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When losing weight make lifestyle changes to avoid yo-yo diet trap

When losing weight make lifestyle changes to avoid yo-yo diet trap

Weight loss is on the top of nearly everyone's list as the new year begins, and it’s no wonder. Two-thirds of us are either overweight or obese, and the consequences of our obesity epidemic grabs headlines on a daily basis. Although the secret of attaining healthy weight seems obvious (eat less & exercise more), it’s not that simple. Our environment and society often present unintentional obstacles that interfere with our best efforts to achieve healthy eating and active living.

Weight gain is an insidious process that sneaks up on us slowly, typically 1 to 3 extra pounds per year, but our expectations for weight loss are just the opposite. We want the elusive quick fix, and buy programs and products to get us there. Many seem to work for awhile, but aren’t sustainable and leave us caught in the yo-yo trap of weight loss and regain, called weight cycling, and it often leaves us heavier than when we started.

Our goal shouldn’t be quick weight loss, it should be healthy weight loss that fits within our lifestyle requirements and is sustainable for a lifetime, so let’s define what that means with the following advice.


Do set realistic goals

Becoming overweight doesn’t happen overnight, and you shouldn’t expect reversing the process to be as quick as you would like. Set small incremental goals that you can achieve and celebrate. A good guideline is 5% of your body weight (10 pounds for a 200 pound individual) to produce real health benefits. Expect to lose 1 to 2 pounds of fat each week and to achieve your initial goal in about 4-6 weeks.

Do find small ways to make dietary changes

It’s tempting to commit to a complete dietary makeover, but that rarely works with modern, hectic lifestyles; when slip-ups occur, we feel like failures and abandon our efforts. Instead, make small, sustainable changes to your existing diet by changing portion size so you can sustain it for a lifetime. Order a medium drink, fries or other item instead of a large. That alone will save you several hundred calories each day without forcing you to give up your routine or the foods you love.

Do make each day active

Whether or not you go the gym or have a workout routine, reduce your sedentary behaviors and get the benefit of extra calorie burning through activities of daily living. Whether you are at work or at the mall, try these simple tips: park a little further away; conduct telephone calls standing up or walking; choose the stairs instead of elevators or escalators. Do you really need to use the drive-through at the bank? Sometimes walking in can take less time and get you some extra exercise. Remember, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. If you have to go up to the eighth floor, consider taking one flight of stairs up and then pressing the elevator button. Step counters, smartphone apps, and heart rate monitors are great ways to monitor your success.

Do reward yourself by celebrating small successes

Most diets fail because people set high expectations and feel defeated when lofty goals aren’t met. However, losing any amount of weight is good, even if you slip up one day or miss that goal. Small successes are still important. Reward yourself with something that supports your goal and recognizes your success, such as a slightly smaller dress size or pair of jeans.

Do pick your supplements carefully

There are so many supplements claiming to support or accelerate your weight loss, often without any effort on your time. Unfortunately, most are marketing hype. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is, even though we really want to believe these claims. If you’re going to buy a supplement, find one that is supported by reputable scientific publications, not just claims on a website.


Do not overcommit

We all know we can lose weight by eating less and exercising more. That’s not rocket science. We fall short in our efforts because life (children, work, illness, travel) gets in the way and then we get frustrated and disappointed and ultimately fail. Don’t fall into the trap of overcommitment; instead, set small, reasonable goals. When you exceed them (and you will), you’ll feel like an overachiever.

Do not replace your diet

Meal replacements, meal delivery programs, shakes, and extreme diets all provide short-term benefits and produce significant weight loss. The problem is that they are not sustainable because they don’t teach you how to incorporate that success into your routine diet once you achieve your goal. Consequently, weight regain usually follows, resulting in the trap of yo-yo dieting.

Do not believe weight loss marketing hype

Fantastic claims are everywhere. Even when our minds don’t believe, our hearts want to. The reality is that there is no magic pill you can take or fairy dust you can sprinkle on your food to make the pounds melt away. If it’s not supported by reputable science, don’t believe it.

Do not weigh too frequently

Your weight will fluctuate, and that’s OK. Weigh yourself once or twice a week before breakfast, and focus on the overall trend, not a single number. Focus on how your clothes fit. Are they getting looser? Do you need to tighten your belt another notch, or buy a smaller size? These are noticeable achievements when you are losing weight that mean so much more to your weight loss goals than just a number on a scale.

Do not beat yourself up

This is a marathon, not a sprint. Mishaps and bad days will happen. You may overeat at a party or while traveling. So what? It’s just one day; the key is not to let small setbacks define you.

Jumping cartoon

Healthy, sustainable weight loss is best achieved through small changes to your existing lifestyle. Magic potions, pills, and powders are nothing more than marketing hype designed to lighten your wallet, not your waistline, and meal replacements, diet delivery programs and extreme diets only provide short-term success. Instead, focus on small, attainable goals, such as losing 5% of your body weight, through small portion size changes in your existing diet and incorporating small increases in activity into your daily routine. You can jumpstart these efforts with supplements, but make sure that your supplement is one with sound scientific and clinical support. Finally, remember to forgive yourself when a dietary slip-up occurs; your overall trajectory is so much more important than a single day of dieting.

More expert advice about Dieting

Photo Credits: Fruit & vegetable basket by Fickr: muammerokumus; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas -

Dr. Michael B. ZemelChief Scientific Officer, NuSirt Sciences, Inc.

Dr. Zemel is a recognized expert in weight loss and dieting. He is the author of nearly 200 peer-reviewed publications, primarily on the prevention and treatment of obesity and metabolic disease. He holds a number of patents, and his research ha...

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