If you have been following my posts since the beginning of the year you may know I am on a reverse diet.
A reverse diet is what the name says, the reverse if dieting.
If dieting is taking calories away, the reverse dieting is adding them back in. So this is exactly what I have been doing.
It is a strategy I often suggest to many of my weight loss clients. Which you are probably thinking seems kinda weird because if they are “weight loss” clients, then why I am doing the reverse of dieting with them!?
There can be a lot of positive benefits to reverse dieting which can actually be very helpful for weight loss. So I thought I would share a little of the theory and my observations.
If you have watched some of my webinars like How to Smash Through a Weight Loss Plateau and How to Lose 2 Stone without Dieting and Restriction you will probably know a little bit about me and how I work.
In a nutshell, most women believe they that restriction and/or over-exercising is the way to lose weight and many women lack the lifestyle balance and mindset to find a lifelong healthy body weight (not to mention a positive relationship with food and body image).
When we diet, as we restrict calories further and further, our metabolism down-regulates over time (see the image below from the How To Lose 2 Stone Webinar)
This is a good thing, it prevents our skeletal muscle and organs from shrinking as we break down proteins to create sugar in a carbohydrate and calorie depleted state.
Roughly the resting metabolic rate of a woman is 1400 calories (maybe a little more for bigger people and a little less for smaller people)
This means we need 1400 calories, give or take, so that we can function properly before we’ve got out of bed, moved around, maybe done some exercise, run around after our children and done the house work.
I see many women who are stuck eating 800 to 1200 calories a day and wondering why they still have that little bit of fat around their stomach, if not more.
This is because their metabolism has slowed down. Further calorie restriction and adding in more exercise is not going to work with these people.
Adding in more exercise to an already depleted body is an additional stress on top of the stress of calorie restriction. Not to mention the stress of life itself, work, bills, commuting, relationship etc.
Exercise in the right amounts is beneficial for health. But when we exercise without the tools to recover we create what is known as oxidative stress. It’s really a fancy name for biochemical rust which causes ageing.
When we are rusting out bodies from the inside-out, this causes damage to the machinery in our body that burn fats basically meaning our ability to take fat and turn it to energy is negatively affected.
So, not only do we lack energy, sleep badly, feel emotional, lose our hair & struggle with hormones, but we also cannot burn fuels well so we have to store them somewhere. Hello Belly Fat!
So when you can’t take more food away and you can’t add more exercise back in, the only way to go is up!
This can work in 3 ways;
- Slowly increase calories
- Reduce exercise
- Slowly increase calories AND reduce exercise
Now most of my clients as well as myself, are already exercising a sensible amount (which is another blog in itself). So I’m going to spend most of my time looking at the increase in calories.
However, I won’t spend that much time on it because there isn’t that much to say.
What we do is increase calories by around 50kcal-100kcal per day per week. This is usually from carbohydrate but sometimes from fats too.
This means that if you were eating 1200 calories a day this week you are going to eat 1300 calories a day and next week 1400 calories a day.
The goal is to continue with this increase until a point you feel like you are putting on fat weight.
In people who are particularly restricted an increase carbohydrate intake can initially cause an increase in water weight that will settle over time (we store 3g of water for every 1g of muscle glycogen).
As an observation, almost all my clients who have done this with me actually lose weight first before maintaining. I’ve had one client who has lost about 10lbs or 5kg whilst doing this. In case you don’t believe me, see the comment below:
What is the point of maintaining weight if you still have more to lose, you may ask?
If you still have fat to lose you aren’t actually using a reverse diet to lose weight (although this often happens). But what you are doing is rebooting metabolism (not to mention your will power and relationship with food!) so that you can diet again after a period of time.
In other words, if you build calories back up from 1600 to 2200, you could probably drop 50g of carbs and take you to 2000 and start leaning out again.
The problem is that many women when you tell them to eat more freak out and go running for the hills! But every client I have had who has done it and followed through with it consistently has been really pleased with the result.
It gives you an opportunity to know what your body is capable of. I’ve unfortunately had some disruption due to travel but prior to that I was eating an average of 2250 kcals per day, 220g of carbs but up to 280g on hard training days per week.
These are my stats below; I dropped fat as measured by skin-folds in this time although you can see my overall weight on average stayed the same. The red days are day 1 and 2 of my cycles so you can also see how my body changes with that time of the month but returns back to normal within a week (I’m sure yours does too!)
I haven’t completely finished the experiment as of yet but what that information allows me to do is know what my limits are. Lorraine, one of my coaches on The Ladies that Lift Program, followed this process with me after reaching her body comp goal when she was once a client of mine. She got her intake up to 2500 calories every day and got leaner in the process. She was the leanest she had ever been eating the most food she had ever eaten! This means she knows what her body can do. She knows she maintains on 2500 calories and definitely loses on 1800 calories, but there is a whole range in between she can play with.
So what to do with this information?
The main reason for writing this is I meet so many women through my coaching program who have fear of food. Fear to eat more, yet stuck in a rut of eating less.
I really believe in the less is more approach.
- Less stress
- Less dieting
- Less exercise
- Less orthorexia and food phobia
= more and better results.
Results that are sustainable because;
- You didn’t starve and punish yourself for 6 months trying to achieve them
- You spent time building a strong and stable metabolism
- You learnt how to nourish your body instead of punish it