What Are Weight Cycling and Yo-Yo Dieting?

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on August 18, 2022
2 min read

Weight cycling is losing weight and regaining it over and over. It's called "yo-yo" dieting when it happens because of dieting.

Weight cycles can be big (50 pounds or more) or small (5-10 pounds).

Is it bad for you? That's not clear. Staying overweight isn’t healthy, so ask your doctor what your goal weight should be, what you should do to reach that weight, and what it takes to stay at that weight.

Your doctor may not have all the answers, so ask them for a referral to a dietitian to help you find ways to eat better and lose extra weight. Working with a personal trainer will help you get on track with exercise, which is especially important in keeping the pounds off once you reach your goal weight.

You can break the cycle of losing and regaining weight. Researchers showed that by following 439 overweight women for a year. The women who had a history of moderate or big weight cycles were just as likely to stick to the study's diet and exercise plan. Anyone who stuck to the plan benefited.

For more inspiration, consider some of the key findings from more than 10,000 people who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for at least a year. They shared their strategies with the National Weight Control Registry, which posted them on its web site:

  • 78% eat breakfast every day.
  • 75% weigh themselves at least once a week.
  • 62% watch less than 10 hours of TV per week.
  • 90% exercise, on average, about 1 hour per day.