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Obesity and being overweight increase one’s risk of developing high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, and a host of other health problems. Personal habits contribute to the dangers—one of them is yo-yo dieting. This repeated cycle of losing and gaining weight can have dramatic physical and psychological effects on a person, ultimately leading to more weight gain; many choose weight loss surgery, including gastric sleeve surgery in Houston, to break this often endless cycle.

Yo Yo Dieting Food ShoppingAlso referred to as weight cycling, yo-yo dieting often involves a period of weight loss. The dieter may be on such a restricted diet it is unsustainable. At first, dieters move toward their target weights, but depression, fatigue, and the body’s own starvation response lead them to revert to previous eating habits. The emotional toll of falling short of weight loss goals may also cause one to eat more.

The effects of weight fluctuations have been studied extensively. Research published by the New England Journal of Medicine, covered in a 2017 CBS News report, found heart patients with significant weight changes, compared to those who maintained a steady weight, had a:

  • 64% greater risk of any type of coronary event.
  • 78% higher risk of developing new-onset diabetes.
  • 117% greater risk of having a heart attack
  • 124% higher incidence of death.
  • 136% higher risk of having a stroke.

Over 9,500 men and women between 35 and 75 years old, with some history of heart disease, were tracked over a 5-year period. An association with heart attack, stroke, and death risks was seen only in those who were overweight or obese to start, not individuals who began the study at a normal weight. The study also correlated high weight fluctuations with the onset of diabetes, further contributing to the risk of health problems aside from the stress of gaining, losing, and regaining body weight.


Yo-Yo Dieting Is a Vicious Cycle

The cycle is, therefore, harmful, especially if you’re obese to begin with, and haven’t considered weight loss surgery. Biological processes are responsible for the cyclic nature of yo-yo dieting. The process works as follows:

  • Dieting reduces the energy expenditure of skeletal muscle.
  • Physical activity increases with food restriction, initially leading to weight loss.
  • Energy stores must be refilled, so more food is consumed when available.

The American Psychological Association (APA) has studied the effects of weight cycling. In the 2011 book, Calories and Corsets: A History of Dieting Over 2,000 Years, an APA report that tracked 31 diet studies was cited. It found two-thirds of dieters, after two years of dieting, had a higher body weight than when they first started.

Although other research doesn’t make a causal link between weight cycling with cardiovascular disease (merely presenting an association of risk factors), the stress of regaining the weight lost while on a diet can be physically and emotionally demanding. Yo-yo dieting is an exhausting process that takes a damaging toll on the body. Weight cycling leads to a rapid increase of body fat that adversely changes fat-to-muscle ratio. Without basic exercises, such as going for a walk every day, fat stores continue to increase.

Exercising When You Are Yo Yo-ing on Your DietThe overall impacts include:

  • Inconsistent results: Restrictive in nature, yo-yo dieting deprives the body of essential vitamins and minerals, so the results do not support this regimen as a permanent solution.
  • Impacts to mental wellness: Going from losing weight to becoming heavier in a constant cycle damages your body image, deters happiness and confidence, and often leads to depression.
  • Unrealistic expectations: Dieters often think there’s an ideal number to hit (becoming so desperate they resort to an unsustainable diet), but everyone fluctuates a few pounds above or below their target weight, even with proper diet and exercise.
  • Variable eating patterns: The lack of a structured plan causes you to resort to an unfulfilling, restrictive diet; the harder you try, the more extreme the return to eating favorite foods that cause weight gain.
  • Metabolic damage: The basal metabolic rate is slowed, even after just a few weeks of yo-yo dieting; the negative effects can last for years, while increased leptin levels further decrease metabolism and increase appetite and food cravings.
  • Greater difficulty losing weight: Proper dieting improves your overall health, while weight cycling breaks down biological processes that permit this, as it can lead to overstimulated adrenal glands, increased leptin, and hormone imbalances.
  • Visceral fat buildup: Weight loss typically starts high up and lower down; abdominal fat often remains and is the first to build when you gain weight. Visceral fat is not only found in the abdomen, but also around internal organs and the heart.

Metabolized by the liver, visceral fat is converted to cholesterol. It then collects in the arteries, leading to narrowing and blockages that trigger heart disease, stroke, angina, and other conditions. In addition, this fat type is linked with hormones that trigger insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, as well as inflammation throughout the body.

This pattern can be overcome. There is a psychological component that can make it hard to break, especially for individuals with obesity. The resolution is often with bariatric surgery Houston doctors at Bariatric Care Centers are experienced with, but the underlying problem must be recognized.


Achieving Your Weight “Set Point”

Having a set point enables you to set a weight loss goal. For example, you may weigh 240 pounds and set a target of 210 pounds; in that case, you’d set a goal of losing 30 pounds to reach the set point. You might adapt every facet of your lifestyle and carefully choose what to eat to reach it. However, it is not only mental. There are genetic and environmental, and Psychological components in play.

