• Monique Jephcote

Weight cycling VS Intuitive Eating

Have you heard of weight cycling?

Weight cycling describes the continual bouncing and fluctuation of weight over periods of time in an attempt to intentionally lose weight.

So you can think of it as …. Lose weight, then re-gain it, then the next attempt comes and lose it, then re-gain, then lose, then re-gain etc.

You get the jist.

I see a lot of people where weight fluctuating continually in attempts to lose weight is common. In fact, in most I see this is the case and this is also a common phenomenon within weight loss research.

But what is the constant bouncing around of weight actually doing to us?

“When you embark on diet after diet, it leads to weight fluctuations, which researchers call weight cycling. Weight cycling itself takes a physical and mental toll on your health. Research over the past 25 years has shown that weight cycling is inextricably linked to adverse physical health and psychological well-being” (Dulloo, Jacquet, and Montani 2012; Tylka et al. 2014):

- “The landmark Framingham Heart Study evaluated more than five thousand people over a thirty-two year period and found that weight cycling was strongly linked to overall death rates, as well as mortality and morbidity related to heart disease.”

- “A weight loss study from Korea found that women with a history of weight cycling lost more muscle, but not more body fat, compared to women who did not experience weight cycling, despite having lost a similar amount of weight overall.”

- “The Nurses Health Study 2 found that women with a history of weight cycling gained more weight over time and engaged in more binge eating than their counterparts.”

- “Weight cycling increases the risk of bone fractures from osteoporosis, gallstones, loss of muscle, high blood pressure, chronic inflammation, and some forms of cancer.”

- “Weight cycling has also been shown to be a predictor of subsequent weight gain in male athletes involved in weight based sports such as boxing, wrestling and weight lifting.”

Resch and Tribole

What does this research tell us?


That perhaps an important component of developing positive, sustainable behaviours over the long term, is popping weight to the side and putting it on the 'back burner', and focussing instead, on positive behaviours, instead of weight as a measure for health.

And that perhaps it is the constant bouncing around of weight (& subsequent, metabolic changes) and large weight fluctuations which contributes to these health risks.

We now have access to research (and experiences) that tell us that it is healthier, long term, to live inside an overweight body that partakes in enjoyable movement and has a positive relationship with food, rather than live inside a body that constantly weight cycles in the continual, exhausting effort to get our bodies smaller, and neglects healthy behaviours to get there.

Our attempts to intentionally lose weight are largely driven by diet cultures strong messaging that a small body equals a healthy body (which is largely incorrect), but forgets the notion that we all come in different shapes and sizes and our genetics also significantly affects our body size (to which, we have not as much control over as we are led to believe).

Really, it is our behaviours that largely define our health (with everyone’s definition of health also differing) and weight not being a “behaviour”.

When we enter a restriction, we may lose weight, but a restriction isn’t actually a "healthy" endeavour to undertake, and our body can only tolerate it for so long. When we come out of it, our basal metabolic rate has lowered, and our body weight bounces around and subsequently, so too does our psychology around food and our body shape after dieting.

Dieting, and this phenomena of weight cycling that comes from dieting, can really do us harm.

Intuitive Eating has a key focus on BEHAVIOURS around food and movement, working toward developing a positive relationship with food, body and mind, and away from weight as a measure of health.

Not only is it a much more compassionate and understanding approach, but it's an evidenced based approach to healthy and sustainable practices over the long term and arrival at your body's natural weight.

The Intuitive Dietitian xx

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