Every now and again, a new piece of research pops up to say that dieting, even the yoyo variety, isn’t as bad for us as the diet gurus always said it was. If you take this at face value, it might make you think that the tabloids are right when they admonish fatties that there are no excuses, they should enrol in Weightwatchers again next week. After cleaning out everything that could be considered fattening from the kitchen cupboards, of course.
Don’t take headlines at face value. Most of us are wise enough to question what we read in the news anyway, but some of us (myself included at times) have a tendency to believe whatever we read when it comes to the latest diet and weight loss news. Do you want to know the truth? Of course you do…
According to a report in Metabolism magazine (and not the interpretation put on it by diet magazines) 439 overweight, inactive, postmenopausal women took part in a study – which makes it a smallish study anyway. Around 25% of them (103) were yo-yo dieters who had lost 10 or more pounds three or more times, and a further 77 had lost 20 or more pounds three or more times. At the start of the study all the women were checked, and the yoyo dieters were heavier and had’ less favourable metabolic profiles’ than the women who had never yoyo dieted.
The obvious conclusion would have been that yoyo dieting was associated with higher starting weight and a less favourable metabolic profile, so should be avoided.
But what do you think happened?
They were all put on another diet. The study split them into four groups; diet alone, exercise alone, a combination or a control group.
After a year, all the dieters had lost weight. Well, it was strict! Calorie-controlled dieting that included a weekly group meeting for six months, then monthly meetings, two visits from a dietician, email and phone follow-up and six month food diaries which had to be completed with every morsel eaten and returned with feedback. Exercisers also lost weight, on their three sessions a week of supervised fitness five days a week. It’s a no-brainer really.
It’s hardly a surprise that all the yoyo dieters lost weight. They had all done it before! The issue isn’t whether they could do it; it’s whether it was bad for them to do it. And we don’t know if they managed to keep the weight off, as there was no follow up. Nobody knows how having to be monitored so closely for such a long time affected the women emotionally. Personally, I can’t do the whole ‘keeping a food diary’ thing because as soon as I start writing down every morsel I eat for some slimming club leader, it scrambles my rational brain. I get stressed and obsessed with food. Invariably I cheat, miss things off and ‘forget’ the odd thing too.
As far as pointless studies go, this one is pretty high up on the list. It proves nothing except that women who already lost weight and put it back on can do it again. And again. And again. Did any of us not actually know that?
As far as I’m concerned, eat well, keep fit and enjoy your life. And don’t take anything you read in the news about weight loss at face value!
If you want to read the study, here it is:
A version of this post appeared in a previous blog for FatPhrocks…