Stop The Yo Yo Dieting Cycle. Body Fat Set Point Theory.

My understanding of the yo yo dieting cycle and its harm to your longterm body fat loss goals. What is the body fat set point theory? how does it relate to the yo yo diet cycle?

What is the YO-YO Diet?

It’s the cycle of losing body weight and gaining it back, often with additional weight gain afterwards. Each time a person cycles through, they might use a different dieting strategy like keto or intermittent fasting. But, regardless of what dieting strategy is used, they end up failing. It feels like an endless cycle of hard work, frustration followed up with weight gain and disappointment.

Why do so many people fail?

It happens because of a combination of factors. A lack of understanding in physiology, overly ambitious approach to goal setting; and an underestimation of the qualities and characteristics of a person who is not only capable of reaching that goal; but has the mindset, tools and focus to maintain that goal.

Physiological changes and its implications

When the body has a net loss in fat, a proportional amount of the hormone leptin is also reduced. This signals the hypothalamus in your brain which triggers mechanisms to increase hunger levels and slow down metabolism.


The Increased hunger levels will increase the odds of a person eating off plan, as well as binge eating. The decreased metabolic rate can manifest as a general feeling of lethargy, making the person more inclined to move less throughout the day and engage in fewer physical activities overall.


You can see why this is a problem when your total fat loss relies on the calorie deficit you create and maintain.

Overly ambitious goal setting and its implications

I recently had a conversation with a client who had lost 1.5kg in 3 weeks. He expressed frustration, saying, ‘I feel like something is wrong because my weight is not going down.’

250g-500g of weight loss per week is good progress, but even though his final end goal is reasonable, the rate at which he wants to get there is completely misguided. After some explanation he was able to somewhat understand, but i feel as though he is not entirely convinced and is just putting trust in his coach to know what he is talking about

The issue with this is not everyone has a coach by their side to bring clarity to these misconceptions. Most people in similar situations just get disheartened and often quit.

Underestimation Of work required

People often overlook the significant disparity between someone starting their fitness journey and someone who has achieved their goals. Those who reach their goals are the ones who consistently show up, against all odds at times. Quitting is not in their vocabulary; instead, they focus on learning from their experiences. They recognize that sculpting their physique requires shaping their mindset as well. These individuals possess remarkable strength, a strength that is often lacking in yo-yo dieters. A strength that has to be earned. To earn it, you need to rewire your daily habits and work towards becoming the embodiment of patience and discipline. That transformation should be their primary focus in order to achieve the desired transformation.

Consequences of yo yo dieting

Muscle loss

The rapid fat loss causes muscle loss. Regardless, if you make the mistake of avoiding resistance training to focus solely on cardio, you end up losing even more muscle. As muscle is more energy expensive to maintain, losing it means you are further reducing your BMR (the energy you expend at rest). When you regain the weight, your BMR does increase, but there is no guarantee that the muscle lost will be recovered.

Harms Future fat loss goals

Engaging frequently in yo yo dieting to no avail impacts your body fat set point. The body fat set point is a range in which your body feels comfortable and will fight for. When you deviate from this range by trying to lose more weight, the body does its best to get you back into the range by manipulating your hunger and metabolism.  This is also one contributing factor to that experience you have of suddenly finding it difficult to lose more weight


Each time you follow the yo-yo diet, you end up increasing the body fat set point. You are basically teaching your body to be more comfortable at a higher body fat percentage. Effectively making future attempts at fat loss even harder. Research has shown that yo-yo dieting often leads to an increase in total fat cell count and total fat cell mass.


Relying on motivation, to work towards ambitious goals in unrealistic time frames without understanding the qualities and characteristics you need to develop in order to be worthy of the progress you seek. People often waste time. Don’t be like people, be better. Instead of motivation, seek ways of developing discipline. Instead of setting ambitious goals, set more reasonable goals and set a realistic time frame to achieve your goals. Understand that on a fundamental level you need to change in order to be the type of person that can reach and maintain your goals. Be patient, have an urgency to learn and build an appetite for the monotonous.


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