|What is weight cycling?
Weight cycling is the repeated loss and regain
of body weight. This sometimes happens to people
who go on weight-loss diets. A small cycle may
include loss and regain of 5 to 10 pounds. In a
large cycle, weight can change by 50 pounds or
|Is weight cycling harmful to my
Weight cycling is the
repeated loss and regain of body weight. This
sometimes happens to people who go on weight-loss
Experts are not sure if weight cycling leads
to health problems. However, some studies
suggest a link to high blood pressure, high
cholesterol, gallbladder disease, and other
problems. One study showed other problems may
be linked to weight cycling as well. The study
showed that women who weight cycle gain more
weight over time than women who do not weight
cycle. Binge eating (when a person eats a lot
of food while feeling out of control) was also
linked to women who weight cycle. The same
study showed that women who weight cycle were
also less likely to use physical activity to
control their weight.
Weight cycling may affect your mental health
too. People who weight cycle may feel depressed
about their weight. However, weight cycling
should not be a reason to “feel like a
failure.” If you feel down, try to focus
on making changes in your eating and physical
activity habits. Keeping a good attitude will
help you stay focused. In addition, talk with a
health care professional about your weight and
ways you can manage it. Doing so may help you
determine why you weight cycle. Understanding
the cause of your weight cycling may help you
in the process of lifelong weight
How can I manage weight and
avoid weight cycling?
Experts recommend different strategies
for different people. The goal for
everyone is to achieve a healthy weight.
This can help prevent the health problems
linked to weight cycling.
- People who are not overweight or
obese, and have no health problems
related to weight, should maintain a
- People who are overweight or obese
should try to achieve and maintain a
modest weight loss. An initial goal of
losing 10 percent of your body weight
can help in your efforts to improve
If you need to lose weight, be ready
to make lifelong changes. Healthy eating
and physical activity are the keys to
your efforts. Focus on making healthful
food choices, such as eating more
high-fiber foods like fruits and
vegetables and cutting down on foods that
are high in saturated or trans fats. And make room for physical
activity. Studies show that many people
who weight cycle do not participate in
regular physical activity. Walking,
jogging, or other activities can help
keep you active and feeling good. To find out more about healthy eating and the amount of physical activity you need, check out the ChooseMyPlate website listed in the Additional Reading section at the end of this fact sheet.
|If I weight cycle after a diet, will
I gain more weight than I had before the diet?
Will I have less muscle?
Studies do not show that fat tissue increases
after a weight cycle. Study results do not
support decreases in muscle either. Many people
simply regain the weight they lost while on the
diet—they have the same amount of fat and
muscle as they did before the weight cycle.
Some people worry that weight cycling can put
more fat around their stomach area. This is
important since people who carry extra body
weight around this area are more likely to
develop type 2 diabetes. Studies show that people
do not have more fat around their stomach after a
weight cycle. However, other studies suggest that
women who are overweight and have a history of
weight cycling have thicker layers of fat around
their stomach—compared to women who do not
weight cycle. It is not clear how this relates to
|If I regain lost weight, will it be
even harder to lose it
Losing weight after a weight cycle should
not be harder. Studies show weight cycling does
not affect how fast you burn food energy, which
is called your “metabolic
rate.” This rate slows as we get
older, but healthy eating and regular physical
activity can still help you achieve a healthy
overweight healthier than weight
This is a hard question to answer since
experts are not sure whether weight cycling
causes health problems. However, experts are sure
that if you are overweight, losing weight is a
good thing. Being overweight or obese is
associated with the following health
- high blood pressure
- heart disease
- gallbladder disease
- fatty liver disease
- type 2 diabetes
- certain types of cancer
- breathing problems, such as sleep apnea
(when breathing stops for short periods during
Not everyone who is overweight or obese has
the same risk for these problems. Risk is
affected by several factors: your gender,
family history of disease, the amount of extra
weight you have, and where fat is located on your
body. You can improve your health with a modest
weight loss. Losing just 10 percent of your body
weight over 6 months will help.
Try to eat healthy
and get plenty of physical activity. If you go
through a weight cycle, do not feel like a
failure. Just keep trying your
Experts need to learn more about weight
cycling. Knowing if it is a cause or effect of
poor physical and mental health is important. In
the meantime, you can help yourself if you are
overweight or obese. Try to eat healthy and get
plenty of physical activity. If you go through a
weight cycle, do not feel like a failure. Just
keep trying your best.
Active at Any Size. Available from the Weight-control Information
Network (WIN) and online at http://www.win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/active.htm.
Binge Eating Disorder. Available from WIN and online at http://www.win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/binge.htm.
ChooseMyPlate. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
More information and interactive tools on healthy eating and physical activity are available at http://www.choosemyplate.gov.
Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. USDA and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines
Dieting and Gallstones. Available from WIN and online at http://www.win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/gallstones.htm.
Just Enough for You: About Food
Portions. Available from WIN
and online at http://www.win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/just_enough.htm.
Tips to Help You Get Active. Available from WIN and online at http://www.win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/tips.htm.
Weight-loss and Nutrition Myths.
Available from WIN and online at http://www.win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/myths.htm.
Weight Loss for Life. Available from WIN and online at http://www.win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/for_life.htm.
1 WIN Way
Bethesda, MD 20892–3665
Phone: (202) 828–1025
Fax: (202) 828–1028
The Weight-control Information Network (WIN)
is a service of the National Institute of
Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
(NIDDK) of the National Institutes of Health,
which is the Federal Government’s lead
agency responsible for biomedical research on
nutrition and obesity. Authorized by Congress
(Public Law 103–43), WIN provides the
general public, health professionals, the media,
and Congress with up-to-date, science-based
health information on weight control, obesity,
physical activity, and related nutritional
Publications produced by WIN are reviewed by
both NIDDK scientists and outside experts. This
publication was also reviewed by Rudolph L.
Leibel, M.D., Professor of Pediatrics and
Medicine, Head of the Division of Molecular
Genetics, Columbia University College of
Physicians and Surgeons.
This publication is not copyrighted. WIN
encourages users of this fact sheet to duplicate
and distribute as many copies as
NIH Publication No. 01–3901