Weight Loss…Weight Gain…Weight Loss…Weight Gain…

She wanted to lose some weight.

And for 12 long months:

  • she busted her butt at the gym
  • replaced the junk in her diet with fruit & vegetables
  • she even gave up drinking soda

The result: 12 months later, she was healthier than ever and weighed 35 lbs less.

yay.

.

Unfortunately, about a month ago, her cravings for sugar went completely out of control.

And her willpower was no match for her desire for ice cream, sugar, chocolate, etc…

boo.

.

It’s a common story.

Someone works hard to lose a ton of weight, but as soon as they let down their guard for one second…BOOM!!!…here come the cravings for junk and here comes the weight regain.

.

What to do, what to do???

.

Here’s my advice:

First off, don’t worry about the short term. Losing your focus for a month is not a big problem considering how successful you have been for the 12 months proceeding.

Weight loss isn’t going to happen in a straight line – there are going to be ups and downs. I bet that the 35 lbs lost during the 12 months didn’t happen as a consistent 3 lbs per month.

With that being said, we should nip this 5 lb gain in the bud before it becomes 10 lbs over 2 months.

.

Why a sugar binge?

.

Possible factors include:

.

  1. emotions – we use sugar to raise pleasure hormones/chemicals during times of stress/sadness/etc.
  2. eating sugar increases your appetite for more sugar. Sad but true. The spike in insulin sets off a whole bunch of other reactions in your body/brain that set off intense cravings for more & more sugar
  3. Lifestyle – consider the previous weight loss, I could assume that you have changed your lifestyle in a way that makes healthy eating more convenient, but I don’t like to assume

.

What to do about it?

.

  1. Regarding the emotions – the best techniques I know of for learning to tame/control our thoughts and emotions is mindfulness. Whether you take the Buddhist approach or the psychiatrist/scientific approach, mindfullness training is a powerful practice that allows you to rein in formerly untamed thoughts & emotions. It’s not an easy thing to learn for most people, but the effect is powerful and goes far beyond controlling disordered eating practices.
  2. Cognitive Behavior Therapy is another way to go.
  3. You need to tighten up your diet. Stop buying those carb dense foods that you mentioned – cereal, ice cream, chocolate. At least for a little while. If they’re not in the house, you can’t eat them. Come up with a meal plan for the week. Prepare meals and/or ingredients ahead of time to make healthy eating more convenient. I am also a big fan of using a diet/meal compliance chart.
  4. Look for trends in your day to day life that has influenced your recent run of bad eating. Haswork been extra stressful. Have other people been influencing your food choices. Put on your detective hat and start looking for connections. If and when you start to see any trends, look for causes (to avoid this happening again) and for ways to eliminate those problems.

.

Okay, that’s enough for now.Hopefully, I didn’t overload you with too much information.

Feel free to email me anytime with your questions.

.

Doug

19 comments

  1. I’m a whole foods eater 90% of my weekly food intake, I allow myself those few snacks that aren’t typically the best choice but again nothing terrible, I have noticed that usually 2 weeks prior to my menstrual cycle that all my good habits go out the window, despite the fact that I am excellent at eating healthfully when not 10-14 days out from my period. I really think that more studies need to be done for our sake, to develop supplements for women that are whole and safe, effective that we can take that will help with our hormonal swings, I’m not a binge eater until prior to my cycle and I think that it affects more woman than will admit. I just recently started taking extra calcium, magnesium, a small amount of B6 and evening primrose oil, because these things have been touted to help and I refuse to take BCP’s and antianxiety/depressants to treat something I’m going to be ailed with my whole reproductive aged life because of the long term effects they have. Not only does my eating become affected, but I’m a marathon runner and very high energy, but there are days during this time that I have to force myself to do anything at all, even just walking to go grocery shopping. But I totally agree, cognitive behavior regulation is key for not letting the swings get totally out of control, raising toddlers eliminating stress is almost impossible hahah.. But I really enjoyed the read and think these things are great common sense goals to achieve prior to a weight loss program itself so all that hardwork and dedication doesn’t go to waste with rebounds. Thanks!

  2. Thanks for the comment Ebby

    Your story is exactly why my female clients find it easier to understand the powerful effects that hormones can play on our bodies. Most guys just don’t get it.

    All of my advice about insulin being the major hormonal driver of obesity doesn’t take into account all of the hormonal and affiliated effects of a woman’s menstrual cycle.

    And yes, there should be more research ( here’s one study ) which claims a connection between menses driven overeating and serotonin levels.

    If (and that’s a big “if”) that is your issue, you could look into the supplement rhodiola rosea

    Rhodiola is included among a class of plant derivatives called adaptogens which differ from chemical stimulants, such as nicotine, and do not have the same physiological effects.

    Rhodiola rosea may be effective for improving mood and alleviating depression. Pilot studies on human subjects showed that it improves physical and mental performance, and may reduce fatigue.

    Rhodiola rosea’s effects potentially are related to optimizing serotonin and dopamine levels due to monoamine oxidase inhibition and its influence on opioid peptides such as beta-endorphins, although these specific neurochemical mechanisms have not been clearly documented with scientific studies.

    I have taken rhodiola sold by new chapter when things get stressful. For me, it just makes things that would stress you out seem manageable.

    Do a little research – you might find that it’s worth a shot.

  3. […] there’s the post from one of my favourite health blogs, Health Habits about Yo-Yo Dieting. I love Doug’s […]

  4. i’m 17 & weight about 72 &5.3 in hight i just want 2 reduce as sooon as possible so what 2 do & i’m female.

  5. As a result of investing many hours on the net at last I’ve found somebody that really does understand they’re preaching about thanks a whole lot wonderful post.

