The Yo-Yo Diet
There’s a phantom phenomenon that lurks in the corners of fad diets and weight-loss programs. Its clinical term is weight cycling, but it’s popularly known as yo-yo dieting. Yo-yo dieting is a term that describes the process of regaining poundage after it is lost.
Harvard Health Publishing shared a 2016 study that followed 14 participants during and after the show “The Biggest Loser”. The participants each lost an average of 100 pounds during the show. What happened after the show was finished?
The participants regained most and in some cases more, of the weight they lost. The Harvard article concludes with:
“… drastic weight loss in a short amount of time comes with a price. Whether you’re trying to lose 10 pounds or 50, slow and steady is far more effective.”
4 years later, Havard Health Publishing released a follow-up article with updated findings from the Biggest Loser study. But the lessons learned were largely the same:
“… eat healthy whole foods in moderation, avoid processed foods, and engage in regular physical activity to maintain a healthy body weight.”
In other words, steady, regular, and diligent behaviors lead to successful weight regulation over time. Unsurprisingly, there’s a biblical principle that traces its way through these heavily researched findings. Solomon pithily shared it in contrast to traits in one of his proverbs thousands of years ago:
“The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” – Proverbs 21:5.
Proverbs 21:5 shares wisdom on how to have successful plans by contrasting the traits of diligence and hastiness.
Diligence, or ḥārûṣ, is a Hebrew noun that carries the idea of incision. Like the use of a sharp tool to split wood, dig a trench, mine for gold, or thresh out grain. The steady, regular, and rhythmic motion that steadily slashes into a project. No shortcuts or quick fixes. Just persistent and focused work.
And work done in this way leads to abundance, profit, and gain (môṯār).
Again, the research proves the biblical principle. The linked review evaluated several weight-loss interventions (such as medical and surgical interventions). Their findings?
“At a long term follow-up (over one year), relatively high protein, moderately low calorie, low glycemic index diets, associated with a daily, moderate-intensity, physical exercise (of at least 30 min), appear to be more successful in limiting long term relapse, maintaining fat-free mass and achieving the highest fat loss.”
In other words, the combination of a healthy diet and regular exercise are the ingredients of diligent body stewardship. Diligence cuts through the fads, and slowly plods its way toward building habits that lead to abundant gains.
Contrasted with the immovable incisor is the quick-moving and impoverishing trait of ûṣ, or hastiness.
This is a Hebrew verb that carries the idea of pressing, urging, and making haste. This pressure is what the Egyptian taskmasters unjustly applied to the Hebrews in the book of Exodus:
“The taskmasters were urgent, saying, ‘Complete your work, your daily task each day, as when there was straw.” – Exodus 5:13
The results must happen now. The outcome needs to be today. The gains must be realized immediately.
Sometimes we need to move quickly. But living in a state of constant urgency yields fruit that has not matured or has barely ripened. The pressure might work for the moment, but the results never last.
Maḥsôr is the inevitable outcome of these types of plans. The word means want, lack, need, and poverty. Bankruptcy. This is the inevitable outcome of these types of pressured plans.
Back to the 2018 Harvard article, the “Biggest Loser” participants also showed diminished levels of leptin and slow metabolisms. The levels for leptin, the hormone that regulates hunger, dropped and never recovered pre-show levels. Metabolism levels also slowed, and never “rebounded to what they had been before the show”.
In other words, the dramatic loss in weight led to an impoverished hormonal and metabolic activity that worked against the body trying in its attempt to keep off weight.
“…but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty…”
EveryDay Health, in an article about Yo-Yo Dieting, shares what they call a “dirty secret” of fad diets:
“While fad diets make big promises, they have a dirty secret: They’re usually not designed for lasting change.”
The change might occur quickly. But it might not last.
The Right Result
The fads of the day are designed for quick results in the shortest time possible. With all the focus on external results of a weight-loss program, there’s inattentiveness to diligence, which is the result that will yield a profit in any season.
Diligence is the result we need to pursue in our body-stewardship plans. It won’t be won in a day, nor achieved in a week, but it can be achieved with regular and consistent activity.
How exactly do we pursue diligence?
The battle for diligence is first fought within the heart (Proverbs 4:23) and won by the power of the Spirit (Romans 8:13). It’s gained through a steady putting off the old self and putting on the new self that we have in Christ (Colossians 3). Prayerfully and dependently putting off the desire for hastiness and putting on the desire for the formidable trait of diligence.
Bodily, there are perhaps dozens of practical applications. The goal is to incorporate regular activities that become habits over time. Splitting wood takes regular and rhythmic activity, as does mining for precious metals, threshing out grain, and digging a trench.
- Target 3 workout sessions per week, 30-40 minutes in length, for at least 3 months.
- Walk with your family 3-5 times a week.
- Rest at least 1-2 days a week.
- Find ways to stay active throughout the work day (do 25 push-ups every 2 hours, go for walks during your lunch break, etc…)
- Limit the consumption of sugary, overly processed foods, and eat a variety of natural foods.
- Drink lots of water.
- Sleep for 7-9 hours each night.
If the goal is diligence, it will be the result. Move to the glory of God!
- “A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich” – Proverbs 10:4
- “Whoever is slothful will not roast his game, but the diligent man will get precious wealth” – Proverbs 12:27
- “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied” – Proverbs 13:4
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