Research published by F1000 Medicine Reports in 2010 explained evidence of biological controls for weight set points. There are genetic influences related to your DNA involved, but epigenetic effects, not involving changes to DNA, are as well. There are, nonetheless, non-genetic factors that influence gene expression and, therefore, body weight.

Dietary influences can affect this process, especially if macronutrient intake and available energy are not conducive to achieving the body’s set point. These can effectively damage the natural regulation our bodies have in managing weight. Environmental factors, including the abundance of food resources, can have cognitive effects that replace the natural process of biological regulation.

One way to achieve weight loss, in regard to set point, is to avoid overeating. Over consumption raises your set point and leads to increases in body weight by the following mechanisms:

  • Neurological: The nervous system regulates energy and nutrient balance in the short term by sending gastrointestinal signals. Feelings of hunger and fullness are controlled by these impulses, triggered by your body’s current state. Long-term control is related to neurology and energy storage and balance.
  • Hormonal: There are several hormonal pathways connected to the stomach and gastrointestinal system. These affect appetite and tell us when to stop eating. Hormones are directly related to hunger cravings, so hormonal changes impact the nerve signals that pass between the brain and gastrointestinal tract.

Although it’s often been connected to emotional factors, hunger is driven by hormonal interactions. These, in turn, affect behavior. If food is available to buy or eat, you will consume more when you’re hungry than when full. Sleeve gastrectomy for Houston patients exploits this concept, producing a feeling of fullness related to biological changes that take place after the surgery.


How Bariatric Surgery Can Help Break the Cycle

Yo Yo Dieting Healthy Food RecipesPatients with past dieting failures and yo-yo-ing experience are often candidates for weight loss surgery. However, weight gain is ultimately affected by food intake and the amount of exercise you get. Bariatric surgery reduces the volume of the stomach and the hormones related to feelings of hunger. With sleeve gastrectomy, up to 80% of the stomach is removed. Resembling a sleeve, what is left is narrower and has a smaller capacity by volume.

The yo-yo dieting cycle is broken because:

  • Patients feel fuller with a limited amount of food.
  • Appetite is reduced due to smaller stomach volume.
  • The stomach produces less ghrelin or “the hunger hormone.”

The digestive system’s ability to absorb nutrients is not greatly changed. When planning surgery, one must also carefully plan how to change his or her eating patterns and meals. A protein-based diet that includes fruits and vegetables is beneficial, while you’ll need to cut out processed foods.

A patient with more weight to lose, who has a history of dieting, and who exercises is the best candidate for weight loss surgery. It also takes a lot of planning and effort post-surgery to reach your goals. Processed and high-carbohydrate foods are easy to find and are convenient, especially if you don’t plan accordingly. Weight loss surgery in Houston is a big step, but a solid plan avoids seeking food when hungry, which easily leads to overeating and consuming the wrong foods.

Using four to five small laparoscopic abdominal incisions, gastric sleeve surgery results in:

  • A faster recovery than other weight loss surgeries.
  • A shorter stay in the hospital.
  • Fewer complications than other methods.
  • About 70% of excess weight loss in 6-12 months.
  • An average of 2-5 pounds lost per week for 6-18 months.

Once you recover and slowly transition to solid foods, stick to a high-protein, low-carb diet and vitamins recommended by your doctor. Minimize portion sizes and snacking, chew your food well, and avoid items that trigger your cravings.

Dieting alone doesn’t reduce hunger; people often return to unhealthy eating habits after some time, leading to weight gain. Therefore, surgery is often helpful for those who’ve tried dieting and exercise, and who are committed to healthy lifestyle choices. After surgery, gastric sleeve surgery Houston patients requires a liquid diet. Patients often return to work and most normal activities within a week, and they begin a puree and soft food diet gradually.

The surgery affects biological processes that drive hunger. It reduces hormones produced by the stomach that trigger appetite. Aside from monitoring healing, follow-up visits with your surgeon will keep tabs on your dietary requirements and help guide you toward specific weight loss goals. This will ensure you’re sticking to a proper diet and getting sufficient nutrition.

Dr. Brian Mirza, MD, FACS, FASMBS an experienced laparoscopic bariatric surgeon, is committed to helping patients achieve their weight loss goals, eliminate serious health issues, and find solutions more effective than obesity-related medication. Our staff also works to build long-term relationships with patients, from consultation to recovery. We work hard with patients to help break the cycle and maximize their chances of success.

To learn more about our minimally invasive weight loss surgery and schedule a consultation for sleeve surgery in Houston, contact Bariatric Care Centers at 713-339-1353.


Disclaimer: This is only for general information. All patients should consult their doctors prior to following any of the recommendations in any articles, post, or video. All patients have individual needs and limitations that only their treating physicians can be aware of.