Weight cycling, commonly referred to as “yo-yo dieting,” can be defined as repeated losses and regains of body weight. In a small cycle, weight changes by 5-10 pounds, while in larger cycles, weight can change by 50 pounds or more. Weight cycling is not the recommended and its approach for losing weight and keeping it off, and its effects on metabolism, weight and overall health are unclear.
Weight Cycling and Effects on Metabolism and Weight
A comprehensive review of the science on weight cycling was completed by a group of obesity experts who were convened as a national task force to address the issue. They concluded that reliable evidence does not demonstrate that weight cycling decreases metabolism. In other words, repeatedly losing and regaining body weight does not make it harder to lose weight when trying to do so the next time around. Weight cycling also has not been linked to an increase in body fat or accumulating fat around the middle, which is linked to increased health risks. So after a weight cycle, those who return to their original weight have the same amount of body fat and muscle mass as they did prior to weight cycling.
More recently, while weight cyclers were found to be heavier and have a less favorable metabolic profile, they were able to lose weight and experience improvements in metabolic measures.