  6. Great post, Doug. My personal favorite techniques for avoiding junk food throughout the day are to:

    1) Keep busy, so that my mind stays away from it

    and

    2) Plan what to eat ahead of time, so that I know that the next thing I eat will be helpful and not detrminetal to me.

  7. hi am 22 yrs old female, and am 1.58 cm tall and my weight is 43 kg is it ok or should i gain more weight ? am afraid that i will look different , the heaviest weight i have ever gain all my life is 45 so i don’t know how my body will look like if i gain more weight so is it ok to stay the way i am right now ?????????

  8. We all come in different shapes & sizes.

    What’s important is that you are healthy.

    5′ 2″ (1.58 m) & 95 lb (43 kg) may be just right for you, while at the same time being too light for someone else.

    I know that I write about bodyweight a lot (maybe too much), but excess bodyweight is just a symptom of a larger problem. As is being underweight. Our goal should be health & fitness, not a bodyweight / appearance standard defined by society.

  9. Hey Doug, I just wanted to drop a note to thank you for all the posts you make on mindfulness and how that effects weight gain/loss. You can eat all the right things, but still be doing it wrong. I don’t keep bad foods in my house, rarely “cheat,” but overeat ALL the time from stress, loneliness, boredom, you name it. I know it’s happening, but it’s a hard cycle to stop. As a result, even though I train hard (crossfit) 5x a week, I’m perpetually 10-15 lbs overweight. (I’m 5’2″). I have the tools there to make it right, but it’s a difficult road. Thanks for recognizing that health is not just about what we eat, or what we burn, but how and why we eat, too. While I have all the trappings of a healthy lifestyle, I think we can agree binge eating is not!

  10. Thanks Jessica,

    It drives me crazy when people say that weight loss is as simple as “eat less & move more”. On a very basic level they are correct – if you eat too much and sit around all day, you will gain weight.

    But, for many people, weight gain has more to do with their thoughts, feeling & emotions than a lack of willpower.

    We all handle the stresses of our lives differently. Some people drink, others smoke, others screw around on their spouse…and some eat.

    What I try to do with mindfulness is to channel my stress in a healthy way….note I said try. It’s a work in progress.

  11. For emotional eaters especially, addiction to food does not go away, much like recovered drug addicts and alcoholics will always be at risk for falling off the wagon no matter how long they have been clean. When breaking sugar addiction, I did enlist the help of the amino acid L- glutamine and the herb gymnemna sylvestare. They didn’t do all the work, but helped. I tried rhodiola rosea, btw, and I found it caused some mood swings and acne, though I have heard it works great for others (and is amazing in my skin cream). In order to maintain a sugar free life, I avoid my triggers, meaning I shop at farmers markets in order to avoid the bakery aisle, I never order dessert, and I don’t fall into the “just one bite” trap because that doesn’t work for me. I tried baking faux brownies and cakes with xylitol, but it made me want the real thing too much, so I gave that up too. Just like with fat and salt, I’ve learned to think differently about the taste of food.

    Anyway it’s hard for me, but those are just things that have been working for me.

  12. Well my problem is sugar and fast food. I’m on the go a lot so its hard for me 2 eat a healthy meal. I’m working on toning my stomach but I know the reason I’m not seeing any results is because of the food I’m consuming. Hw would I avoid eating a lot of sugar and fast food. Because I’m not sure when and how 2 start.

  13. I have a weight problem. I have tried and tried to eat right and work out. I’ve struggled with my weight since puberty. I don’t really believe in the eat less and move more approach. I didn’t work for me. I’ve recently started taking diet pills and if those make a difference I will stick with those. It seems stupid, but I reall really struggle to lose wight. When I was doing my best I cut out all simple carbs and worked out 4x week 2 hours a day and nothing happened. I was hungry all the time, but saw no results. I’ve tried a lot of different things to lose wight and nothing seems to be working. I also am female and tend to crave sweets, but I try to only have a small peice of chocolat. I LOVE dark chocolate, but only eat a little. I don’t drink pop, coffee, tea, alcohol or milk. I usually only have water and eat protien, healthy fat and complex carb (fruit or veggie) with all my meals and snacks, but nothing works for me. Any tips, advice or answers?

  14. Great post! Can’t wait for more to come. I love reading your contributions as it help to stay focused after having lost 40 kilos over 13 months. Now the challenge is to keep it sustainable. Tips and information like above certainly helps

  15. The truth is,if you are fat u always will be fat. Its more of a mental disease. U can work out and be healthy for six months and crash and repeat the same cycle until u finally realize its a waste of energy and time to lose weight and gain weight unless u are mentally transformed and reborn. Its unhealthy to keep yoyoing up and down rather than staying at one weight size.if u are unemployed with no kids,of course u can be in shape. If you work 60 plus hrs plus commute to a job an hour each way,plus marriage and family,try eating healthy and exercising when u gotta wake up and go to work in 5 hrs. The health business is a sham,its a billion dollar business that sells people an illusion of microwave results,in reality its a perpetual struggle.

  16. Those are great stories. Its a miracle story that happens one out of every 200 thousand people. The majority however, may be able to get the weight off for a year or two years, go through a life altering situation like a marriage or whatever and then return right back to those same habits. Is it possible to lose weight and keep it off for a lifetime compared to yrs of ups and downs? Its possible,in the same sense that climbing a mountain is possible.

  17. IMHO, one of the major impediments to successful weight loss is the “moral” aspect we attach to it.

    Instead of going after the problem in an unemotional, purely scientific manner, we label obese people as losers with no willpower…and then do nothing to address the “lack of willpower” like it isn’t part of the obesity pathology.

    There is a ton of science which indicates that this “lack of willpower” is related to hormone profiles and brain structure & functions.

    No one tries to climb mountains without all of the necessary technology. Why don’t we do that with weight loss?

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