How to Break the Yo-Yo Diet Cycle and Achieve Sustainable Weight Loss


"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results."

- Albert Einstein

You have probably tried every diet out there, and sure they all worked pretty well at first, but as the weeks go by it gets harder and harder, and you eventually fall back into your old habits.

It's time to reshape your approach to losing weight and try something that actually works. These are my expert tips for losing weight, keeping it off for good, and breaking the yo-yo diet cycle!

How to Achieve Sustainable Weight Loss and Break the Yo-Yo Diet Cycle


The secret to sustainable weight loss starts with shifting your mindset and accepting that weight loss is a journey, it takes time, experimentation, support and perseverance. Accept that going on a diet is just not going to give you those things.

Even research shows that most people who lose weight on diets (regardless of which diet it is) tend to gain the weight back over time. Not only is dieting ineffective for achieving long term weight loss, but it can actually be harmful to both your physical and mental health.

Here are a ton science-backed reasons why you should ditch the diet ASAP if you want to start losing weight and keeping it off.

Biological Reasons Dieting Causes Weight Gain


Let's face it, dieting is stressful! And guess what...stress promotes weight gain. This is not just a dieting myth, one study actually showed that just thinking about dieting can increase stress hormones, like cortisol. Cortisol is harmful to your weight loss goals because it promotes fat storage in your belly, decreases your metabolic rate, and breaks down muscle mass.


Even if dieting doesn't stress you out, you are still at risk for gaining weight after dieting because of the impact weight loss diets have on your metabolism. The body perceives dieting as a threat to survival, so it works extra hard to conserve fat and decrease your metabolism so you can use calories more efficiently.


Finally, dieting usually results in weight gain over time because it triggers insatiable hunger. Once the body registers that there is a calorie deficit happening, it increases a number of hunger hormones that create a strong desire to eat high calorie foods, like refined carbohydrates. Very low calorie diets are one of the biggest triggers for hunger and subsequent overeating. 

Psychological Reasons Dieting Causes Weight Gain


Whether you are restricting carbs, fat or calories, most diets require a restriction of some sort. While restricting certain foods may initially result in some weight loss, long term food restriction can cause psychological stress, negatively impact your relationship with food, and damage your eating behaviors long term. Check out my post on Everyday Habits that Lead to Overeating for a detailed review of how restrictive diets can harm your mental health.

From a neuroscience perspective, we know that food restriction actually increases the reward value of that food. There is no pleasure, joy or ease about going on a restrictive diet, which ultimately causes us to desire those restricted foods even more. Caving in to those cravings over and over can leave you feeling worthless and guilty, which can have a major impact on your confidence.


Because of its powerful impact on appetite, cravings, and your brain's reward system, dieting is also big trigger for overeating and binge eating. The binging cycle is self-reinforcing and always starts with restrictive dieting and ends with shame, guilt, decreased self esteem, and weight gain. 

So, the first and most important step toward losing weight and keeping it off is to ditch the dieting approach to weight loss and start thinking about making permanent changes in your self care.



One of the biggest reasons why diets don't work is because they fail to change the unhealthy habits that cause weight gain in the first place. I think every health expert can agree that losing weight and keeping it off requires adopting healthy behaviors in all of the areas of your life that influence weight gain - sleeping habits, stress management, physical activity - and not just dieting. I would also add life satisfaction as a critical component of sustainable weight loss and maintenance, especially for people who emotionally eat.

Think about it, no one starts a diet with the intention of staying on that diet for the rest of their lives. People go on diets knowing that they will be short term, which is precisely the problem - diets are not long-term solutions. You can lose 20, 30, 50, even 100 pounds on a diet, but you will inevitably gain that weight back as soon as you stop dieting.

I'm not telling you this to make you feel hopeless, I'm telling you this to emphasize that sustainable weight loss is only achievable when you stop focusing on dieting and start focusing on self care in all areas of your wellness. You can do this by focusing on changing your unhealthy habits and adopting new healthy habits that make you feel amazing! 



