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How Does Dieting Cause Weight Gain?

Updated: Aug 16, 2023

The primary objective of following a diet plan is to lose weight. However, certain factors can contribute to weight gain, which can be counterproductive to the overall goal.

  1. Metabolic Adaptation: When drastically reducing your calorie intake through dieting, your body's metabolism may slow to conserve energy. This adaptive response is a survival mechanism to counteract the calorie deficit. As a result, your body burns fewer calories at rest, making it more difficult to continue losing weight or leading to weight gain if your caloric intake remains low.

  2. Muscle Loss: Severely restrictive diets can lead to muscle loss. Muscles are metabolically active tissues that burn calories even at rest. If you lose muscle mass due to extreme dieting, your overall metabolic rate can decrease, making it easier to gain weight once you return to a regular diet.

  3. Yo-Yo Dieting: Yo-yo dieting, or weight cycling, refers to repeatedly losing and gaining weight. It often occurs when people engage in extreme or unsustainable diets that lead to rapid weight loss, followed by a return to everyday eating habits. This cycle of weight loss and regain can lead to long-term weight gain, as it disrupts the body's metabolic processes and can result in increased fat storage.

  4. Binge Eating: Strict dieting can trigger episodes of binge eating, where individuals quickly consume large amounts of food due to intense hunger or emotional factors. This binge eating can lead to a significant increase in calorie intake, potentially causing weight gain.

  5. Hormonal Changes: Drastic changes in diet and significant weight loss can impact hormonal balance, particularly hormones that regulate hunger and satiety, such as leptin and ghrelin. These hormonal changes can increase appetite and make it harder to maintain the reduced caloric intake, potentially leading to overeating and weight gain.

  6. Psychological Factors: Strict diets can lead to feelings of deprivation and restriction, contributing to an unhealthy relationship with food. These psychological factors can lead to emotional eating or overindulgence, causing weight gain.

When trying to lose weight, focusing on balance and sustainability is essential by choosing healthier foods and exercising regularly. Seeking guidance from a health coach or medical professional can also be helpful.


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