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Myth: Yo-yo Dieting Ruins Your Metabolism

The majority of clients I’ve worked with over the years had matter-of-factly accepted the notion that they had a “low metabolism,” possibly secondary to yo-yo dieting.

Several comprehensive reviews of the literature (including one by a National Institutes of Health expert panel), however, have concluded that the negative metabolic and body composition side-effects frequently attributed to yo-yo dieting are not supported by careful review of the data. The conclusions: weight cycling does not have a negative effect on REE, or LBM, and does not make future attempts at weight loss more difficult (at least from a physiological standpoint).(1,2) 

If the belief (that you have a low metabolism) is not addressed you have an underlying expectation of failure—which may become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

For a more detailed review of all aspects of dieting and exercise on metabolic rate, see Resting Energy Expenditure: Implications for weight management, which addresses the following:

1) is there a benefit to measuring basal metabolic rate/resting energy expenditure (REE)?
2) How does energy restriction affect REE?
3) How does yo-yo dieting affect REE?
4) How does physical activity (during energy restriction) affect REE?
5) Does adding muscle increase REE in a clinically significant way?
6) How does hypothyroidism impact REE?
7) Using REE knowledge to better facilitate weight loss

1. National Institutes of Health National Task Force on the Prevention and Treatment of Obesity: Weight Cycling. J Am Med Assoc. 1994;272:1196-1202.
2. Wing R: Weight cycling in humans: A review of the literature. Ann Behav Med. 1992;14:113-119.