The Dangers of Weight Cycling. Why You Should Strive for Consistency
Last week we talked about goal setting and the importance of setting goals that are specific, measurable, small and realistic. One long term goal I strongly encourage you to strive for is consistency. Now is the time to start being consistent with your eating and exercise habits. Consistency is the key to achieving any of your fitness goals. Inconsistency not only prevents you from being the athlete you want to be, but it can also be detrimental to your health. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the term “yo-yo dieting”. Many individuals with the goal to lose weight go about it all wrong. They’ll go on an extremely restrictive diet/detox/cleanse that can’t be maintained for a long time. After a few weeks or so they’ll start eating normally again or even worse go on a complete binge. This causes weight cycling. Weight cycling is defined as repeated periods of weight loss and weight regain. Although research on the effects of weight cycling is inconsistent, there have been some studies that have shown it to have negative effects on the body and overall health.
Not all, but some studies have shown that weight cycling can cause increased lipogenesis (conversion of glucose to fat in the body) and increased food efficiency (more weight gained per gram of food eaten). Weight cycling may also make it more difficult to lose weight in the future and increase body fat. There is much controversy as to whether or not this is true, but there have been studies that have shown that after a few times of weight cycling it took longer to lose weight than it did the first time. The subjects used in one particular study that were weight cycled were also found to have significantly lower fat free mass and higher body fat percentage than the ones that weren’t weight cycled even though they were all on a high fat diet.
Although the research on the effects of weight cycling on future weight loss and body fat remains controversial, multiple studies suggest that weight cycling may be harmful to your health. As we all know, weight loss helps to decrease the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Weight cycling, however, may increase risk. One study found that 88% of women who had weight cycled had at least one risk factor for heart disease and 69% had multiple risk factors. These women also had significantly lower HDL-C (good cholesterol) levels than non-cyclers. The more weight the woman had lost and the more times they had weight cycled the lower their HDL-C level. It was also found that non-obese women who were weight cyclers on average weighed more and had a higher BMI than women who didn’t weight cycle. As to be expected, regular weight gain causes increased blood glucose levels. Interestingly it was found that weight cycling caused an additional increase in blood glucose levels as well as impaired glucose tolerance which are both risk factors for type 2 diabetes. This suggests that weight cycling increases metabolic dysfunction, even more so than obesity alone.
Weight cycling may also have a negative impact on immune function. One study found that women who reported losing weight more than 5 times had about a third lower immune function than women who did not weight cycle. It was also found that women who maintained the same weight for 5 or more years had 40% greater immune activity compared to those whose weight remained stable for less than 2 years.
If you are overweight or obese, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t work to lose weight. But I am saying you should do it in a way that will allow you to keep it off once you’ve attained a healthy weight. DON’T GO ON A DIET! As I’ve said in the past, the main problem is dieting. Diets don’t work. The best way to lose weight and keep it off is eating a clean diet that consists of a reasonable caloric deficit that you can maintain over a long period of time. Your meal plan should not be viewed as a diet, rather you should think of it as a way of eating, a way of fueling your body and giving it all the nutrients it needs to function. Start making small changes every day that can be maintained for the rest of your life. Strive for gradual, consistent weight loss of around 1-2 pounds per week. This type of weight loss has a better chance of being maintained than drastic weight loss. Lastly, be patient and keep charging. It will take time and it won’t be easy. You will have a slip up here and there, but there’s no need to blame yourself or dwell on what’s happened in the past. Remember every time you eat is an opportunity to improve your health. Don’t let one slip up have a domino effect and cycle into something bigger. Today is a new day. Let the consistency begin.
What’s Up Next Week: Know Your ABC’s. Vitamin of the Month.
This Week’s Recipe: Black Bean and Butternut Squash Chili
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 small red pepper, cut into thin strips
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- 4 tsp chili powder
- 1 ½ tsp ground cumin
- 2 cups water
- 2 bay leaves, dried
- 1 (15oz) can diced tomatoes
- 2 (15.5oz) cans low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes
- ½ cup corn
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat
- Add onion and sauté about 3 minutes
- Add red pepper and garlic and continue to sauté about 2 more minutes
- Sprinkle in chili powder, cayenne pepper and cumin. Stir and cook for 1 minute
- Add water, tomatoes, black beans, tomato paste, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally
- Add butternut squash and corn. Cook for an additional 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until squash is tender, but holds its shape