I am pleased to announce that I am leaving my job at the end of the month for a (hopefully) better and (definitely) better paid one. It’s both a happy and sad time for me, I have some lovely friends in my current job who I will miss, but I’m looking forward to a new start. I got to thinking about one of my colleagues; a bit of context here, I have been in my current job for about 5 years and during that time she has yoyoed up and down more times than I can think about. When I started, she had just shed all her weight and was a healthy size 12, but within 18 months she had ballooned to a size 22. She then lost weight with Weightwatchers to become a size 10 (which I personally thought was too thin for her frame but that’s not really my business) and maintained it for a few months before piling the weight back on, plus a bit extra. Then she followed Lighter Life (sort of) and went down to a size 16, but has now gone back up to a size 24, and has now embarked on a new weight loss program via a local pharmacy. Phew, that’s a lot of ups and downs!

Now I know my weight has gone up and down in the past (although not to such extremes) but I am taking my colleague as an example because I think it’s much easier to see the mistakes others make, hopefully I will be able to use the example of my colleague, S, to help myself and others avoid these common mistakes.

When S is on a diet, she gives it everything she’s got. She eats salad and fruit, almost to the exclusion of everything else. I’ve even known her to go out for meals with her children and refuse to eat because she won’t pay for salad and feels she can’t have anything else from the menu. She has a list of “safe” foods and sticks to it religiously. Of course, this kind of lifestyle isn’t sustainable in the long term, so when she reaches the end of the diet, she goes back to her previous unhealthy ways, and begins to put weight on again. The only way to get out of this kind of cycle is to change your mindset. I hate the word ‘diet’; it has all sorts of restrictive and unhealthy connotations when used in its now frequent form (as in “no I can’t, I’m on a…)

I think that the whole mindset of being on or off a diet can be quite damaging as a whole. Many people, like S, are very restricted when on a diet – think cabbage soup diet, Slim-Fast, Atkins and any number of celebrity diets. So they lose the weight, and often very quickly, but once they stop dieting or even during their diet times they have a splurge and eat all the things they’ve banned. It is a hard cycle to break, but psychologically and physically, the results of yo-yo dieting can be just as damaging as being overweight.

Other mistakes that S had made (in my opinion) include exercising madly during her diet, but doing none when it was complete. Exercise is obviously an integral part of a healthy lifestyle and should be undertaken for health rather than just for weight control. Now she has hip problems which prevent her from doing her exercise of choice, but refuses to explore other options. Additionally, she has been offered support from her doctor and local nurse with weight loss but refused it because she felt they would judge her for having regained the weight she lost. She has refused help from all quarters, including the psychological help she explained to me as being an integral part of Lighter Life (even though I think the plan itself is ridiculous), which seemed like a waste of her money to me – imagine paying for therapy and then not going to it!

So there you have it: the problems I believe lead to yo-yo dieting are mindset, obsession and refusal to accept help or examine underlying causes of overeating. I can’t say that I am innocent of these things myself, but now I have identified them in someone else I can find ways of avoiding them in my own life.