When I stopped yo-yo dieting, I started living

Yo-yo dieting is one of the most counterproductive methods used to encourage long-term, successful weight loss. It’s everywhere you look, though presented with a more pleasant sounding label.

We’re bombarded with “New Year, New You” ads at the start of each year. Gyms often peddle discounts on memberships come spring, enticing those who view their ads to “spring into summer with a beach-ready body.” While the intention might be noble — encouraging people to lead more active lifestyles is a positive thing, after all — the irony is that these jump-start programs don’t give people seeking a permanently healthy lifestyle the blueprint to get started and keep going.

I was one of those people who got caught in the yo-yo diet trap.

I’ve never been thin, and that’s okay. Being 5’10 with a frame meant to hold curves ensured that I’d never be, even if I wanted to be. However, I did struggle with wanting to be the “best” possible version of myself, and was determined to get there — no matter the cost.

Slow and steady might win the race — but I had things to do, and I wanted to look my best while doing it. Year after year, I’d jump start my weight loss journey by exhausting myself during workouts at the gym or home. My calorie-counting grew obsessive in nature. While I always ate the right amount for my height and weight, I’d guilt trip the hell out of myself if I had so much as 100 calories over my intended goal.

But I saw fast results, and that’s all that mattered.

It’s true. The very essence of yo-yo dieting is to see fast results and to be proud of the (temporary) hard work you put into it…before falling off the wagon. If I worked out for three months and lost 30 pounds, my confidence skyrocketed. But it plummeted when, six months later, I’d discover that I gained all the weight I had lost back — and then some.

You can guess what happened next — I repeated the whole damaging cycle all over again. From my late teens to mid-twenties, I was caught in a yo-yo diet hell.

My last major weight loss was so substantial that I was floating on air from how different I looked and felt. I gave myself permission to take “a little break” from the intense exercise and dieting to relish in my victory…except the break wasn’t so little. It was more like a year.

Imagine my surprise when I stepped on a scale and discovered that I’d gained every single pound back. Plus extra.

I couldn’t take it anymore.

It was so hard to come to terms with it, but looking down at the scale (which reflected my heaviest ever weight at the time) forced me to take a step back and question what I was doing.

I made some ground rules for myself that involved consistent, year-round exercise and sensible dieting. Did the weight fly off as it had before? No. But I was happier overall. I did what I needed to be healthy without letting it completely take over my life.

Here are the three things I tell myself every day — and if you’ve had issues with yo-yo dieting, I encourage you to do the same.

1You’re going to “mess up.” Own it.

There’s going to come a day where you’re hanging out with your friends and family, and someone busts out your favorite dish. Before you know it, you’ve gone halfway through a generous portion of it. Maybe you’ve had a rough day and working out is the last thing you want to do. These are all regular occurrences when you live a consistently healthy lifestyle, and it’s fine. You’re only human. Don’t freak out over it. Don’t see yourself as a failure. You’ll only make yourself miserable and undermine all your hard work.

2Avoid the “jump start” hysteria in the winter and spring months.

Seriously. The ads that gyms and special diet plans run during the new year and spring serve no purpose other than to boost their revenue sales. Now, if you see an awesome deal for a membership or food plan that you know you’ll use long term, go for it! But don’t feel pressured to start your journey at a particular time. Honestly, it starts when you want it to.

3Take it slow.

It feels like it goes against our very nature as human beings since we love instant gratification, but working out and eating in moderation is so critical to actually being healthy long-term. It might take awhile to get there, but exercise shouldn’t be something you dread. When maintaining your health is a lifestyle — not a short-term project — it‘ll become as autonomous as all the other mundane things we do every day.

These rules have completely changed the way I view exercise and diet. I no longer dread workouts. And those things people call “cheat days”? If I let myself have one here and there, it’s no big deal. When I stopped yo-yo dieting, I finally started living — and I can honestly say that I’ll never go back.

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