One of my long-standing patients has lost 150 pounds. Now, before you start thinking, “Wow – that’s a lot of weight” or “Gee – I wonder how she did that?” let me just say that she didn’t lose it all at once. In fact, she’s lost the same 30 pounds five times now. She’s a classic “yo-yo dieter.” Her weight goes up and down but rarely stays in one place for long. It’s long been recognized that people are more likely to succumb to yo-yo dieting when they adopt weight loss regimens that are too strict to stick with over the long haul. Once a dietary slip turns into a fall, old habits resume, weight goes back up and the cycle starts all over again.
There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious and eager to get your weight under control. Having the desire and the drive to meet your goal is half the battle in getting there. But recognize that trying to do too much too quickly could be your undoing. Be realistic about how much you can change at once, and accept whatever those changes deliver in terms of weight loss.
Keeping track of your progress is a tried-and-true strategy for keeping yourself on course. And finding sources of support is helpful, too. Exercise buddies are great, and some people find a lot of value in the support they get through online communities. Finally, be flexible, and learn from your mistakes. If you try an exercise regimen or a new food that you don’t really enjoy, then try something else. Remember that the goal isn’t to lose as much weight as you can as quickly as you can. You want to establish healthy patterns of eating and exercise that will help you get your weight down and keep it there.
Clearly, a good part of solving the yo-yo dilemma has to do with changing your behavior. We eat smaller, more frequent meals. We make sure to include hunger-fighting protein at each meal and snack. We plan ahead, we keep track, we enlist help. A quick sprint towards the finish line—followed by a jog in the other direction—isn’t going to get you anywhere. When it comes to successful weight loss, slow and steady definitely wins the race.