If you feel like you’re constantly dieting and then giving up, your weight loss successes will be short-lived. If the roller coaster of watching the scale go up and down over the years has been your #1 pastime, then welcome to the Yo-Yo Diet Club. It’s a big club, filled with both mighty intentions and enormous frustrations.
• Could you open up a small clothing boutique with all the different sized clothes you have lurking in your closets and dressers?
• Have you ever pulled out your “skinny” clothes and sighed as you thought about the list time you could fit into them?
Yo-yo dieting is harmful to more than just your self-esteem. Repeatedly losing and then regaining weight can actually cause your metabolism to slow down, making it harder and harder for you to lose weight and keep it off in the long term.
How To Break The Yo-Yo Diet Cycle
Instead of trying this, then trying that until you stumble upon the fabled secret miracle weight loss system, it’s time to take a look at your long-term behavior and finally learn how to break the yo-yo diet cycle:
Say no to diets and detoxes
It’s always tempting to follow the diet-of-the-day, whether it’s the lemon detox diet, the soup diet, the cottage cheese diet, or any other ‘miracle’ weight loss secret that celebrities or pop physicians are promoting. It seems like everyone has an answer to instant and effortless weight loss, if you only knew their secret. But before you start filling your fridge with nothing but cabbage and pomegranate juice, stop and think. The reason any goofy diet ‘works’ is that you’re temporarily starving yourself. If you eat nothing but the one food for a few days or more, of course you will lose a lot of weight quickly. But this is not sustainable weight loss. As soon as you start eating normally, the weight will come back.
You have to improve what is NORMAL for you!
Focus on behavior, not on the scale
When you’re trying to lose weight, you will be more likely to achieve long-term success if you concentrate on your ACTIONS instead of the OUTCOME. Focus on modifying your eating and exercise patterns, instead of obsessing over the number on the scale. In order to get what you WANT, you have to change what you DO — so put your focus on the DOING. What changes are needed? What habits are you trying to create? What POSITIVE things are you doing for your health and your weight? (not what things you are DEPRIVING yourself of!)
On a choice-by-choice level (which is the ONLY option you have, by the way), focus on making smart choices and actions instead of constantly thinking, ‘I must lose 20 pounds.’
Working at a small-scale, practical level means you are more likely to make real improvements to your diet and will see results that are lasting. Making small healthy lifestyle changes that you can do consistently will be easier to stick to than strict, restrictive diets, and will make a bigger difference in the long term.
When you do weigh yourself, focus on anything positive. Even a small weight loss has gotten you one step closer to your goal, so congratulate yourself on the achievement rather than beating yourself up for not losing weight fast enough (could it EVER be ‘fast enough’?). Even just maintaining a weight loss is an achievement, even if you haven’t yet lost any more.
Identify Your Triggers and Tendencies
It’s important to identify your eating (and emotional eating) patterns, so that when you’re triggered you can make CONSCIOUS choices instead of REACTIVE ones. Think about when you have gained or lost weight in the past. Has weight gain or weight loss coincided with particular life events, either positive or negative? If emotional or circumstantial situations trigger you to eat more or less, or to exercise more or less, it is important to notice these.
Recognizing your weight loss patterns means you can more readily identify potential trouble, and find tools that will work for you long-term. For example, if you notice that you tend to gain weight during stressful times at work, you might need to come up with better strategies for stress management (see step 3 of my free 3 STEPS TO KILL YOUR SUGAR CRAVINGS guide). Or if you find that you lose weight when you’re busy, you can start trying to add more physical activity into your day in order to keep your mind and body active.
It can also be helpful to examine your attitude towards food, exercise, and lifestyle habits. Have you been thinking about weight loss as something that requires a ‘diet’ or a period of focused restriction? One that you will follow for a while, and then stop once you lose some weight? If that’s your mindset, you are probably going to yo-yo back to what you used to do before you started this ‘diet’.
Permanent change requires permanent changes!
Some more notes about breaking the yo-yo diet cycle:
- You can lose weight and improve your body without ever stepping on a scale. I teach my clients to use lots of different ways to measure improvement:
- tape measurements,
- clothes size,
- vegetables eaten each day,
- stress levels,
- decreases in hunger and cravings,
- energy levels,
- lifestyle habits, etc.
- Pick something that’s important to you that isn’t a number on the bathroom scale.
- Not seeing a smaller number on the scale does NOT mean there are no improvements.
- Food is intended to be eaten, not withheld. Keep healthy food around. Make it easy to make smart decisions.
- It does not matter how many pounds you *think* you eventually need to lose. What matters is how you make choices every time you eat. Focus on WHY you make each choice.
- Choose nutrition over restriction. Eat healthy food joyfully. Focusing on the ‘NO’ and the ‘I CAN’T HAVEs’ is a guaranteed way to increase stress, depression, and self-doubt.
- Accept that your body is always changing, and every day your needs will be different. Some days you just need to eat more or rest more. That does not mean that you have failed and will get fat.
- Improving your diet and ultimately changing your body into a healthier version feels good. Period. Food jail and deprivation suck. Don’t make things suck.
- Stop thinking about *how* or *what* you should do, and start thinking about WHY. Your WHYs determine your choices, and your choices determine your how and what. Not the other way around.
- You can’t wait for a perfect time to “get back on track” – it will never come. There is no magic. You will always be too busy and stressed sometimes. You cannot expect to wait until nothing bad ever happens to you before you start to improve your self-care. You can make healthier decisions AND have a stressful day, it’s not one or the other.
Ready To Break The Yo-Yo Diet Cycle?
If you want help breaking the yo-yo diet cycle, feel free to contact me to discuss ideas and options. I’ve spent the last 20 years helping a lot of people change – you can be next!