How to stop your yo-yo weight-loss


Nagina Abdullah


October 3, 2014

Man eating burger.

Do you feel like yo-yo weight-loss is keeping you from achieving your weight-loss goals?

I recently had a weight-loss breakthrough session with one of my readers. She has a demanding career, and though she’s great at work, she can’t figure out how to lose the weight she wants. If she could be awesome at work, why couldn’t she take control over her weight?

She kept thinking she wasn’t trying hard enough. But she realized this was not the case (and she was right!). When she came home, work had drained her completely. She felt like having comfort food after long days – something delicious to “lift her up.”

It was hard for her to push through reading so much weight-loss information – what was right and what was wrong?

She wanted to be able to put on one outfit in the morning that looked great right away – instead of trying on 5 or 6 pants and blazers – and shaking her head when she looked in the mirror after each one. She wanted to feel less self-conscious.

She didn’t know exactly where to start, but she knew she needed to start small – so she could start creating the habits that would lead to a healthy lifestyle, and not yo-yo weight-loss.

She studied her day and realized that during lunchtime at work she was eating meals that were convenient and unhealthy. It was hard to stay healthy when eating out.

She started her journey to a healthier lifestyle by fixing one thing that was getting in the way of losing weight – her lunch. She wanted to start bringing her own lunch to work, and chose a salad.

She soon found out there were a ton of steps involved in the seemingly simple plan of bringing a salad to work. She would come home and have to:

  • grocery shop
  • wash all her vegetables
  • chop them up
  • pack them up

In reality, it was such a time-consuming, complicated process and she didn’t have the habits to keep it up every day. Most people would have stopped right then out of boredom or frustration.

But she didn’t do that.

She didn’t want to settle for being less confident and feeling self-conscious with her extra weight. She wanted to get it off. She knew that bringing a salad to work was one step on the way to feeling more freedom in her life.

Now her lunch is spot on, and she takes it everyday. How did she do this?

She asked herself, “How can I reduce the number of steps in this process?” She dug into what was not working. She realized the problem was that it took time to chop so many ingredients. So she dug deeper and thought about what she could do to overcome that barrier. She made 2 small but so important changes – she decreased the number of ingredients in her salad and stopped chopping all of them. This is how she made her salad:

  • She changed her salad to only 3 ingredients instead of many
  • For one of them, a cucumber, she just peels the outer skin of the cucumber and brings it to work. She holds it in her hand and munches on it like that
  • She makes a quick protein source and brings it to eat in /with her salad

She identified one of her barriers to losing weight (work lunches), she thought of how to address it (bring her own), and she kept trying and trying until it worked for her (found a quick salad and stopped chopping so many vegetables). Now bringing a salad to work is a part of her everyday routine, just like brushing her teeth or taking a shower. She doesn’t even think about it anymore.

As a result, she is opening the door to a healthy lifestyle and weight-loss she doesn’t even have to think about.

What worked for her is that she wasn’t judgemental about the process and she didn’t give up — she kept fine-tuning it because she knew it would help her lose weight. She identified her barrier, and then dug into the details of it to correct it – and now she doesn’t even have to think about it anymore.

It became sticky for her to make her healthy lunch everyday.

Her story can apply to you in many situations: maybe you want to eat healthy at the end of the day, want to exercise more, or want to avoid snacking in the mid-afternoon because you know that is getting in the way of your weight-loss goal.

Today, I want you to create your own Sticky Weight Loss Plan

Why do I call my plan “Sticky?” The biggest complaint I have heard from my readers is that you try so many things to lose weight — and keep yo-yoing from one strategy to another. Some of these strategies work for a while, but then you stop. You get bored, or just don’t know if it’s working. You gain back the weight that you lose.

And look: Yo-yo dieting is bad for your health. Research shows that yo-yo dieting increases your risk of heart disease. (1)

So how do you stop your yo-yo weight-loss dieting and stick with something that will actually make a difference?

