We all know what tends to happen after a successful diet, right? We go back to eating like we used to (and perhaps even have a few cheat meals with the foods we have missed the most), and in no time, our weight is back to where it was before we started dieting.
Even if we do everything right, don’t pig out, and just eat enough healthy foods to get the calories we need to maintain our new weight, the sudden jump in calorie intake can make us put on a lot of unnecessary fat.
I know this feeling very well. After my fitness competition last year, I actually wanted to put some weight back on, so I just went straight back to eating normally (plus some…) and I gained a lot of unnecessary body fat in the process that I had to spend far too much time getting rid of again.
Right now, I’ve just finished four weeks of dieting for our October 27th photoshoot with NuFit, and this time my plan is to do everything right and not put the weight back on. That means Reverse Dieting.
What Is Reverse Dieting?
Reverse Dieting is a method to get back to a healthy and sustainable calorie intake after a period of dieting. The idea is to slowly add high-quality calories back into your diet and build up your metabolism to handle the calorie increase.
Let’s say you have been following a 1,300-calorie diet and want to get back to eating 1,800 calories/day (you can learn how to calculate your daily calorie need in this post). Your reverse diet would be to add perhaps 100-150 calories/day each week until you are at 1,800 calories/day. This means that you would be reverse dieting for three to five weeks, depending on how sure you want to be that you won’t put weight back on.
Reverse dieting is a very simple concept but not always easy to do. You naturally want to just end your diet when you reach your goal, and adding three or more weeks to it can seem like a lot. In fact, the reverse dieting phase is often harder for people to get through than the diet itself because you don’t have that clear goal of seeing your weight decrease to motivate you. I know it is for me, as I am not the most patient person when I don’t have a clear, short-term goal to follow.
The best way to think about reverse dieting is to decide up front that your diet simply isn’t over until you are back at a sustainable calorie intake without having put too much weight back on (you will always put on a little weight when you start eating more, so don’t worry If your weight increases 1-2 pounds from what it was when you ended the regular diet phase).
My Reverse Diet
I didn’t want to diet super hard, but, ultimately, I had to cut my calories back to about 1,350 per day for the last few weeks to get in the shape I wanted. I also added a lot of cardio, which anybody who knows me knows that I don’t do lightly (cardio is not my most favorite thing in the world). I lost almost 10 pounds in five weeks, which was perfectly in line with my goal.
Now, I want to get back to my old maintenance calorie intake of 2,000 calories or more per day. I have a healthy appetite and love to eat, so why not 😀
The shoot was on Tuesday and my plan is to stay at around 1,400 calories/day for the rest of this week (after we had one big burger dinner when we finished the shoot). I also won’t work out at all, because I want to give my body some rest.
The following week I’ll go back to lifting weights, but the cardio sessions are done for now. I plan on lifting heavy and increasing my calories to 1,500/day plus a weekly treat meal for the following month. I’ll then add in about 200 calories/day on a monthly basis after that. If I start gaining fat too quickly, I’ll scale back and let my body adjust. This is a very long reverse diet, but I have the time, so better safe than sorry. I am excited to see how that all pans out…
Should You Do Reverse Dieting?
If you have been dieting for a long time (or chronically under-eating), it’s probably not a good idea to shock your system by suddenly adding a lot of calories. On the other hand, if you use reverse dieting and continue to keep your diet 90-100% clean, your body might just welcome the extra calories.
There is really no reason not to use reverse dieting if you want to maintain all your hard-earned results and make a sustainable change to the way you look.