Reverse Dieting

You’re excited, you just signed up for nutrition coaching for the first time, and you come in and tell one of our staff members you want to lose weight. You expect us to serve you up the classic lines about how to lose weight, give you some recipes and maybe yell a little like a drill sergeant. Then, crazily enough we have the audacity, the NERVE even, to tell you… to eat more food.

 

What?

 

This has got to be some sort of joke-if you want to lose weight you simply need to eat fewer calories, exercise more and drink detox teas… right? Well, it’s not quite that simple.

 

A common thing we have seen over the years through working with athletes and clients of all shapes and sizes is that it is rarely as simple as eating less and exercising more. Surprisingly, a LOT of people UNDER eat and are left thinking that to lose weight they need to eat even less. This leads to a cycle of even more under eating.

 

When someone under eats they negatively impact their hormone levels (T3, Testosterone, Insulin, Cortisol, etc.). Their basal metabolic rate (BMR) decreases, meaning the body burns fewer calories on its own, making it harder to lose weight. Under eating also leads to a decreased energy expenditure from exercise because the body can’t perform at as high of an intensity due to fatigue and lack of fuel. Digestion is also negatively affected as under eating can greatly affect gut health, bowel movements and rate of absorption for food-all potentially leading to more weight gain. This litany of changes also leads to psychological effects, specifically an unhealthier relationship with food.

 

At this point a lot of people start getting frustrated or upset and start eating those feelings, check out article How to stop cravings and other “Triggers” – Recognizing and Naming. This behavior restarts the cycle of a poor relationship with food and again another crash diet which suppresses… okay, you get the point.

 

This cycle is way more common than it should be and happens when people don’t know what else to do. The lack of education on appropriate food intake for health, fitness and performance is a major problem in the world and it is only made worse with misinformation from supplement, food and “Fitness” companies.

 

What does this have to do with reverse dieting you ask? If dieting is the issue and the person is under eating, then we will do the opposite. It starts by adding vitamin and mineral dense foods to increase the calories at an appropriate rate for that person to find a baseline. This will be done gradually, starting from where the client is currently. It will continue weekly, biweekly or monthly at a slow rate until finally the client’s weight stabilizes.

 

Wait… we keep adding calories?

 

Yup.

 

The craziest part is many clients will actually lose more weight while we are adding. Once the client’s weight stabilizes for a week or two the calorie addition ends. Another positive is the change in hormones where the individual is burning more calories for doing nothing (BMR). Performance and workouts also improve so they can build muscle and burn more calories. Finally, digestion is also improved allowing for less discomfort and a healthier gut. The increased caloric intake is now much higher, and they are at a healthier starting point. At this point, a slow controlled calorie reduction can be used to reach weight loss goals.

 

Reverse dieting is NOT for everyone, but it has been used successfully by our coaching staff for a lot of clients. Some of the signs we look for when determining if it may be a good fit include:

 

  • Extreme weight loss followed by a long plateau or yo-yo effect of weight gain
  • Constant state of fatigue
  • Cravings much higher/more intense than usual
  • Weight gain with very reduced calorie intake
  • Slowed digestion - can change bowel movements & lead to weight gain due to more absorption
  • Decreased performance –under eating leads to lack of energy to train/play & decreases recovery

 

Does reverse dieting sound like a good fit for you? Want to learn more about the process and how to use it appropriately to help your long-term goals? Please sign up for a free consultation for more information!

 

References:

https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1550-2783-11-7

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/320878907_Does_slow_reintroduction_of_calories_after_weight_loss_prevent_weight_regain_in_trained_athletes_A_feasibility_study

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3943438/

 

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