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Reverse Dieting

Updated: Apr 28, 2023

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A reverse diet is essential to your weight loss program. A reverse diet occurs when your calories are increased to an amount that will maintain your current weight. During this phase you may lose, maintain, or gain some weight, but the important part is that a reverse diet resets your body and hormones from the effects of restrictive dieting (caloric deficit).

Did you know that by restricting calories for an extended period of time, you can cause a negative effect on your body and hormones which in turn may prevent further weight loss? Well if you didn’t know, now you know. As a result of eating a low calorie diet during a caloric deficit (weight loss), your body will begin to compensate by slowing everything down to conserve energy. Unfortunately, this includes your metabolism which is needed to help burn calories for weight loss.

Let me break it down for you: your basal metabolic rate is the number of calories your body needs to maintain normal body function (i.e. breathing, circulation). Total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) is the number of calories your body needs for physical activity. When your calories are reduced by a certain percentage to lose weight you cause a caloric deficit. During a caloric deficit your body will learn to adapt to eating fewer calories and this in turn will affect how efficient your body is in burning calories. If your body remains in a caloric deficit for too long your body will begin to interpret a diet that is low in calories as starvation and will begin to hold on to calories to support basic body function since the body is in “starvation mode”. As a result of lower calories and insufficient energy to properly power your body, your body simply begins to SLOW-DOWN to conserve energy. As a result your thyroid hormones down regulates as well to conserve energy, which simply means that your metabolism will slow down and you will likely hit a weight plateau.

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During a reverse diet, calories are strategically increased to your TDEE (the number of calories to maintain your weight) to add, what I like to call, “fuel to the fire” (your metabolism). By slowly increasing your calories to your TDEE you are re-introducing more energy for your body to use. A reverse diet brings your body out of “starvation”/caloric conservation and into caloric utilization. Once your body begins to understand that it has more calories than what is needed for survival, your metabolism will reset and increase again to burn calories.

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During a reverse diet, clients may lose weight as a result of the reset in their metabolism. But it should be noted that you may also gain or maintain your weight as calories are increased. Weight gain is usually not drastic (2-5 lbs.), but it is often a deterrent from reverse dieting. Let me be clear, a reverse diet is necessary not just for weight loss, but for proper body function and to balance your hormones. Continued restrictive dieting may lead to hormone imbalance, particularly hypothyroidism, which leads to a cascade of needing thyroid replacement medications to balance your thyroid hormones back to a normal state. Therefore, a reverse diet should not be optional, it should be integrated into every weight loss plan to ensure that your health is not taking a hit during weight loss.

So how do you know you need to do a reverse diet? Here are two notorious tell-tell signs that you need a reverse diet.

  1. You have been eating clean, meeting your macro goals, exercising, drinking your water, and living your best healthy life and despite all of this you are not losing weight; you likely need to evaluate you macros to ensure that they are customized to your goals and if they are you will likely need a reverse diet to reset your body and hormones.

  2. If you have completed at least 2 caloric deficit phases or have dieted for longer than 5-6 months you will likely need a reverse diet.

How long should you remain on a reverse diet? Well this is dependent on the amount of time you were in a caloric deficit and how low your calories have been reduced during the caloric deficit. This will differ from person to person. This is where a professional nutritionist comes in handy to help you assess your progression and create a customized plan to help you reach your goals.

Do you need a reverse diet? Have you hit a plateau and are exceptionally frustrated with your lack of continued weight loss? Click here to schedule a consultation so that I can help you reach your goals by strategically reversing your diet to help you feel energized, confident, and to get you the results you deserve!

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