If you're like me, you have probably been on dozens of diets in your lifetime. And you've probably lost and regained the same 10 or 20 pounds over and over again. This is what is known as yo-yo dieting and until recently, I always thought it was a bad thing.
But now a new study from Ohio University researchers suggests that yo-yo dieter might actually be healthier and live longer than people who stay obese. If confirmed by other studies, this would be really big news since very few people actually keep weight off long-term. Recidivism among dieters is very high – even for those who reach their goal weight and maintain it for a while.
This yo-yo process is indeed discouraging, especially when combined with what has been – until now – the conventional wisdom on the perils of going up and down on the scale.
This study was conducted in mice so it's not exactly clear yet how it would apply to humans. The researchers followed 30 mice that were on one of three dietary regimens for about two years (their typical lifespan). One group was on a high-fat diet. They ate more, weighed more, and became pre-diabetic. Another group was on a yo-yo diet: half low-fat, half high-fat. Their weight and blood glucose levels returned to normal during their low-fat stages. The control group was not on a special diet.
The researchers found that the yo-yo dieters lived almost as long as the control group (a little more than two years) while the obese mice died at 1.5 years.
The bottom line: if you're trying to lose weight, don't give up. Every pounds lost can help you live longer – even if you eventually gain it back.