The cycle of yo-yo-dieting can be broken

The cycle of yo-yo-dieting can be broken

When Maddie* came to see me she shared an incredible fact with me – over the last few years she had lost about 12 stones in weight. She had just asked for my help to lose weight but as I said to her “If you’ve managed to lose that much weight you’re probably the last person who needs to learn more.”

What Maddie wanted of course wasn’t just to lose weight but to finally keep it off. She hadn’t just lost 12 stones over the last few years of yo-yo dieting, she had gained more than that much as well. This was why she still thought of herself as a failure, and every time she put the weight back on it only reinforced her opinion of herself.

When someone has a history of yo-yo dieting, and losing weight only to regain it then it isn’t right to take money from them to lose weight again without looking at why they put it back on. That was the basis on which I agreed to see Maddie.

I asked her to tell me about herself and she told me about her three young children, two in primary school and a toddler at home; her partner who often worked away; and her elderly parents who she looked after, her two brothers living “too far away” to help. Talking to Maddie it became clear that coping with the children and looking after her parents, both often without help, left her feeling stuck, and feeling guilty about feeling stuck.

She didn’t have or make any time for herself or her interests, and so when the feelings about being stuck became too much they would prompt her to lose weight by starting another crash diet. This way she felt in control, and her diet was something that was hers alone. Food though wasn’t just the way that Maddie could feel in control, it was also the way that she rewarded herself – for coping, and for success, including having lost weight,

From the outside it might seem obvious that they can’t both work, but we’re all blind to it when we’re in that situation. What is enabling Maddie to be able to lose weight and sustain that weight loss is no longer having to rely on food to feel in control or rewarded. That has been thanks to work that we’ve done on her self-esteem and becoming more assertive, because it was the lack of those that kept her in the cycle of yo-yo dieting.

Maddie told me that the greatest benefit for her though has been “feeling like the role-model I want to be for my daughter”.

*Maddie’s real identity has been protected, and she is happy to share her story.

If you enjoyed this why not sign up for my monthly newsletter here with three stories every month on the quirky side of relationships and psychology.