By You Desk
Tue, 11, 22

This week we asked Zainab Sarwar, a certified Nutritionist based in Dubai with specialisation in Weight loss nutrition, about the never ending process of losing weight and regaining it all…



What is weight cycling?

Weight cycling is losing weight and regaining it over and over again. Weight cycles can be big (50 pounds or more) or small (5-10 pounds).

Why is it so common?

Inability or unwillingness to make behavioural changes with regard to eating and exercise is the most common predictor for regaining weight, lost during dieting. People who successfully maintain their weight loss are those who are prepared to make changes in their lifestyle. One of the factors contributing towards weight cycle is that people consistently underestimate how many calories they eat and overestimate the amount of food that makes up a healthy portion. Although people who are successful in keeping weight off for many years tend not to strictly count calories, they are very aware of what and how much they eat.

Also, most dieters don’t maintain their losses - an estimated 80 per cent individuals who intentionally lose more than 10 per cent of their body weight will regain that weight within a year. This makes weight cycling common.

Unfortunately, Weight cycling is more common in women than men globally. Losing weight is achievable for women, but maintaining that weight loss is shown to be rare. Since weight loss maintenance can prevent relapse, here are some of the influencing factors of weight loss maintenance in adult men, women and youth:

Maintaining high self discipline: It is generally observed that people who successfully lose weight and keep it off do so successfully by following a proper routine. Most of the people when achieve their target weight or get close to their goal weight lose their self discipline and from here starts their relapse process. Maintaining high self discipline involves following right meal timings, keep your water intake in check, exercise portion control and regular exercise.

Lack of psychological awareness: The problem with most people is that as soon as they hit their target weight or even get an inch closer to the target weight, they just simply let go off themselves and go back to their bad eating habits again. It happens with people looking at ‘weight loss’ as a short - term goal and not willing to look at it as ‘healthy way of living a life’. It happens because of lack of psychological awareness. One thing that’s common in people who are able to maintain their weight loss is the ‘mindful eating or Consciousness’. Consciousness includes the quantity and type of food consumed and also the physical activity level to maintain weight loss. It’s always recommended to practice ‘portion control’ and ‘regular exercise’ in weight maintenance programme.

Emotional status: Not coping properly with negative life events has been identified as a major reason for dieters to habitually overeat and relapse. It happens mostly with women. Most women suffering from relationship issues tend to link their ‘poor body image’ as the cause of their relationship issues but after losing weight, when things don’t get resolved, they just indulge in overeating (out of depression) and relapse. Stress and low self-esteem make people prone to relapse, especially women. I always tell people to stop linking food with emotions and train your brain to get only ‘energy’ from food and not pleasure.

Weight loss perceived as a difficult task: Perception of people on different aspects of dieting appeared to be as an influencing factor. Weight management is perceived as ‘very difficult’ or ‘impossible’ by unsuccessful maintainers. It’s all in their minds. If a person perceives weight loss as difficult, it makes her/him more prone to relapse.

Social influence: Friends and family are of great influence in starting a diet. If a friend recommends a certain diet, the respondent is willing to try this. The prospective of dieting together is attractive for respondents. If friends are losing weight, the respondent also feels like losing weight. Unfortunately, it has been observed that in some societies if someone is successfully lose weight then friends or family of that person start distracting him/her by telling that, ‘you used to look good before’, or ‘you look weak now’. This demotivates the person and he/she feels miserable about his/her food choices and as a result the relapse happens. Some friends do it out of jealousy also. However, the respondent should not lose heart and should realise that it’s for her own benefit and only she is in charge of her body and mind and should not get derailed by anyone’s negative comments.

Why is it so bad for your health?

Weight cycling may increase the risk of high blood pressure, High cholesterol, gall bladder disease and increased risk of heart diseases. Weight cycling may affect your mental health too, making you more likely to feel depressed about your weight.

Does weight cycling change metabolism?

In my observation, since I deal with a lot of people regarding their weight loss, weight cycling can make weight loss harder. The process of losing and regaining weight can slow your metabolism to a point where future weight loss attempts become more and more difficult. Metabolism slows down with age and the more you fall prey to weight cycling, the more you develop ‘poor self image’ and ultimately lose motivation.

How to avoid weight cycling?

The smartest way to avoid weight cycling is to pick a reasonable weight loss plan that provides slow and steady weight loss for long term. Once you’ve reached your goal weight, continue to exercise and watch what you eat. At some point, you will gradually begin to consume more calories, but you should never plan to return to the eating style that caused weight gain in the first place. Weight loss and weight maintenance are about making permanent lifestyle changes for long-term health and wellness.

You can find Zainab on Instagram: Lifestylebyzainabsarwar