When you try to totally change everything you’re doing, your body and your mind are just not used to it. In fact, studies show that if some food is forbidden to us, we crave it even more. (2)

That’s why you need to start small.

My Sticky Weight-Loss Formula will help prevent you from yo-yoing and guide you to develop 1 healthy habit that sticks (and then another, and another). I recommend you take 5 — 10 minutes to complete my easy exercise.

Creating your Own Sticky Weight-Loss Plan

Follow your plan for 30 days and work on creating 1 new healthy habit. At the end of the 30 days it will be extremely easy for you to have this habit as part of your life – and you will open the doors to easy weight-loss.

Pre-Questions (these were in my last post)

1. What’s my goal?

Identify a specific goal, for example, “I want to lose 10 pounds.”

2. What is 1 behavior of mine that is preventing me from reaching my goal?

Think of 1 behavior that is getting in your way of losing weight. Be as specific as possible, including the time of day, place, and any other details that are consistent. Keep it small and specific. Sure, there is probably more than 1 behavior, but start with 1.


  • I get home after work and I’m so tired, that I eat whatever is easiest — like sandwiches, cereal, or nothing
  • I get so tired in the afternoon and there’s no food nearby so I eat something sugary from the vending machine
  • Whenever I go out I have drinks… followed by chips, French fries, burritos or (include indulgence here)

Great! Now you’re clear on your goal and 1 barrier. Below are the key steps of your Sticky Weight-Loss plan — and where people usually stop. You’ll be 10 steps ahead by answering the next 2 questions.

3. What action do I need to take to overcome this barrier? List 3-5 specific steps for this action to become reality and WHEN you will take them.

NOTE: You must do this step to see results. This is where you can break down the solution and it will happen. You have to dig in and THINK about the details for this step.


Action: I need to have food prepared before I get home from work so that I can just heat it up

Specific Steps to take action

  • On Friday and Saturday, I need to browse the web (or look at Naginas free cookbook of healthy easy recipes) and find 3 recipes I like that are healthy.
  • Make a list of the ingredients for each.
  • On Sunday, go grocery shopping.
  • On Sunday afternoon, make the 3 recipes. Store 2 of them in the fridge, and the other in the freezer.
  • When I come home, heat it up

It’s important that you are specific with the time and day to make this plan into a reality. Start executing these steps right away, and look at it like an experiment. Just like my reader above, you will have to work out how it can fit into your life. In fact, expect it to take several times to get right – but if you keep at it, It WILL work!

Do you see how many sub-steps there are to making only 1 change? This is why it’s key to make only 1 change. 1 change takes focus and is more than 1 step.

4. Reward yourself

Here’s the fun part! It’s crucial to have a reward for how good you are being. It doesn’t even have to make sense in the beginning. For example, if you want to eat a healthy dinner, and you love dark chocolate, have a dark chocolate square after your healthy dinner each night to reward yourself. Or set up a 30-minute massage for yourself if you follow your plan for 1 week. Or, buy yourself a new pair of shoes.

Right now — dont feel guilty about your reward, as long as it is within your means. What you’re doing is training your body and mind to WANT to do this action – and you will slowly start doing this action mindlessly.

It feels so hard right now to take this new action on a daily basis – but in a few weeks it will be part of your everyday routines – and you probably will not even need the reward anymore. But you need it right now.

See my next post for more information on the final step of your sticky plan. But you can get started right now to stop your yo-yo weight-loss dieting!

I really want to hear from you – what’s your action and what’s your reward? Let me know in the comments below.

I urge you to get started right now so you can start making 1 healthy change in your life today.

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Nagina Sethi Abdullah, BA, MBA

Nagina Abdullah is a health coach for middle-aged women and professionals. She coaches women to boost their metabolism naturally, shed pounds and keep them off. Her work with weight loss clients led to the creation of Masala Body, an online weight loss platform that provides an easy and accessible system that helps women sustainably lose weight. She has helped over 1200 women successfully lose from 10-80 lbs and create a sustainable lifestyle change. Nagina earned her degree in Molecular and Cell Biology from UC Berkeley.

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