NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — We’ve all been there: You lose a few pounds and before you know it, the weight starts creeping back.

As CBS2’s Jessica Moore reports, it’s more than just frustrating. New research shows “yo-yo dieting,” as it’s called, can be life threatening.

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Tashia Hawkins knows the struggle to maintain weight loss all too well.

“One time I lost a total of like 60 pounds, and then I got relaxed. Or sometimes I’d be stressed, and gained it all back again,” she tells Moore.

And she’s not alone.

“I lose like seven to 10 pounds, then I gain like 12 to 13,” says BedStuy, Brooklyn resident Sergio Martinez.

“When you actually feel comfortable, you let yourself go again,” another man says.

Doctors say more than half of dieters gain back the weight they’ve lost, sometimes more. According to a new study, that’s when the real trouble begins.

Researchers at New York University looked at yo-yo dieters with a history of heart disease. People who lost and gained as little as 10 pounds had a 78 percent higher risk of developing diabetes. Heart attack risk increased by 117 percent, stroke by 136 percent, and they had a 124 percent increased risk of dying.

“I think they are absolutely staggering,” Dr. Rachel Bond says.

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So what’s a dieter to do? Is it better to stay fat than risk yo-yo dieting?

“No, it’s not better to be fat. It’s never better to be fat,” Bond says.

The cardiologist says chronic dieting wrecks your metabolism, making it easier to gain weight and more difficult to lose it.

“The reason that they do the diet is for a particular — whether it be a wedding or a social gathering, as opposed to saying I want to make a lifestyle change,” she says.

The study showed a connection but not a cause between yo-yo dieting and heart health.

Bond says bottom line — we can and should be able to control the yo-yo variable.

“We should be a normal weight in general, and we should try to keep that weight for the rest of our life,” she says.

She stressed that a low-fat diet and exercise are the keys to reaching and maintaining your ideal body weight. But she also said it’s important to eat the foods you crave, but in moderation.

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As many dieters know, that’s easier said than done.