a poor diet or lack of exercise). By making positive changes to your daily routines — whether it’s creating a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and veg, cutting processed foods, or starting to exercise regularly — you can gradually, naturally and safely get your weight down to a healthy place.
As you can see, there are many reasons why yo-yo dieting and weight loss fads aren’t sustainable. Instead, dedicate your time to a balanced diet, regular exercise, and having fun. You’ll feel much more fulfilled, and you’ll be able to maintain a healthy weight while living in a way that makes you happy without depriving yourself of the things you love.