Who doesn’t know the infamous yo-yo effect? There are many reasons why the pounds are usually back faster after a diet than they were shed. The doctor and nutritional psychologist Thomas Ellrott names factors that favor the yo-yo effect and shows ways out of the vicious circle.
A bikini figure in a few weeks – that’s what many diets promise. However, the joy of the success of a diet usually does not last. The more rigorous the diet, the faster the scales will point up again after the fast – the yo-yo effect.
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Diets are not suitable for long-term weight loss
Nutrition expert Thomas Ellrott from the Institute for Nutritional Psychology at the University of Göttingen sees one of the reasons for the yo-yo effect in a misunderstanding of the concept of diet. Diet is generally understood to mean only “short-term, more or less draconian measures” for rapid weight loss, he writes in the medical journal “MMW – Advances in Medicine”.
Accordingly, diets are usually only designed for short periods of losing weight. Many of them are so complex that they cannot be sustained in the long term. Pounds off, diet over – “It’s like having your family doctor stop taking blood pressure medication if the right blood pressure has been set with the help of the medication,” explains Ellrott. The nutrition expert criticizes that there is no longer period of weight stabilization.
Yo-yo trap: Diets lead to fewer calories burned
The result: after the end of a diet rich in deprivation, we often revert to old eating habits. Because these have been established and stabilized over the course of years and decades. Only a short time later the scales show more kilos than before. Because the diet not only breaks down body fat, but also muscle and organ tissue, which consumes energy. At the same time, the body switches to an energy-saving mode, as the restricted food intake signals an emergency situation: The basal metabolic rate drops – this is the amount of calories that the body needs to maintain all vital functions. If you then eat like before the diet, the weight inevitably increases again. This is then known as the yo-yo effect.
Likewise, it is often not taken into account that losing weight requires more than eating less or eating differently. The lifestyle must be changed and enriched with more exercise. Unrealistic goals and prohibitions are fatal to the success of a diet. If the target is missed or a ban is broken, the motivation is over. Many then break off their diet prematurely according to the motto: “It doesn’t matter now anyway”. Realistic goals and flexible control mechanisms are more promising such as setting a weekly average value as the upper limit for calories instead of a value per meal.
According to Ellrott, diets arranged from above are doomed to failure from the start without the right of those affected to have a say. The scientist recalls bans on mixed milk drinks and fruit yoghurts in schools, which did not, as hoped, lead to the switch to unsweetened whole me. The children would rather bring sweetened drinks from home or buy them in the vicinity of the school.
Seduce diversity and abundance
Factors that cannot be influenced are the variety of foods on offer, which tempt us every day, large packaging or portions that tempt us to eat a lot. Likewise the evolutionary biological legacy of the human being, which allows us to survive shortages, but does not provide any protective mechanisms for times of abundance. Ellrott noted that dieters who have little discipline when it comes to eating are hard to follow. Perhaps one of the reasons why there is no one diet that is good for everyone. Different forms of diet are only successful in the long term for some of those affected.
Factors that cannot be influenced include contradicting and counterproductive media reports in the style of “all diets pointless” and the social environment: “The probability of long-term diet success is greater if the overweight person is in a social network of relatively active, normal-weight people”, notes Ellrott.
Parents often lay the foundation for frustration eating
Even parenting mistakes make it difficult for us to maintain an ideal weight: Many parents use food to regulate affect, just as the scientist calls the use of food as a reward and for calming or food deprivation as punishment. “As a result, children learn to eat after stimuli other than hunger, thirst and satiety,” he writes, citing the compensation of negative feelings such as stress or boredom as an example. Ellrott is convinced that if parents “abuse” food to regulate affect, they lay the foundation for later frustration or stress-eaters.
The nutritionist explains that this can easily lead to obesity in the long delay with which an unhealthy diet has negative consequences. The pleasant taste experience of fat or sweet, on the other hand, occurs immediately and the possible long-term consequences for health take a back seat. In any case, this is not a central motif when putting together the menu.
Preventing the yo-yo effect: Weight stabilization follows the diet
So what should be done to make a diet a long-term success despite all adverse circumstances and to prevent the yo-yo effect? Ellrott advises:
The weight loss phase should be followed by weight stabilization with long-term changes in diet and behavior. This is the only way to prevent the yo-yo effect in the long term.
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