According to ABC News, the weight-loss industry in the United States has annual revenues reaching $20 billion. With 108 million people dieting each year, that figure doesn't seem quite so astounding. The U.S. is a fat-obsessed culture and it seems that the more chub is shunned, the fatter people become. With one out of every three U.S. adults classified as obese, there's no doubt that weight is a major health problem. Many people find temporary weight-loss success from dieting, but about 80 percent of them regain all or more than they initially lost. With so much focus on weight loss, why is it that so many people fall into the rebound pounds trap?
Body weight, hunger and calorie burning are affected by hormones produced by the pancreas, gut and fatty tissues. When you drop body fat, you experience a decrease in leptin, the hormone that signals satiety, and an increase in ghrelin, a hormone that tells you you're hungry. People expect to feel hunger on diets, so this hormonal change isn't such a problem while dieting. However, according to a 2011 study in the "New England Journal of Medicine," these hormone levels can remain altered an entire year after a diet of severe calorie restriction ends. These persistently changed hormone levels cause elevated hunger, making it extremely difficult to maintain weight loss.
A 2012 study in "Molecular Metabolism" suggests that high-fat diets may also trigger rebound weight gain. A high-fat diet can result in temporary weight loss, but is ineffective for changing the body fat set point of an obese individual. This set point is the level of body fat that the hypothalamus tells the body it should return for homeostasis. A moderate diet lower in fat, however, was effective at remodeling the body fat set point and preventing weight regain.
The biggest reason that many people regain weight is a failure to change habits. It's one thing to temporarily restrict your calorie intake or put in extra time at the gym -- it's another to make a permanent lifestyle change. The bottom line is that if you don't change the habits that caused you to gain weight in the first place, you will, without a doubt, regain the weight. You've got to establish a new way of eating and thinking about food. If you view "eating healthy" as depriving yourself, you'll never be happy or able to stick to a healthy, lasting diet. But if you can change your attitude toward food to view it as nutritious sustenance to fuel your body, and not as system of reward and punishment, you'll find lasting success.
Dangers of Yo-Yo Dieting
Yo-yo dieting, a continuous loss and gain cycle of at least 10 pounds, is bad for your health. Such weight cycling can actually change your physiology. The more diets you've been on, the harder it becomes to shed weight. The gain-lose-gain cycle has also been linked to serious health conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Extreme dieting and fast weight loss can cause a loss of muscle, which reduces the metabolism and can lead to fat gain. In the end, the result is a poorly altered body composition of reduced muscle mass and increased body fat. In addition to the physical risks, yo-yo dieting can be emotionally draining. People often feel like they have failed or let themselves down when they rebound. In turn, this can lead to emotional overeating, causing even more weight gain.
Consult with your doctor before beginning a new diet or weight-loss program. If you have a history of yo-yo dieting, talk with a therapist to figure out how to move past the issues causing the pattern.