A lose/lose situation

A study published last year in the International Journal of Obesity found that yo-yo dieting (even just a gain/loss cycle of 5-10 pounds) led to "an association between weight fluctuations and cardiovascular disease and death."

In a Washington Post article, lead author on the paper had the following to say about the results:

"I agree that data on weight cycling are mixed, particularly on weight regain, decreased energy expenditure, etcetera," said lead author Dr. Jean-Pierre Montani, professor and chair of physiology at the University of Fribourg.

"However, there is increasing evidence that weight cycling may lead to cardiovascular and metabolic disorders," such as hypertension and diabetes, he added. "And the risk of complications of weight cycling seems greater in people with normal weight or slightly overweight than in obese people."

The obvious solution, then, would be to stop dieting.

Other experts, however, disagree. They think that weight cycling isn't as dangerous as staying overweight or obese, and that people should continue to try and lose weight.

And therein lies the conundrum: there are no known ways to help people lose weight and keep it off.

Some of the experts said that a person isn't "worse off due to trying to lose weight...There's no sign that losing the weight results in a worse final weight than in the control group," Dr. Michael L. Dansinger, an assistant professor of medicine and obesity researcher at Tufts-New England Medical Center in Boston, explained. But are they better off for having dieted and regained? What about the psychological effects of dieting? What about the monetary issues?

And do this: define "better off." I'm assuming he means weight, but well-being encompasses so much more than weight.

Of course, you could make "lifestyle changes" like cutting out soda instead of dieting, but I'm not exactly sure of the difference. And besides, there's no evidence that this works, either. Even winners of the Biggest Loser TV show gain back a lot of the weight they lost during the show- and they have a lot more scrutiny and motivation than the average dieter.*

This article, and line of research, leaves people trapped. Lose weight, they are told, and keep it off. But no one really knows how to do that on a large scale. We are advocating a method that is basically statistically impossible. And the obvious solution (stop dieting!) gets lost in the shuffle.

*Then again, they didn't always lose weight in a safe and healthy manner, either, so it's doubly to be expected.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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