I wanted to take a deep dive on reverse diets because I get so many questions on this topic. Also, I would say 60%, if not more, of my clients need to reverse before we can even start a diet phase. This can be difficult when people come to you to LOSE weight. I find the thought of eating more tends to invoke fear in most people. Our society has engrained in us to eat less, do more, restrict. But repeating that process over and over again for years will create a negative impact on our hormones, energy, sleep, and metabolism.
Our bodies are smart! They are built to survive and when you restrict calories they will do just that, learn to survive on whatever you give it.
You don’t have to look far to find a fad diet that will restrict your calories down to 1,000 per day (especially for women!) So you try it ,and guess what? You do in fact lose weight. The only way to lose weight is to take into consideration total daily energy expenditure and eat less then you need, so yes when we cut calories drastically we are now in a calorie deficit and the pounds come off. But did you know that only 5% of people who lose weight are able to keep it off long term? This is because after the drastic dieting most will resume with their previous eating habits consuming much more than the 1,000 calories they had just lost all that weight on. During that crash diet your body adjusted to live at low calories, it has now learned to survive on what you gave it, now this is your new maintence. Your hormones have down regulated and your body has slowed all of it’s processes to keep you alive. When you eat more than that you are now in a calorie surplus and you gain it back. So, you restrict again, but this time you don’t lose nearly as much weight. Now you have to go below 1,000 calories to lose any more weight! Effectively starving yourself. You may be wondering HOW do I fix this?!
The only way to improve metabolic function is a reverse diet. A protocol that involves carefully, slowly, and strategically adding back calories/specific macros to reach a “true maintence.” In the process improving your hormone profile which will inevitably help you lose the weight you want in the future without starving yourself.
During the process, we often see improvements in mood, sleep, energy, gym performance, sex drive, and digestion. It goes without saying that if anything mentioned above is tanking you should be looking at your food quantity/quality.
If you are always yo-yo dieting, losing and gaining the same 10 ten pounds, you need a reverse. If you have lost a lot of weight over time restricting your calories but have hit a plateau and cannot break it despite adding more training and less food, you need a reverse. If you have dieted down to your goal weight and have finished your diet phase, you need a reverse to recover from the stress of a cut, and more importantly keep your results.
A reverse diet can go three ways. First, we have every coaches favorite, the hyper responder. The person who loses weight right off the bat and then may level off somewhere throughout the process. Second, we have the most common, the person who will maintain their current weight while continuing to add food back in. Lastly, there is always the possibility that the scale will go up and you could gain a few pounds. Sometimes your body has just been through so much dieting and restricting it is very easy to get to a calorie surplus and in turn gain weight.
It is important to understand the purpose of a reverse diet is not to lose weight. The only way to lose weight is to eat less than your total daily calorie expenditure. ANY diet is a means of getting you into a calorie deficit, there is no magic bullet, science does not lie. The best diet is whatever you can stick to FOREVER. What is sustainable? How do you like to eat?
The sole purpose of a revese is to restore your metabolism and get your body feeling safe and comfortable again to lose fat. Once you have worked back up to a comfortable set of calories (and to be clear how long this takes will vary from person to person and diet history) you should live at maintence calories for a time. Then it may be okay to start a diet phase. Even then it could take time for your body to catch up with the process and for the scale to start moving down. It can be a frustrating process to go it alone, I would recommend letting a coach walk you through it. For most, it is hard to accept that eating more is the answer but we cannot always be restricting. This is a stress on our body and every stress phase needs a recovery phase.
Feel free to reach out with questions!