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Weight Cycling

What Is Weight Cycling?

Weight cycling is the repeated loss and regain of body

weight. When weight cycling is the result of dieting, it

is often called "yo-yo" dieting. A weight cycle can

range from small weight losses and gains (5-10 lbs.

per cycle) to large changes in weight (50 lbs. or more

per cycle).

Is It Harmful?

You may have heard stories in the press claiming that

weight cycling may be harmful to your health. You also

may have heard that staying at one weight is better

for you than weight cycling, even if you are obese.

However, no convincing evidence supports these

claims, and most obesity researchers believe that

obese individuals should continue to try to control

their body weight.

Won't Losing It Again Be Even Harder?

People who repeatedly lose and regain weight should

not experience more difficulty losing weight each time

they diet. Most studies have shown that weight

cycling does not affect one's metabolic rate. Metabolic

rate is the rate at which food is burned for energy.

Based on these findings, weight cycling should not

affect the success of future weight loss efforts.

However, everyone, whether they have dieted or not,

experiences a slowing of the metabolism as they age.

In addition, older people are often less physically

active then when they were younger. Therefore,

people often find it more difficult to lose weight as

they get older.

Will Weight Cycling Leave Me With More Fat?

Weight cycling has not been proven to increase the

amount of fat tissue in people who lose and regain

weight. Researchers have found that after a weight

cycle people have the same amount of fat and lean

tissue as they did prior to weight cycling.

What About Abdominal Fat?

Some people are concerned that weight cycling can

cause more fat to collect in the abdominal area.

People who tend to carry their excess fat in the

abdominal area (apple-shaped), instead of in the hips

and buttocks (pear-shaped), are more likely to develop

the health problems associated with obesity. However,

studies have not found that after a weight cycle

people have more abdominal fat than they did before

weight cycling.

Is Weight Cycling Harmful to My Health?

A number of studies have suggested that weight

cycling (and weight loss) may be associated with an

increase in mortality. Unfortunately, these studies

were not designed to answer the question of how

intentional weight loss by an obese person affects

health. Most of the studies did not distinguish

between those who lost and regained weight through

dieting from those whose change in weight may have

been due to other reasons, such as unsuspected

illness or stress. In addition, most of the people

followed in these studies were not obese. In fact,

some evidence shows that if weight cycling does have

any negative effects on health, they are seen mostly

in people of low or normal weight. Some studies have

looked at the relationship between weight cycling and

risk factors for illness, such as high blood pressure,

high blood cholesterol, or high blood sugar. Most of

these studies have not found an association between

weight cycling and harmful changes in risk factors.

Is Remaining Overweight Healthier Than Weight


At this time, no conclusive studies have shown that

weight cycling is harmful to the health of an obese

person. On the other hand, the health risks of obesity

are well known. The costs of obesity-related illnesses

are more than $39 billion each year. Obesity is linked

to serious medical conditions such as: High blood

pressure, Heart disease, Stroke, Diabetes, Certain

types of cancer , Gout, and Gallbladder disease. Not

everyone who is obese has the same risk for these

conditions--a person's sex, amount of fat, location of

fat, and family history of disease all play a role in

determining an individual's risk of obesity-related

problems. However, experts agree that even a modest

weight loss can improve the health of an obese



Further research on the effects of weight cycling is

needed. In the meantime, if you are obese, don't let

fear of weight cycling stop you from achieving a

modest weight loss. Although health problems

associated with weight cycling have not been proven,

the health-related problems of obesity are well known.

Preventing Weight Gain

If you are not obese and have no risk factors for

obesity-related illness, focus on preventing further

weight gain by increasing your exercise and eating

healthy foods, rather than trying to lose weight. If you

do need to lose weight, you should be ready to

commit to lifelong changes in your eating behaviors,

diet, and physical activity.

Provided by National Institute of Diabetes and

Digestive and Kidney Diseases