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Yo-Yo Dieting



Reader Shanaka Kalajer asks:
“My girlfriend and I have been trying to lose weight for years. We have tried every diet known to man without any great success. My mum says this is because we are yo-yo dieting. Is this true?

Sally Symonds – Weight Loss Coach and Author

The medical evidence that diets don’t work for long-term weight loss is overwhelming, yet we remain willfully blind to this fact because we are constantly bombarded with misinformation disguised as marketing messages.  Here’s a few home truths.

My typical weight loss client:

1.  Has been a yo-yo dieter for many years;

2.  Has tried “everything” – shakes, programs, personal trainers and frozen meals;

3.  Has had short-term success with at least one method, but has regained, or is fast regaining, all the weight they’ve lost;

4.  Is an emotional eater;

5.  Is wary of wasting more money on weight loss, no wonder;

6.  Is scared and skeptical of my methods, but sick of being overweight;

7.  Knows a lot of what to do, but just doesn’t know how to keep on doing it day-in and day-out;

8.  Thinks that weight loss is all about deprivation and discomfort;

9.   Has almost lost confidence in their ability to change long-term because they’ve tried and failed so many times before; and

10.  Never regrets taking the plunge with me.

The reason why they don’t regret taking the plunge is because my methods are completely different.  After all, the fastest way to lose weight is to do it once – so you never have to do it again. Most diet and exercise programs are all about “100 percent effort” and “go hard or go home.” Consider this rough mathematical equation:

If you begin a weight loss program with 100 percent effort, you might be able to last maybe three weeks, if you’re lucky. So, your total effort for that time period would equate to 300 percent. But, give just 80 percent effort over five weeks and you’ll get 400 percent in results.  Even more startling, a mere 25 percent effort over 25 weeks is going to give you 625 percent in results.

Do something for 25 weeks, that’s five months of the year, and you’re much more likely to want to keep doing it forever. You’ve made a lifestyle change and you’ve barely even noticed.

Traditional weight loss diets and exercise programs also deny their participants autonomy, self-direction and self-empowerment. For example, some of the basic motivational tools that experts around the world classify as major motivational drivers, for most people, in most instances, are designed to de-motivate us and so we quit, regain the weight and start all over again. Diet and exercise plans also go against our basic human nature as they try to control our every meal and movement. Sure, we can do this for a while, but eventually we decide we’ve had enough and we rebel. Psychologists call it counter-regulation. I call it the “what the hell effect.”  Basically you’ve had enough of being controlled by someone else’s plan and so you ditch it altogether. A smarter way to lose weight is to learn how to devise your own plan, one that works for you. Because only you know what is going to work best for you on a practical, physical and psychological level. The physical, or theoretical side, of weight loss is easy. The other bits are where the challenges come in. The choice is yours. You can continue struggling with your weight and try another new diet, shake, pill or exercise regime. By the way how’s that working for you? Or you can open your eyes to a new way to lose weight, and keep it off!

Sally Symonds holds a certificate III and IV in fitness, is a certified wellness coach, and a NLP practitioner. She holds a Masters and Bachelors degree in Arts, and an Associate and Licentiate in Speech and Drama. Having lost over 50 percent of her body weight, Sally Symonds is the author of 50 steps to lose 50kg… And Keep It Off and 50+ Recipes to Lose 50+kg… And Keep It Off and more than 20 other ebooks. Sally offers phone and online weight loss coaching, as well as a variety of other healthy living services and products.

Sputnik – Chief Swashbukler, The Swashbucklers Club (I’m also an ultra runner and author if that is still too weird)

No time like the present.

This is going to sound harsh, but if you and your girlfriend had really been trying to lose weight for years, you would have done it by now. Let’s face it, you’re either trying the wrong things, or not trying hard enough. Or, maybe, more to the point, ‘trying’ isn’t ‘doing’.

This has nothing to do with yo-yo diets, zones, carbs, detox or any other fancy term. There’s a lot of people out there who try and make weight loss way more complicated than it really is. They do this because it suits them and sells books. But here’s the thing, and get your pen and paper ready, because I’m about to share the absolute undeniable secret to weight loss right here and right now. Get ready to discover the ‘secret ingredient’ to absolutely every ‘diet’ on the planet.

Weight loss is about using more calories than you take in.

Are you with me on this? It’s about the calories you stick in your mouth, and the calories your body uses. If you put more calories in than what you burn, you will put on weight. If you use more calories than you put in, you will lose it. Simple as that. Seriously. No tricks. No weirdness. No gimmicks. Just a simple, scientific fact.

Now, to be fair, there are a very small minority of people who have certain disorders where this equation isn’t quite so simple. And some of these other diets or techniques will potentially either speed-up or slow-down the process. But if all you do is monitor what you’re using and what you’re consuming and adjust that accordingly, you will lose weight. It won’t take years to start happening. Actually, it will take weeks or even days to start happening. But, the key is to continue doing this.

