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How to Avoid Yoyo Dieting

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Sometimes it's hard to be a celebrity. Yoyo dieting (a cycle of losing weight and then gaining it back) is very common, but it is of course much worse when it's played out in public.

By now, you must be familiar with the scenario. A celebrity loses weight on a diet programme. They become a spokesperson for that programme and everything is rosy. But then they start to gain weight again. Soon they are back to their original weight and maybe even a bit extra. The diet company then releases a press statement: "We are sorry to have to end our relationship with them, but please remember that they did manage to lose a lot of weight with us".

Of course, losing weight isn't very useful if you are going to gain it all back again. And yet, the way that many people approach weight loss, almost ensures this outcome.

As a medical doctor, my first concern with yoyo dieting is that it is not a healthy lifestyle. It's not good for the body to go through repeated cycles of losing weight then putting it back on and then losing it again.

But on a practical level, what people often describe to me is how disillusioning it is to lose weight and not be able to maintain it. Others mention how embarrassing it is to get the kudos for having lost weight only to gain it all back again a few months later.

So how do you avoid yoyo dieting?

The key is to take a long term approach to weight loss. You should start in the manner in which you hope to continue. What this means is that you should try and lose weight in a way that you can maintain for the rest of your life.

This seems like common sense, but it flies in the face of what many people do. Think of the following approaches to losing weight and tell me if any of them sound familiar:

1. Going on a diet and cutting out all the foods you enjoy (Do you really think you can do that for the rest of your life?)

2. Trying diets that require hours of planning and preparation to make them work. At the first sign of a busy week at work, an unwell child or any kind of crisis the diet goes out the window because it was too difficult to maintain.

3. Going on diets that take no account of real life. For examples diets that are so strict, that while you're on them you can't go out for dinner, go on holiday or even celebrate Christmas!

When diets are this restrictive, most people don't think about them as a lifetime activity. They think of them as a short term, punishing ordeal that they have to endure before they can get to their ideal weight.

This approach might mean that you lose weight (and hate every moment of it) but what happens when you come off the diet? For most people, it means they go back to old habits. When you go back to old habits, you start to gain weight again. This is yoyo dieting.

The solution therefore, is to change your entire approach to weight loss. Instead of focusing on losing weight as quickly as possible, go for long term change. In other words, think of maintaining a healthy weight as a "way of life", not a short term project. Your focus should be on making small changes that are easy to live with. You want to develop habits over time that support you and are sustainable.

Is this possible? Of course it is. There are people doing it every day. You may not hear about them, because it's much more exciting to hear about sudden, quick weight loss (that doesn't last) but rest assured, this approach will spare you the yoyo effect and be much better for your health and wellbeing.

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