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  • Writer's pictureCoach Paul Kuck

Stuck in a Diet Cycle? 13 Tips to Break It.

Does the following diagram look familiar? I've seen enough successful and unsuccessful cases in my over 26 years as a medical personal trainer assisting clients with weight loss. The ones that have not yet been successful typically have the following pattern:

At the initial stage, you are restricting food intake in some way (i.e. count calories or macros or carbs, go on a new diet, limit certain foods or food groups, etc.). Starting a diet cycle can initially feel good, as the body fights against restriction and gains willpower to maintain it. You feel like a winner and can achieve success in your quest for a slimmer you.

Soon, you start to notice more cravings for ice cream, cookies, drinks; salty, fried and other yummy foods. This occurs when you restrict your food intake and your body starts to fight back by increasing cravings and causing you to fixate on food until you give in and eat as much as you need for energy. This is both a physiological and psychological response.

After eating like these you start to feel guilty for eating the “forbidden food”, you feel guilty, anxious, stressed or like you have ‘failed’.

Then you finally give up and continue to eat due to feeling low, stressed and anxious. This results in weight put back what you have lost.

Weight gain causes further upset and you start dieting again to lose weight. All these result in 'yo-yo' syndromes, which can lead to many health risks like high cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes, depression, heart disease, and cancer (1,2)

So what's the solution to stop such evil cycle?

Here are 13 science-based tips (not rules):

  1. Allow yourself to eat all foods that you enjoy on the days you are most likely to enjoy most.

  2. Do not count calories, cut out any nutrient or certain types of food (unless diagnosed with some medical condition). Stop labelling food as 'good' or 'bad'. Instead follow a balanced/complementary eating plan. You may alter your carb/protein/fat (macronutrients) here and there but make sure you have some of them on a daily basis. This one really works. Many people crave for some food when on a diet is because they don't follow this. All nutrients (including salt, fat, sugar) have their respective roles in your body.

  3. Put all the food you are going to eat on a plate, and resist adding more after you've done. Then you know exactly how much you have eaten.

  4. Plan well ahead when and what you want to eat for your next meal.

  5. Eat at regular intervals, not when you have time or when you are hungry. But if you are hungry - eat! Don't skip. It makes matter worse.

  6. Create new habits by focusing on your behaviors, not results. Example, set aside weekly days and time for regular exercise, rest and healthy eating. A healthy lifestyle shouldn't be ad hoc thing that you only do when you have time or feel like doing it. Sure, it wouldn't be perfect initially and it shouldn't be but keep at it until you make it.

  7. Focus less on what everyone says you should do, and more on what you want and need to do for you.

  8. Before you start eating, ask: ‘Am I really hungry?’ Most of the time, you're not. If you’re not really hungry, is there something else you could do? Maybe you could step outside for some fresh air or make a phone call you’ve been meaning to make for a while.

  9. It’s completely fine to have an ‘imperfect’ meal or snack, don't sweat over it

  10. Do not watch TV or use the mobile phone when you eat. By eating with distractions such as these you'll more likely to overeat.

  11. Don't follow the latest DIET or WORKOUT plan that promises quick weight loss results like having 'six-packs'. Whenever you see someone with a great body used their model, it's tell-tale sign. Follow one that is sustainable, healthy and practical.

  12. Do regular exercise (strength + cardio) at least 3 times a week. This is by far one of the best predicter of long-term weight loss success.

  13. Read 'Revealed: Revealed: 5 Science-Backed Secrets of Permanent Weight Loss'

Once you have mastered these 13 tips, you would never run into the 'yo-yo' effects anymore.


  1. Montani, Jean-Pierre; Schutz, Yves; Dulloo, Abdul G. (2015). "Dieting and weight cycling as risk factors for cardiometabolic diseases: who is really at risk?: Weight cycling and cardiometabolic risks". Obesity Reviews. 16: 7–18. doi:10.1111/obr.12251. PMID 25614199. S2CID 30821753.

  2. Zou, Huajie; Yin, Ping; Liu, Liegang; Liu, Wenhua; Zhang, Zeqing; Yang, Yan; Li, Wenjun; Zong, Qunchuan; Yu, Xuefeng (2019). "Body-Weight Fluctuation Was Associated With Increased Risk for Cardiovascular Disease, All-Cause and Cardiovascular Mortality: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis". Frontiers in Endocrinology. 10: 728.

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