Some weight loss diets are more dan­ger­ous to your health than being over­weight.

Yo-yo diet­ing, also known as “weight cycling,” describes a pat­tern of los­ing weight, regain­ing it, and then repeat­ing the diet. This is the process that caus­es the weight to rise and fall, like the once pop­u­lar yo-yo. This type of diet is very com­mon — 10 per­cent of men and 30 per­cent of women fol­low it. In this arti­cle, we will dis­cuss some of the prob­lems asso­ci­at­ed with the yo-yo diet.

Higher percentage of body fat

Accord­ing to some stud­ies, yo-yo diet­ing led to an increase in body fat per­cent­age. Dur­ing the weight gain phase of yo-yo diet­ing, fat is restored more eas­i­ly than mus­cle mass. This can cause your body fat per­cent­age to increase over the course of sev­er­al yo-yo cycles.

In one review, 11 of 19 stud­ies found that a his­to­ry of yo-yo diet­ing pre­dict­ed a high­er per­cent­age of body fat and more bel­ly fat. This is more pro­nounced after a weight loss diet than with more sub­tle, sus­tain­able lifestyle changes, and may be the cause of the yo-yo effect.

(Read also: 3 tips on how to lose weight through fat, not mus­cle loss)

May lead to muscle loss

Dur­ing weight loss diets, the body los­es both mus­cle mass and fat. Because fat recov­ers more eas­i­ly than mus­cle after los­ing weight, this can lead to more mus­cle loss over time. Los­ing mus­cle mass while diet­ing also leads to decreased phys­i­cal strength. These effects can be reduced through train­ing, espe­cial­ly strength train­ing. Exer­cise sig­nals the body to build mus­cle even when the rest of the body is los­ing weight.

Weight gain leads to fatty liver

Liv­er fat is when the body stores excess fat in liv­er cells. Obe­si­ty is a fac­tor in the devel­op­ment of fat­ty liv­er dis­ease, and gain­ing weight puts you at par­tic­u­lar risk. Fat­ty liv­er is asso­ci­at­ed with changes in the metab­o­lism of fats and sug­ars in the liv­er, which increas­es the risk of type 2 dia­betes. It can also some­times lead to chron­ic liv­er fail­ure, also known as cir­rho­sis.

A study in mice found that mul­ti­ple cycles of weight gain and loss caused fat­ty liv­er dis­ease. Anoth­er exper­i­ment demon­strat­ed that fat­ty liv­er dis­ease leads to liv­er dam­age in mice with vary­ing weight.

(Read also: Why does a beer bel­ly grow and how to deal with it)

Increased risk of diabetes

Yo-yo diet­ing is asso­ci­at­ed with a high­er chance of devel­op­ing type 2 dia­betes. A review of sev­er­al stud­ies found that a his­to­ry of yo-yo diet­ing pre­dict­ed type 2 dia­betes in four of 17 stud­ies. A study of 15 adults found that when par­tic­i­pants gained weight after 28 days of los­ing weight, it was most­ly bel­ly fat. And bel­ly fat is more like­ly to lead to dia­betes than fat that accu­mu­lates in oth­er places, such as the arms, legs or thighs.

Increased risk of heart disease

Weight cycling is asso­ci­at­ed with coro­nary heart dis­ease, a con­di­tion in which the arter­ies sup­ply­ing the heart become nar­rowed. Gain­ing weight increas­es your risk of heart dis­ease. Accord­ing to a study of 9,509 adults, the increase in heart dis­ease risk depends on the amount of weight fluctuation—the more weight lost and regained dur­ing yo-yo diet­ing, the high­er the risk. One review of sev­er­al stud­ies con­clud­ed that large fluc­tu­a­tions in weight over time dou­ble the chances of dying from heart dis­ease.

(Read also: 6 signs your diet isn’t right for you

May be frustrating

It can be very frus­trat­ing to see the hard work you put into los­ing weight dis­ap­pear dur­ing weight regain with yo-yo diet­ing. In fact, adults who have pre­vi­ous­ly fol­lowed the yo-yo diet report being dis­sat­is­fied with their lives and health. Yo-yo dieters also report poor self-effi­ca­cy regard­ing their body image and health. In oth­er words, they feel like they have lost con­trol.

How­ev­er, yo-yo diet­ing is not asso­ci­at­ed with depres­sion, inhi­bi­tion, or neg­a­tive per­son­al­i­ty traits. This dis­tinc­tion is impor­tant. If you’ve had prob­lems with yo-yo diet­ing in the past, don’t let your­self feel defeat­ed, hope­less, or guilty. You may have tried diets that did­n’t help you achieve the long-term results you want­ed. It’s not a per­son­al failure—it’s just an excuse to try some­thing dif­fer­ent.

(Read also: Which diet is the most effec­tive in terms of weight loss: expert opin­ion)

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