Is Yo-Yo Dieting Destroying Your Metabolism? Here’s How You Can Tell

Could you sum up your dieting habits with the “yo-yo” metaphor? You go on an extreme diet thinking it will get you the results you want, only to bail on it almost as quickly as you started. Then you dive right back into dieting again — never giving your body the chance to recover from the damage.

Yo-yo dieting might just seem like an annoying cycle you can’t seem to break. Keep up with it too long, though, and you could totally ruin your chances of weight loss.

What is metabolism?

Carbs on a wooden surface

The foods you eat will be broken down by your metabolism. | Bit245/iStock/Getty Images

Everything you eat has calories, but your breakfast burrito doesn’t go straight from your mouth to your cells. The process that turns your food into energy, called metabolism, helps to regulate a number of your body’s processes. Even hormone changes and blood circulation require energy.

You burn more calories depending on your age, gender, and size. Does this mean changing your lifestyle habits can change your metabolism — and your weight?

How does metabolism relate to weight loss?

Balanced diet concept

A good diet is the key to losing weight. | JulijaDmitrijeva/iStock/Getty Images

Metabolism converts your food into energy. Unfortunately, it’s not as influential to the success of your weight loss goals as you might think.

Aside from those with medical conditions like hypothyroidism, everyone loses weight when they burn more calories than they consume. Some naturally lose weight faster or slower than others, but a “slow metabolism” isn’t the only reason you might be struggling to lose weight.

Does what you eat speed up your metabolism?

First McDonalds Franchise Recalls Fast-Food Giants Beginnings

Fast food will never be good for you. | Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Put simply, you can’t eat a certain food and expect a resulting metabolism “boost.” What you eat matters, but how little or how much often matters more when it comes to weight loss.

If you don’t eat much throughout the day, but you’re mostly eating highly processed foods high in calories, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Foods lacking sufficient protein — mainly junk foods — take less energy to digest, sabotaging your calorie deficit.

If food isn’t the problem, then what is?

calorie tot in food that on white plate

It’s important to keep track of your calories. | iStock.com/ssuaphoto

It’s no secret that eating less — and better — and staying active promotes weight loss. The problem is that most of us actually have no idea how much we’re eating.

Most people underestimate the amount of calories they consume, sometimes by as much as 40 percent. This is why, as important as calories are to weight loss, it’s often not enough to trigger weight loss. Calorie counting isn’t necessary, but it can help you become more aware of where you’re at.

This is what yo-yo dieting actually does to your body

Diet plan

You don’t want to slow down your metabolism. | iStock.com

The reason on-again, off-again dieting leads to weight gain has more to do with calorie amounts and output than specific foods. That is, restricting calories and working out too much slows down your metabolism, and it doesn’t just bounce back when you increase your intake again.

This process can also mess with your heart and put you in a really bad mood, which isn’t helpful if you’re an emotional eater and over-consume in response to strong feelings.

Why does this happen?

Man starving himself

Starving yourself is not a good plan. | iStock.com

Have you ever wondered what actually happens when your body thinks it’s starving? When you stop eating — or significantly reduce your calorie intake — your body starts to break down fat and protein, which wouldn’t be so bad if you refueled with more of it.

Your metabolism goes into hibernation, sort of, because it’s trying to keep you alive. When you bounce right back into “normal” eating, you’re more likely to gain weight, along with a host of other unwanted results.

How to prevent it

Healthy Lifestyle Diet

Go for a healthy and sustainable diet. | iStock.com/Rawpixel Ltd

If you can’t stick to your diet, chances are, you’re not on the right diet. Many diets fail on an individual level because they’re not realistic for you personally. A diet doesn’t mean you have to go hungry, and hunger doesn’t always require a quick sugar-saturated fix.

Take a few hints from the French, who weigh less and probably eat more on average than you do. How do they stay so thin? The answer might surprise you.

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