You bravely hold out for so long, count calories, and consistently deny yourself all sweet and hearty comforters – and what is the reward for all this discipline? So that the scale shows more afterward than before the diet. This nasty phenomenon is called the yo-yo effect. But how does the yo-yo effect come about? And can it be avoided?
What is the yo-yo effect and how does it occur?
Behind the yo-yo effect is a very good property of our body: It helps us to survive when food is scarce. Because then the organism switches to “starvation mode” – the metabolism adjusts itself so that it can get by with less food.
Historically speaking, relatively recently, this ability of our body was essential for survival – because up until the 20th century there were repeated famines in this country, during which food was extremely scarce. Without the ability to switch metabolism to “save mode,” many more people would have starved to death during these times.
The principle of most diets is to take in fewer calories than you burn. The body then receives the signal “malnutrition” and begins to change its metabolism accordingly. When the diet is over, the body is happy about the rich supply of food again and puts on new fat deposits for the next hard times. Since he has now learned to get by with less food, he even easily achieves a higher weight than before the diet – the yo-yo effect occurs.
Can you avoid the yo-yo effect?
The yo-yo effect cannot be avoided as easily as many diet promises would have us believe. “Lose weight quickly without the yo-yo effect” – that is a contradiction in terms. Because losing weight quickly requires a lot of “hunger” – and thus the conversion of the metabolism is inevitable.
Still, it’s possible to lose weight while bypassing the yo-yo effect. It is particularly important to lose weight slowly and avoid starvation as much as possible. Unfortunately, it is not enough to switch to a lower-calorie diet in the short term and then resume the old eating habits – for the lower weight to remain, the change in the diet must be permanent, at least as long as nothing has changed in our calorie consumption.
Study: How to lose weight without the yo-yo effect
That sounds exhausting at first, but it doesn’t have to be – because the energy-sapping starvation should be avoided. Instead, there should always be a lot of protein-rich and little sugar, fat, and starch on the menu. This is the best recipe for losing weight as yo-yo-free as possible according to a large study published in 2010.
According to this, about 25 percent of the energy supplied should come from protein-rich foods – good sources of protein are, for example, eggs, pork or turkey, wild salmon, Harz cheese, low-fat quark, tofu, tuna, almonds, and legumes.
According to the study, foods with a low so-called glycemic index (GI) should also be on the menu. The GI indicates how quickly the carbohydrates in food cause blood sugar levels to rise. For example, white bread has a very high GI at 75 and plain yogurt has a comparatively low GI at 19.
When there is a lot of sugar in the blood, insulin levels rise. This in turn slows down the fat metabolism, which can make it much more difficult to lose weight. Avoiding foods with a high GI is therefore an important prerequisite for avoiding the yo-yo effect.