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Yo-Yo Dieting: Breaking the Cycle

By Barbara Moore, PhD FTOS


Yo-Yo Dieting is defined as repeated cycles of significant weight loss followed by weight regain – sometimes (but not always) to a higher body weight than you started with. Yo-Yo Dieting is common and demoralizing. Here is how to break the cycle:

  1. Pull out your journal or computer and make notes about the weight loss phase. What did you do right? Be specific and thorough. Did you eat less? Did you choose different foods? Did you attend weight loss sessions? Meet with a dietitian? Go for a walk each day? Did you tell your friends and family about your weight loss goals? Did they provide support? Record everything you can think of that worked in your favor. This list is focused on your strengths.
  2. Now think about the weight regain phase. Why did this happen? List all of the reasons. Did you start eating foods that trigger overeating? Did you stop exercising? Too much TV? Did you get the support you needed? Why not? Think about absolutely everything that happened that contributed to your weight regain and record every detail you can think of. This list represents the lessons you can learn from.
  3. Consider your current weight loss goal. How important is it to you? How realistic is it? Be honest with yourself. Are you ready and willing to build on your strengths? Learn from your mistakes? If the answer is yes, you are ready to record your plan of action. Are you going to join a commercial program? Meet with a dietitian a few times to learn about healthy eating? How are you going to build on each of your strengths? Now look at your list of lessons learned. How are you going to overcome the obstacles that stood in your way last time?


Everyone makes mistakes. We live in a world that makes it easy to gain weight. So forgive yourself for any mistakes you may have made. Give yourself credit for the lessons you have learned and for deciding to try again. Careful and realistic preparation for your next attempt sets you up for success.