No More Yo-Yo Diets | Torrance Memorial

Published on June 28, 2021

No More Yo-Yo Diets

Adapting to new habits and regimens with a focus on overall health and well-being can provide desired results and improve quality of life.

couple grocery shopping

Written by Diane Krieger

By now, everyone knows the pitfalls of dieting. They seldom work, and sometimes they do actual harm.

Cycles of weight loss and gain—the so-called yo-yo effect—can produce a sense of shame, leading to low self-esteem and an unhealthy preoccupation with eating and body image.

So here’s a novel idea: put the bathroom scale in a dark closet. Forget about weight. Focus instead on wellness. You’ll feel better and actually be healthier.

As a bonus, you may start shedding pounds.

“Addressing old or implementing new behaviors takes effort,” says Kristen Hung, MPH, RD, a clinical dietitian at Torrance Memorial. “But if we practice new behaviors until they become subconscious habits, we unlock one of the most significant keys to truly impacting our health and wellness.”

Here are some everyday habits that will improve your health and wellness and lower your body mass. 

Eat Better

You know the rules. Don’t skip breakfast. Fill half your plate with fruits and veggies. Drink more water. Cut back on sugary beverages, wine and beer. Stay away from unhealthy snacks and desserts.

If your stomach growls at the austerity measures, Hung offers this practical tip: “befriend the bean.”

“Beans and lentils are rich in fiber and protein, boosting feelings of fullness,” she says. “They also help reduce ‘bad cholesterol,’ and their slow rate of digestion means fewer spikes in blood sugar, which can wreak havoc on your appetite.”

Above all, when—not if, but when, because it’s bound to happen—you have a lapse, don’t throw in the towel. Get back in the game. Dieting is temporary, but eating well is a lifelong project.

Get Physical

One of the biggest mistakes people who want to lose weight make is setting the wrong type of goal. “They form outcome-based goals like ‘Look good in my swimsuit,” says Torrance Memorial Clinical Dietitian Christian Torres, RD. “What’s more important are the behavior-based goals needed to get there, for example ‘Exercise 30 minutes four times a week.’”

The key to permanent change is consistency. Change your routine, and your body will change too.

Being overweight can make it harder to be active, so start small. Make a resolution to walk a short distance every other day. And really do it. As you get stronger, up your game plan. Walk every day. Walk farther. Resolve to always take the stairs instead of the elevator. Accelerate your walking speed, try jogging, cycling, swimming laps. Choose achievable goals, and let your measure of success be consistency, not the arbitrary number on your bathroom scale. If you crave numerical data, consider wearing a fitness tracker like the Apple Watch or Fitbit to count your steps, measure your heart rate and calculate the calories you burn.

Don’t Skimp on Sleep

Change your sleep hygiene, and you’ll probably change your pant size. Studies show people short on sleep consume more calories and skip exercising. Skimping on sleep sets your brain up for bad decision-making. It dulls activity in the frontal lobe leading to poor impulse control, and revs up the reward centers sending you searching for something that feels good—say ice cream or potato chips.

At a behavioral level, research shows people starved for sleep are prone to late-night snacking and more likely to choose high-carb or high-fat snacks. They eat bigger portions of all foods. And lack of sleep leads to fatigue which usually results in less physical activity.

At the metabolic level, sleep deprivation limits your body’s ability to process insulin, a hormone needed to change sugar and starch into energy. It also affects production of the appetite-controlling hormones, leptin and ghrelin.

“These hormones contribute to feelings of hunger and regulation of fat storage,” Hung says. “Lack of sleep creates imbalance and can lead to increased feelings of hunger and higher caloric intake.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a third of adults don’t get enough sleep (at least 7 hours a night).

Be Mindful

If you don’t already do it, add meditation or yoga to your weekly routine. Not only will it lower your blood pressure, it will probably improve your nutrition and help control your weight. Research shows regular mindful practice reduces binge eating and emotional eating.

Try mindfulness at the table too. Add a dash of gratitude to every meal, whether saying grace out loud or just taking a moment to appreciate the food in front of you.

“A mindful tip for quick eaters, like me, is to set a timer for 12 to 15 minutes,” Torres says. “Spend the extra time analyzing the different textures, flavors and aromas.”

Chew slowly. Put down the fork between bites. Take a deep breath after you swallow.

Rein In Your Appetite

Listen to your body and eat only when you’re hungry. If there’s a bad taste in your mouth, try brushing your teeth instead of reaching for gum, mints or a snack. If you tend to overeat, ask yourself why. Is it emotional or stress-related? If so, investigate and address those feelings. Other common causes of overeating involve boredom, distraction and poor planning. You can break the cycle by introducing good table habits, like putting down the cellphone at mealtimes.

Cooking as an activity can be an antidote to overeating. “Eat anything you want, just cook it yourself,” recommends national food trend analyst Harry Balzer.

Have a craving for French fries? Then go peel and slice the spuds yourself and fry them in a hot, spattering pan.

“Preparing food ourselves helps us understand what we are eating, and often leads to consuming simpler and healthier meals,” Hung says. After you finish cleaning the greasy stove, dumping the hot oil and washing the dishes, you might reconsider how often you “enjoy” fries.

When dining out, you can pre-empt overeating by introducing these two routines — decide ahead of time to split an entree with your companion or ask for a to-go box in advance and set aside half your portion at the beginning of the meal.  

Looking for a Weight Management Support Group?

Weight Loss Program

CORE4 is a 12-week adult weight management program offered through Torrance Memorial. Based on evidence and guidelines from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the weekly group sessions cover nutrition (portions, meal planning, dining out, macro and micronutrients); behavior modification (hunger, appetite awareness, relationship to food); and how physical activity relates to weight reduction and management. Offered virtually, the next session begins Thursday, September 2, 5-6 pm. Cost: $200. Call 310-891-6707.

One-on-One Coaching

Torrance Memorial provides private coaching through its Nutrition Education and Wellness Program. Clients partner with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) to develop a personal plan of action for meal planning, grocery shopping, food journaling, mindful eating and any special needs such as food allergies, veganism and nutrition during pregnancy or lactation. The service is available without referral. Call 310-891-6707.

Support Group

Between Starving and Stuffed is a bi-monthly online interactive program teaching mindful eating skills to live a healthy lifestyle for a healthy weight and other life goals. Meets on Zoom every 2nd Thursday and 3rd Tuesday, 6 to 7 pm.

To learn more, visit Torrance Memorial’s nutrition webpage. Schedule an appointment with one of our registered dietitian nutritionists through the MyTorranceMemorial patient portal or call 310-891-6707.