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Eat More & Maintain Weight: Reverse Dieting 101

How long have you been in a caloric deficit?


Calorie deficits are fairly common- consuming less calories than you burn per day. The general thought process is 'If I eat less than I burn, I'll lose weight!'


But what happens when you're eating 'less than you burn' but you STOP LOSING WEIGHT?


Ugh. That has got to be THE WORST. Why diet if you don't see results? If I'm going to weigh the same either way then, um, hand me the box of donuts- am I right?


To be clear- I'm not talking about weight loss plateaus that last a couple of weeks. It's important to understand that WEIGHT LOSS IS NEVER LINEAR. What I mean by this is, even though theoretically, 'a 500 calorie deficit daily will result in a 1lb. weight loss per week', the reality is not so clear-cut.


Why? Because...


OUR BODIES ARE NOT MATHEMATICAL, THEY'RE PHYSIOLOGICAL.

One KEY THING that the fitness/weight-loss/health community misses when talking weight loss, is that there are TONS of physiologic processes in our bodies that essentially govern

  1. Hunger

  2. Satiety

  3. Muscle Loss/Gain

  4. Fat Loss/Gain

Among MANY other things- heart health, lung health, brain health. Important stuff.


YOU NEED A CERTAIN NUMBER OF CALORIES TO SURVIVE.

In order for these processes to happen, WE NEED FOOD. Each of us have a certain 'set-point' of calories, called our maintenance. For us to survive, we need to ensure we are eating that amount.


If we eat less, our bodies tap into our 'energy stores'- AKA OUR FAT.


This is essentially weight loss, boiled down into 3 sentences.

Basically manipulating normal body processes to get a particular result.


But, again, we have to consider the PHYSIOLOGY of our bodies. Because our bodies WORK HARD to SUPPORT OUR NEEDS every second of every day, they constantly strive for CRUISE CONTROL.


HOMEOSTASIS= THE BODY'S CRUISE CONTROL.

Our bodies will adapt to just about everything we put it through:

  • We don't sleep enough, our hormones and blood sugar will adjust

  • We exercise more, our hearts will adapt and get stronger

  • We eat more salt, our blood pressure will adjust and increase to STILL supply our bodies with blood

And, if we eat less for a long period of time, OUR CALORIE SET-POINT WILL REDUCE TO ADAPT.


That's right, if you keep eating in a deficit for MONTHS or even YEARS, your body will assume that is your 'new normal' and it will reduce functions in order to preserve our 'energy stores' (aka- fat).


EAT MORE FOOD FROM TIME TO TIME.

In fact, I'm not just talking about the popular 'cheat day' every now and then. I'm talking eating more calories per day for MONTHS.


In other words, a reverse diet!


WHAT IS A REVERSE DIET?

In short, a reverse diet is a tactic where you intentionally eat enough calories to maintain your current weight. The thought is, by bringing yourself OUT of that deficit you've likely been in for too long, you restore your metabolism so your body doesn't assume that deficit is your new normal.


WHO SHOULD DO A REVERSE DIET?

1. If you've been 'dieting' for 8-16 weeks: I don't care if you 'feel fine' or you 'have more weight to lose'. You will do yourself MORE HARM THAN GOOD to just KEEP GOING until you reach your goal. For instance, if you have 30lbs to lose, you'll be much better off splitting that goal up into 2-3 bouts of deficit periods interspersed with a 'maintenance period'. Sure, it may seem like it'll take more time to reach your goal- say 60 weeks instead of 30. But, if we are honest with ourselves, we've been yo-yo-ing up and down 10lbs for YEARS at the same caloric intake.


So, we're better off intentionally taking more time to ACTUALLY reach that 30lb. goal.


2. Your workouts are suffering- low energy, reduced muscle strength, etc: I've experienced this before, too. By putting myself into too much of a deficit for too long, I started to see my workouts SUFFER. I couldn't squat the same weight as I could before, my energy was ALWAYS low (despite the massive amount of caffeine I was consuming), and I just felt generally sluggish.


If this is you, too, you'd likely benefit from eating your maintenance calories for a couple of months.


3. You're reducing your calories each week, but you stop seeing results AND/OR you aren't hungry anymore: If you're 'cutting', you should be slightly hungry at times. It makes sense, you're not eating enough calories. You shouldn't be STARVING all the time, but you'll likely feel a slight twinge of hunger. And, of course, you should see a consistent reduction- a trend towards your goal weight.


But, if you haven't lost weight in WEEKS and/or you stop feeling hungry, despite eating less and less, these are GREAT SIGNS that you NEED TO EAT MORE.


So, if you find yourself in any of these scenarios, frustrated because you're eating less and not seeing the results you'd expect, it's likely time for you to EAT MORE FOOD and take a break from 'CUTTING'.


REVERSE DIET EXAMPLE:



If you have any questions or need help with your reverse diet, email me! KaylieZapanta@gmail.com. I'd love to work with you to help you EAT MORE and SEE RESULTS.


The best of BOTH worlds, am I right?