The true secret to sustainable weight loss is finding a healthy lifestyle plan that is good for you (physically and mentally) and that you can do happily for the rest of your life. And guess what...this healthy lifestyle plan usually looks different for everyone and it takes time and experimentation to figure out your unique blueprint for wellness. Even though every body is unique, there are some basic healthy guidelines that almost everyone should do if you want to lose weight and keep it off.


Eat Fruit + Vegetables

You should aim for 8 - 10 servings of produce per day. 1 serving = 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables or 1 cup of raw vegetables, and generally 1 medium piece of fruit or 1 cup of fruit. Ideally you are having a variety of organic fruit and vegetables with lots of colors. Can't afford organic all the time? Try just choosing organic for these foods: If you like numbers and tracking, these are the specific goals for what types of veggies you should be having daily:

  • Green vegetables/fruit = 4 - 8 cups per day

  • Orange vegetables/fruit = 1/2 - 1 cup per day

  • Purple vegetables/fruit = 1/2 - 1 cup per day

  • Cruciferous Vegetables (boy choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, and turnip greens, kohlrabi, rutabaga, turnips) = 1/2 - 1 cup per day

  • Allium Vegetables (garlic, leeks, onions, chives, shallots, scallions) =  1/3 cup or 2 cloves per day


    Eat Real Food

Real food includes whole, unprocessed, unrefined, grass-fed, wild, seasonal, local, and organic foods. Many processed and refined foods contain white flour, white sugar high fructose corn syrup all of which have no nutritional benefit and for many people may actually cause harm to our health if we consume them regularly. Chemical additives and preservatives in processed foods are generally not well regulated by the FDA and we may not know the harmful effects they have on our health over time.


Drink Lots of Water

Our bodies are made of mostly water and staying hydrated is absolutely essential to keeping us healthy and supporting weight loss. Water helps to regulate our temperature and serves as the primary solution to transfer all of the nutrients throughout our body. Water keeps your bowels moving and your skin glowing. People often mistake hunger for thirst, so it's a good tool for regulating your appetite as well. Water needs vary depending on your size, losses, medications, health conditions, but a general rule of thumb is getting about 64 ounces of water per day. You can monitor your own fluid needs by the color of your urine: it should be a light straw yellow color.


Get at 7 - 8 Hours of Sleep per Night

You can learn more about how lack of sleep causes weight gain here.


Move More

Regular exercise has soooooooo many benefits to health and weight, you just can't get around not doing this for the rest of your life. You can learn more about how to integrate regular exercise here.


Have a regular mindfulness practice

Mindfulness is defined as "non-judgmental awareness." This is truly the first step in making any behavior change, after all it's difficult to stop doing something, if you aren't even aware that it's happening. It's even more difficult to change your behavior if you are aware that it is happening, but judge yourself for it. There are so many mindfulness resources out there, but here are a few of my favorites: The 5-minute journal, the 10% Happier app, the Calm app, the Mindfulness Coloring Book for Adults.



There is no one size fits all diet, exercise plan, sleep routine, stress management strategy or life satisfaction plan that works for everyone. Figuring out the best healthy lifestyle plan that works for you takes motivation, support, and experimentation. Together, these factors result in sustainable behavior change, which includes maintaining your weight loss for a lifetime! Get detailed steps and exercises on how to change your behavior with my First Steps to Changing your Behavior Guide by clicking the button below.

Click Here to Download Your First Steps to Changing Your Behavior Guide

Tell me some of your favorite tips for sustainable weight loss in the comments below.

Tag @allgreatnutrition or use our hashtag #beallgreat if you have an inspirational post you want me to share with the tribe. I want to see how you are slaying your wellness! 



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Hey! I’m Tamar…

the founder of All Great Nutrition, integrative health Dietitian, and National Board Certified Health Coach. I help frustrated dieters get back to feeling confident, empowered, and positive about their health.

Want to transform your relationship with food and stop emotional eating? Contact me to learn more about my coaching program.