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What Is Reverse Dieting?

Hey guys, this article is about reverse dieting, this is something I’m a big advocate of however there seems to be a lot of confusion about this topic. This article is explains what a reverse diet is, and also shows progress form some of my reverse diet clients.

Reverse dieting is the process of slowly increasing your daily calorie intake in order to boost your metabolism and to be able to maintain your bodyweight and physical condition on higher calories.

A reverse diet is ideal for those people who have lost a large amount of weight, or have gone from fad diet to fad diet in order to reach their ‘goal weight’. These fad diets usually consist of very low calories, once you subject your body to such a large calorie drop your metabolism starts to adapt and slow down, some people refer to this as ‘starvation mode’. This is basically your body trying to cling on to the calories you consume in order to prevent starvation, your body becomes more and more efficient at functioning on the lower calories. Also during the process your body start to break down muscle as an energy source which again reduced your metabolism further.

Then once you come out of your diet and start eating like ‘normal’ again you put all the weight back on, some people even end up heavier than when they started, sound familiar?

 This is one of the things the fitness industry prays on- “oh I lost 2 stone of produce (xxx) and then when I stopped I got fat again, so I’m going to take (xxx) again as it really works”. No, No it doesn’t work! You’re just starving yourself. Diets that tell you to have shakes instead of meals or to only eat fruit or to detox or whatever other nonsense, they do not work. They are a short term fix that is not sustainable therefore you will not keep the weight off in the long run. Diets like these cause you to gain even more weight because you go back to eating ‘normally’ again but with a metabolism that is operating at a slower rate.

A reverse diet can be done after any dieting period it isn’t necessarily only for fad dieters. I work with a lot of athletes for reverse dieting as surprisingly many are consuming less than 1600 calories a day which isn’t ideal for optimal performance, I aim to get most of these people to at least 2200-2500 calories for females and 2500-3000 for males however it varies from person to person and many people are able to consume much more in time.

So how does a reverse diet work? With a reverse diet you need to increase your calories at a slow and steady rate on a weekly basis. I have worked with a large number of clients on this and I have found that the weekly increase varies from person to person. With the aim to maintain weight, some people can only tolerate an increase of around 30 calories per day where as others can tolerate a larger increase of around 100 calories. I particularly like to focus on increasing carbohydrate intake, especially for athletes, as I find that my clients say they feel better and have better training sessions when I increase their carb intake.

Finding the right rate requires a bit of ‘trial and error’ at first and you need to monitor your bodyweight fluctuations, overtime you may need to change the rate or take a step back if your weight starts to increase too quickly. With my clients I have noticed that after a certain period of time, which varies from person to person, you can even start to lose weight whilst reverse dieting too. However some people may start to gain muscle mass which can cause a small weight increase too, but taking regular measurements and photos will help to show how your body is changing.

However a reverse diet can be more mentally challenging than a cutting diet. It can be hard because you aren’t necessarily seeing any physical changes in your body yet you still have to be strict and fight the urges to think ‘oh I’m not dieting anymore so I might as well just eat that extra piece of cake’. However if you do stick with it the results are amazing, although these aren’t necessarily physical results you will notice changes in your gym performance, your energy levels, your strength and your general mood, plus why would you not want to eat more and not gain weight. This also sets you up well for any future dieting, although some people do struggle with the transition back to cutting and sometimes it’s better to make changes to activity level first before dropping calories again to ease back into the process.

Here is a comment form one of my clients about her feelings towards a reverse diet “I feel with the reverse that I have a lot my calories to play with, I can now better manage them and feel it is sustainable in the future as I can now play the calorie game rather than think I can't have this or that, I have the scope for 'treats' plus what I make fit. I am finding that I am getting stronger on a reverse. I have also learnt to say no, I don't want what you are offering me or please can I have a different choice. I am more aware of triggers, crave fresh veg and salad which I never used to. Not that long being out of deficit is making me think this is a sustainable way as I can have what I need to eat rather than what makes me tick, especially around training, I definitely eat to train now, setting myself up with carbs”.

Below are some progress shots and comments from a few of my reverse dieters:

"Reverse dieting has allowed me to challenge my ‘must eat less to weigh less thinking’. I have been able to increase my calories by 50% yet I weigh less than I have for years.  It was hard at first eating all this extra food, even though my calories were increased gradually it still seemed like loads of food, but I got used to it and now I love the thought of getting to eat more. I have learnt that to fuel the body is more important and when the body is working better it gets to a better weight."

"Reverse dieting has totally changed my attitude to food and the affect it has on my training and general well-being.  No food is bad and nothing is off limits if you plan.  I've followed so many diets and even ones from the gym didn't work for me (low carb!) I now know through the reverse dieting process that my body needs carbs to perform well and actually lost weight at first even though calories gradually increased.  I love this 'diet'!"

"Reversing has progressively opened my eyes and my belly to all the foods. Who knew you could eat more and look better, thanks to Shannon we do. More energy, more food, less fat, less hunger, many more smiles"

"Reverse dieting has been a life changing experience! I knew on paper how it worked, but having suffered with ED's in the past I never believed it would actually work for me! I can now eat more of the food I love e,g pasta, bread and rice and not eat 'healthy' versions like cauliflower rice or courgette; plus I can have far bigger portions. Not forgetting I can always have a little bit of chocolate every day! I have much more energy and suffer with less mood swings and thing is 21weeks in and I've not gained weight on the scale (yet!) but my body shape has changed for the better! Eating nearly 1000cals more a day than I was previously."

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