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Are “Crash” and “Yo-Yo” Dieting Bad for Your Heart?

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If Thanksgiving and Christmas were the season for grazing, then the New Year has to be the ‘season of dieting’. You literally can’t turn on the TV without watching an advertisement for the latest get-thin-quick scheme. The current state of the economy doesn’t seem to have hurt the local gyms and diet centers as people flock in, filled with good intentions and New Year’s resolutions, to finally shed those few extra pounds once and for all.

Yours truly is included in this category. I make a New Year’s resolution every year. This year, I have vowed (once again) to lose those extra pounds (again) and this time to keep it off (for good) and to never wear those “fat” jeans again! (That’s a good thing to promise because they are getting holes in them!) I’ve probably lost 500 pounds in my life. The trouble is that it’s been the same 30 pounds over and over and over again. This time I made it 6 years before crashing and falling off the food wagon.

So, here I am AGAIN –- 6 years later –- facing the diet dilemma once AGAIN. I find myself wondering what the underlying cost has been to my health. Does this type of constant dieting, sporting a weight that bounces back and forth on the scale like a volleyball, have any long term side effects that I’m not aware of?

The truth is that crash dieting and yo-yo dieting are not good for you and certainly not good for your heart health. Most of us have been on a crash diet at one point in our lives. Our best friend’s wedding sneaks up on us and we just want to lose 5-10 pounds before the wedding. Or (and I like this one), you’re headed to your twentieth high school reunion and want to wear that cheerleader outfit again. Like soooo NOT happening! The problem is that even though we know these events are coming up, we wait until the last minute to try to lose those extra pounds. The result is that we go on a “crash” or starvation type diet -– you know what I’m talking about –- a “quick-fix” diet. These types of diets may simply limit calories or some may use diet pills or diuretics to enhance weight loss.

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Hello Diane...My mother actually watched that Dr. Oz video and told me about it on Saturday. It definitely made an impression on her as she could not stop talking about it! I don't get cable but am going to have to find a copy of the video because it sounds impressive. Mom's description of it actually inspired an article that I submitted today about heart fat. I actually never thought about fat depositing around the heart muscle itself and what kind of damage that could cause.

The yo-yo dieting is something that I've been guilty of my whole life. I'll lose 20 pounds, keep if off for a while, and then eventually go right back to my old habits. I made some healthy progress with my life last year in that I lowered my bad cholesterol by 45 points without drugs. This year, my weight really is a priority. After researching for this article, I think that it's simply a necessity to find the will power to finally (for the last time) flip the switch in my head and make the lifestyle change permanent. I may not be able to undo any damage already done, but perhaps I'll be able to prevent any future damage.

I have young nieces just on the bring of womanhood and a daughter in her early twenties. They do not have weight problems - yet. But, they've certainly watched all of us - mothers, aunts, grandmothers and greatgrandmothers struggle with their weight. If even one of them can take head from my example and make better, healthier choices for their lives, I'll be really happy!

January 18, 2010 - 10:09am


What a thoughtful, smart, well-written post. You took all of my feelings about my (again!) New Year's Resolution to (again!) lose the weight for good, and wrote about them in depth. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the reminder that what we do in the short term (diet just to fit in our "skinny jeans") hurts us in the long run.

On Dr. Oz yesterday, he had a segment on weight and heart health. He had a tape of open-heart surgery (bypass) from a patient who also had a severe weight problem. The heart was there, beating in the patient's chest, with fat growing all over it the same way you see fat marbled into meat in the grocer's case. It was horrifying, watching the heart struggle to do its job while carrying those pieces of yellow fat. It made the overweight people on the show -- and me -- visualize our own hearts, wondering what they look like and if there is fat that impedes their work.

It was a wake-up video for sure. And your post only emphasizes it more. There are no quick fixes for something as important as our heart.

January 14, 2010 - 9:06am
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