What is it and Why you MIGHT Need it.
BY NUTRITIONIST HALEY KNIESTEDT
Are you a serial dieter? Have you tried every diet under the sun, which have all worked
for a little bit, but then progress stops, or life gets hard and you just can’t stick with it,
and often you end up giving up and gaining back the weight you lost…and maybe even
a little more?
Fat loss is not linear, and often times pushing harder will only derail you further. There
are limits to both the mind and body and often times, hitting that wall is a sign to take a
break. Now there's a difference between just not being committed altogether, and being
committed but running into walls constantly. Today I’m talking about the second one
Adaptation: the human body is designed to adapt, and that includes the metabolism. For
example, let’s say in order to maintain weight, your body requires 2,000 kCals. If we go
over that 2,000, you gain weight (muscle and/or fat) and if you go under that 2,000,
that is where weight loss happens. So we create a deficit via either decreasing food, or
increasing energy expenditure, or a little of both (my preferred method). But let’s keep it
simple for now and say we decide to cut 200 calories, bringing our total intake
to 1,800 kCals.
You start losing weight for a little bit, and then you plateau because your body
adapts. See, eating at a deficit is hard on your body, and our body wants to find the
easiest way to do things, so it adapts to the lower calories by getting rid of a little fat
mass (yay that iss what we want), probably a little bit of muscle mass (but we try to avoid
that), and there is also a hormonal response to weight loss that further encourages your
body to stop losing weight and actually return to what it feels is normal.
Eventually youmake enough of these small cuts, getting lower and lower in calories you finally reach
that wall where you can no longer maintain the activity level you’re at, or have hit rock bottom on caloric intake. Your body is quite literally fighting you every step of the way and trying to throw every red flag it can. Exhaustion, anxiety, mood swings, amenorrhea, extreme soreness, obsession over food, insomnia….I could keep going.
Sound familiar? I thought so.
So what is reverse dieting?
It’s exactly what it sounds like. By slowly increasing calories and decreasing excessive
energy expenditure, we allow our body to adapt in the other (more positive) direction as
we slowly move back towards homeostasis where our body can have enough energy to
maintain daily bodily functions, improve hormone production and regulation, as well as
just having enough energy to live life. We can NOT live in a constant state of dieting,
our bodies are not meant to live that way. Most bodybuilding competitors use reverse
dieting to pull them out of their prep hole. But reverse dieting is not just for competitors.
It is for anyone who has decreased calories and/or increased energy expenditure in
order to lose weight.
“But….won’t I gain weight if I eat more?”
Maybe, maybe not.
There are Typically 3 Responses to Reverse Dieting.
Hyper-responsiveness: by actually providing your body with the energy it needs, your
body gives a big ol’ “YESSS, thank you!” and resumes its normal functions, as well as
giving you lots of (much needed) energy, that you now have the energy to actually do
stuff, your NEAT may increase and thus weight loss may resume (for a bit). This tends
to be the most desired response.
Nothing (or very little) happens. We’re looking for minor increases in the scale on a
weekly basis, but also using body fat and circumference measurements to track
changes. Which is cool, it means your body is learning to maintain on an increasing
level of calories (yay more food!).
You’ve beat your body down into the trenches for sooooo long, that you gain some
weight. Thats OKAY. That is why reverse dieting is done in a slow and controlled
manner. The best thing that happens here is the body is still allowed to heal, resume
hormone production and regulation, and everything else that was out of whack still gets
Sounds super scary right? You’ve worked so hard to get to where you are, that just
thinking about losing even an ounce of that progress is terrifying. I get it, I’ve been
there, which is why I hired a coaching service to help me through my first reverse diet
and more importantly to help get me out of my own head.
There are more important things out there that an obsession with weight loss, or a
certain number on the scale can hamper. Hormones: want to have kids one day? You
need a healthy body to do that, metabolism included. Energy to live life and have fun:
it’s no fun to constantly be tired and hungry, which easily turns into “hangry” and just
feeling like you’re in a fog all the time. Freedom to enjoy MORE food: I like knowing that
I can go out and indulge without derailing myself, because I know my metabolism is at a
point that it won’t blow my daily caloric allowance on one meal (win-win!).
Are you tired of spinning your wheels yet?
Don’t you want to be able to eat more food and truly enjoy it?
Better yet, what is your health worth to you?
Isit worth spending a little more time investing in your total health, repairing past years
damage before continuing down the road to your long-term goals, or spending that
same amount of time (or more) spinning your wheels, feeling frustrated and further
digging your body into a hole?