Yo-yo dieting is far more dangerous than you may realize

I knew yo-yo dieting was bad, but I didn’t know it was this bad…

I mean, we all know that an on-again, off-again approach to weight loss isn’t as healthy as slow, steady, and consistent. But I for one didn’t know just how dangerous it is, especially when it comes to heart health. That is, until I read a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study, which analyzed data from the 2005 Treating to New Targets (TNT) trial, looked at weight fluctuations in nearly 10,000 people. And what they found should give you all the motivation you need to stick to your healthy habits — even (and perhaps especially) when you’re tempted to skip your daily exercise or have that slice of birthday cake.

The researchers found that in people who already had heart disease, weight fluctuations over time were bad news. In fact, they were strongly and independently associated with the “fearsome foursome” of heart disease — coronary events, cardiovascular events, stroke, and myocardial infarction.

But here’s the part that should really make you sit up and take note (and put down that bagel). The people who lost weight and gained it back again were more likely to die than people who didn’t.

And the risks across the board were higher with the highest fluctuations. Those whose weight swung by 8.5 pounds — which, I’ll be honest, didn’t seem that bad to me — increased their risk of death by 124 percent.

And interestingly enough, weight swings also upped a person’s risk of developing diabetes. Compared with the people whose weight was steady, those with major ups and downs had a 78 percent higher risk of getting diabetes.

Of course, we know that diabetes itself is a risk factor for cardiovascular events. So weight fluctuation really is the “gift” that keeps on giving.

If you’re thinking, “Well, I don’t have heart disease, so this doesn’t apply to me,” think again. This isn’t the first study to connect the dots between yo-yo dieting and health risks. And previous studies have looked at people without heart disease and found similarly worrying trends.

The Framingham Heart Study, for instance, found that people without heart disease at the beginning of the study were more likely to die of cardiovascular disease if their weight fluctuated over the decades.

This study got me thinking about all the patients I’ve seen who go through weight loss and gain cycles. The ones who are really good about sticking to their New Year’s resolutions…until March. Or the ones who slim down in the summer so they can look good at the beach…but then pack on the pounds again when it’s sweater weather.

Given that the average American gains up to 15 pounds between Halloween and New Year’s Day, and then works frantically to take it back off before swimsuit season, this is something we all need to concern ourselves with.

It just goes to show you that short-term weight loss goals are not sustainable. And they’re definitely not healthy. If you’re only losing weight because you want to look good at your high school reunion, you won’t be motivated to keep it off once the night is over.

In order to make weight loss stick, you need to be doing it right, and for the right reasons. For a weight loss plan that will motivate you to take the weight off and make it easy to keep it off — for good — you need to check out The A-List Diet. It will change your life.

In the meantime, it’s high time we start incentivizing people to maintain a healthy weight. We need to help each other out. Be kind and compassionate — and most of all supportive — to those who struggle with weight issues. And we all need to try our best not to enable bad habits.

I guess that could be said for most of our interactions with others