How To Stop Gaining More Weight Back After Dieting

Author: Audrey Fleck - MS, RDN, LDN Publish Date: March 31, 2022

Credit: This guest post was written by Alexis Jelski, MS, RDN

Have you ever dieted? I bet the answer is yes. 

Have you ever gained back the weight you lost on the diet soon after you stopped? I bet the answer is also yes.

This is the problem with diets. They promote a false sense of hope, claiming that it’s the only way to lose weight once and for all. 

I can’t count how many diets out there promote unhealthy behaviors – skipping meals, severe caloric restriction, removal of essential food groups – you name it, it probably exists in one form or another. 

Most clients that I see have been on numerous diets (weight watchers, noom, optiva, atkins, south beach, keto, intermittent fasting, the list goes on). Some clients may have success, but because our body cannot simply live on restriction, the diet stops and the weight comes back on quickly. Not surprisingly, additional weight is gained. 

Why do we diet and why do we gain even more weight? 

If any of you are like me and spent your adolescence in the 90’s/early 2000s, then you were (and maybe are) affected by what society told women they SHOULD look like. The thin-ideal image we see projected on social media has been shown to increase body dissatisfaction and eating disorder symptoms and decrease mood and self-esteem among women (Hawkins et al., 2010). We might try to lose weight for a variety of reasons, both health and appearance-related. 

Our body weight is the product of our genes (DNA), environment, and epigenetics (traits we inherit). When we restrict calories, our body adapts by expending less energy. It recognizes that with weight loss, there is less mass to expend energy with. But the more weight you lose, the more calories that people tend to need to restrict to see ongoing results. 

If you’ve dieted before, you may compare yourself to other people who may be naturally thin and have never had to diet before. There’s a concept called “set-point theory”, which states that your body weight has a “set point” weight that is biologically ideal for your specific body. It’s a weight that you can maintain without effort. At this weight, your body can perform optimally! But if you try to tweak it, your body fights hard to maintain control (i.e. setting off increased hunger signals, increased food appeal, and cravings, for example). If you are a chronic yo-yo dieter, you likely have had a harder time each diet to lose and maintain the weight loss. Your set point may become higher than previous attempts because your body is aiming to protect itself from future events (it’s storing more body fat for later because it was starved). 

Fear not, you aren’t doomed in this endless cycle

That’s where I come in (or any RD)! I can’t even count the amount of times a client has come into my office, worried that they keep gaining weight even with eating minimal calories (we’re talking 800-1200 or less while exercising 6-7 days a week)! Their metabolism is so slowed that the body hangs on to what little energy stores it has left. Not to mention, restrictive eating, plus lots of exercise influences cortisol, which impacts weight! 

In order to change this, you have to make some changes so your body can trust itself again. And yes, this can mean eating more. And that’s okay. Increasing your caloric intake will increase your metabolism, making you more fuel-efficient, while also limiting the amount of lean mass that is broken down and used as an energy reserve. 

(And secret time – when we are eating enough, we can gain muscle, look leaner and improve our health!) 

My priority for my clients is to make sure they are adequately and properly nourished while uncovering the “why” behind wanting to lose weight. With time and support, it is possible to relearn what hunger and fullness feel like, all while accepting your body for what it is and where it’s at along the process. 

It’s all mental

The mental stuff is quite honestly the hardest part when it comes to weight acceptance. Maybe you’re storing some pent-up anger because you can’t get to your goal weight. Maybe you’re holding off on doing certain things or going certain places because of your weight. The “when I’m thin” fantasies can hold you back from living your current life and accepting yourself for who you are. This challenge of acceptance involves reframing your thoughts and silencing that inner voice that tells you otherwise. Find support from those who will uplift you, including a therapist to add to your healthcare team! 

So if you have given up and feel your broken metabolism cannot come back from rock bottom – change the way you think. After all, if something hasn’t worked in the past, what’s different this time around? Fad diets don’t work long-term and can only contribute to ongoing negative effects. 

Let’s break the cycle (and the stigma) around dieting, once and for all. 


Credit: This guest post was written by Alexis Jelski, MS, RDN

About the Author

Audrey Fleck - MS, RDN, LDN

I’m Audrey Fleck, a dedicated dietitian with over a decade of experience, and the founder of Functional Origins, my private practice located in Bucks County, PA. With a strong educational background, including a BS in Nutrition and Dietetics and an MS in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine, I specialize in providing an integrative and functional approach to healing, primarily tailored for women.