Why Some People Are So Prone to Yo-Yo Dieting

Why You <3 Dieting Full Speed Ahead

Apart from making you feel like you’re getting a clean break from your “bad” behaviors, many of us tend to be overly confident about our ability to stick with plans that aren’t completely sustainable, says Benjamin Gardner, D.Phil, a health research psychologist at the King’s College London, specializing in behavioral change and habit formation.

That might explain why some experts think that women with type-A personalities are the most likely to rely on all-or-nothing weight-loss strategies. “Personal achievement is important to them and it stresses them out,” says Jim White, R.D., owner of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “They want to see fast results—and with this approach they do so and feel that they’re achieving their goals,” he says. “But even the most disciplined person can’t maintain deprivation.”

The net result: weight gain and more go HAM or go home attempts.

“It’s well-documented that some people are prone to believe they are better at overcoming challenges than others,” says Gardner. “But trying to maintain high levels of effort to control our diet and exercise can deplete our willpower.” And when we relapse just once from a strict diet or exercise regime, it feels like a complete failure, which leads to further relapses, he says.

The Recipe for Long-Term Success

This might be a time when it pays to learn from your type-B counterparts. They’re less wrapped up in achievement, take things slower, and cut back on how much pizza they eat, instead of nixing the cheesy stuff completely, says White.

Small, gradual changes don’t yield super-fast results, but they also don’t require as much willpower, says Gardener. And you might just end up losing more weight in the long run since you’re creating a lifestyle that’s actually easy to stick to, he says.

How to Rethink Your Goals

By making manageable changes and tracking your success, you can constantly feel like you’re meeting your goals—even if it takes a while to hit your actual goal weight, says Barbara Walker, Ph.D., a psychologist with the Center for Human Performance in Cincinnati.

So if losing weight means learning to exercise each morning, start by performing 30-minute workouts at 6 or 7 a.m. a couple of days per week. Once you’ve mastered that (kudos!), increase your exercise frequency, and then wake up 30 minutes earlier so that you can get an hour of sweat in each day, says Walker. It’s all about the small achievements.

By changing up your weight-loss strategy, you’ll never have to go on or off another weight-loss plan.


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