What’s more, with a little bit of luck, life will be long so there’s no real hurry to do this unrealistically quickly. Unless of course you’re on a reality TV show where losing the most amount of weight per week will win you a wonderful prize. For the rest of us, we can lose weight in a nice, gentle, and most importantly, sustainable way. The last thing you want to do is drink nothing but water and train 18 hours a day for a few weeks to drop some weight fast, when you have no intention of keeping that sort of strategy up. (And for the record, I do NOT recommend that sort of strategy!)

My suggestion would be buy a smart phone app called ‘MyFitnessPal’. Log the food you eat (it’s often as easy as scanning the barcodes of what you’re eating) and the activity you do (everything from line dancing to horse grooming is in there!) and get some relatively accurate information on what your calorie intake and usage is right now. That will be a great starting point. You can then use this app to set a weight loss goal and it will calculate what your daily calorie allowance should be to achieve it. If you stick to this, you will lose weight. Simple as that. Hey presto. You’re welcome.

Have an Out of this World Day!

Since taking up running in 2010, Sputnik has completed numerous road marathons including the New York Marathon as well as a number of ultra trail runs including the Tarawera 100km ultra in Rotorua, NZ and the brutal North Face 100 – a 100km trail race through the Blue Mountains in NSW. His practical, useful and usually at least vaguely entertaining advice and ability to make stupid, difficult and stupidly difficult acts of exercise look a tiny bit enjoyable and possibly even fun has already helped numerous people get off their arses. His mission is to do that a bit more. As testament to his Swashbuckling spirit he has eaten fried tarantulas in Cambodia, climbed active volcanos in Indonesia and been married. In November 2012 Sputnik was part of the first group to ever race the 200+km Manaslu Mountain Trail in Nepal and finished in a blaze of glory several days before everyone else – when he was helivac’d off the mountain half way through after almost dying. He’s fine now though and stands by his motto thatOrdinary is the enemy and must be avoided at all costs.”

Sigrid de Castella – ‘Half the Woman I Was’ Author

Eight years ago I weighed more than 143kg (315lb) and was on the verge of being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes – if only I’d had the courage to go to the doctor. But then I had a light bulb moment.

Having tried almost every diet under the sun before I found something that worked, I can personally verify that yo-yo diets place a huge amount of stress on the body and its systems. In addition, they also can be mentally exhausting and weaken your immune system making you more susceptible to sickness.

In fact, an explanation on yo-yo dieting can be found in my book, “Half The Woman I Was – How I lost 70kg naturally, reclaimed my life … and how you can too!” This is as follows:

When we go on a conventional or fad “diet” the reduced intake of calories is usually radical. During the first few days the body is operating according to its usual instructions where there was an overabundance of high calorie, high fat foods. The body has a high metabolism and is burning a high rate of calories, therefore you lose weight.

But then, the metabolism and the body swings into starvation mode. It adapts by lowering your basal metabolic rate (base metabolism) so you don’t burn as many calories as you were previously. Worse still, severe calorie restrictions trigger the body to begin eating its reserves. Muscle converts to energy more easily than fat so the body begins to consume this and you waste away. This leaves your body with a lower percentage of lean muscle mass (the bit that actually helps you lose weight), and all the fat you were trying to get rid of in the first place.

Restricted eating plans often involve a radical change in food as well. Highly processed and refined packaged food full of tasty salt, sugar and fat (not to mention artificial flavours and colours) are swapped for healthy options of fruit, vegetables and lean meats. But, like a junkie the body continues to crave the additives that it had and this makes it difficult to stick to the diet.

The mental aspect of dieting is probably worse. You are asked to “give up” those foods which we associate with enjoyment and this can then trigger mood swings and depression. Plus, a decrease in calorie consumption brings on lethargy and tiredness and, at times, a self-inflicted isolation where social outings are avoided and ‘temptation’ put aside. Of course, this all makes a recipe for disaster.

So what’s the end result? We end up breaking or cheating on our diet because it’s not sustainable. Days, weeks or months later we try it all-over again and the result is the yo-yo diet cycle of losing weight, gaining it back plus a little more, losing, and gaining again.

I know it sounds boring, but a calorie moderated diet in conjunction with regular exercise and mental cleansing is really the best approach. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.

Sigrid de Castella is an internationally published author, speaker, and coach in the fields of health and business. Her book “Half The Woman I Was – How I lost 70kg naturally, reclaimed my life … and how you can too!” has received international acclaim and has been hailed as the most comprehensive weight loss book on the market. Sigrid has also studied Personal Training with the Fitness Institute Australia and has a keen interest in whole food nutrition, natural therapies and all aspects of physical and mental health. Sigrid and holds a BBA from RMIT University and is a member of both the Australian Institute of Managers and the Australian Society of Authors.

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Disclaimer: The information published in this column is based on each of the author’s own professional and personal knowledge and opinion. This information and opinion is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any manner. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition and consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional or exercise program. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on InShape News.

2 thoughts on “Yo-Yo Dieting”

  1. Wow I’ve been looking for this info for a long time. Thanks for taking the time to write an article about it. I’ve struggled with dieting for years!

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