Weight Cycling with Dieting

By February 5, 2013

Hi. I’m 32 years old and have been overweight since about age 10. Over the last 2 years, I’ve lost weight with Weight Watchers several times. I lose weight and then start gaining it back. I am in the gaining part of this cycle right now. In the past I’ve lost weight in a variety of unhealthy ways, and Weight Watchers seemed the most sensible. But I’m finding I live and die by weigh-in day, since I threw away my scale at home because I was weighing myself many times throughout the day. I am really not following the program at all right now, and all of the keeping track feels like another form of bondage. If I don’t do it perfectly I don’t do it at all, and then I feel guilty about the money I’m spending on a program I don’t use correctly. On the flip-side, I’m terrified of trying to lose this weight without a set of rules to follow. I struggle with binge eating, and I can’t seem to find a middle ground without a set of rules to guide me, but then I become so obsessed with those rules that I won’t enjoy a night out with my family because I might mess up. What I really want is freedom to eat the right amount of healthy food that I enjoy, and to be able to stop when I’ve had enough. Is it ever possible to do this without following a plan? Is Weight Watchers a good option for someone like me who struggles with these extremes? Weight loss is not my main concern – being healthy and at peace is. I really want balance in all things.

Dear Anonymous,

Your experiences are similar to countless other people—going on and off diets and/or programs, with weight cycling up and down. The good news is that there is hope, and you have reached a point where you are seeking peace, health and freedom, rather than a specific number on the scale. You definitely have the right attitude now to find that place of balance!

Having been through Weight Watchers, you have learned the basics of healthy eating. The problem is that you adopted an “all-or-nothing” mindset with the point system. When you stay within your allotted number of points, you are okay, but if you go over a little, you feel like you’ve blown it so you give up and binge. If you gain some weight, you feel like you’ve failed and also give up, falling into a pattern of more weight gain. You are either “on” the program or “off” it, with no middle ground. So your first step is to move away from such black and white thinking. Instead of viewing your eating as either perfect or messed up, you need to learn to incorporate flexibility. Read the article “False Beliefs: Overeating” for more on this subject.

For many people, the Weight Watchers’ weigh-ins can be very triggering. The program is not working for you and is causing anxiety; it’s time to take a non-diet approach in which you make positive lifestyle changes that will be long lasting and benefit your whole family. We have many nutrition articles on the site to help you, but start with “Eleven Keys to a Healthy Lifestyle.” Also, you will find freedom in learning to eat more intuitively. The book Thin Within by Judy and Arthur Halliday provides specific guidelines to do so, and is packed with encouraging scripture—a grace-oriented approach. (The goal is being healthy, however, not thin.)

Eating doesn’t have to be so complicated and food is not living stuff that has power over us. But eating well for a healthy body is a process that will take time, so be patient with yourself. Learn from mistakes and keep pressing on. Joy and freedom will follow.


Ann Capper, RD, CDN