You know how exciting it is when you first start on a new weight loss plan?
At first it feels like weight just falls off your body– your pants are getting loose, you’re feeling really good about yourself, you start getting compliments from other people, and you even start winking at yourself in the mirror– you can’t help it when you look so great!
And then all of the sudden weight loss slows down. Maybe it even stops, entirely. Gasp!
At this point, if you are like most people, you freak out and start doing a number of things to get weight loss going again…
- Eat less
- Exercise More
- Cut Carbs, Gluten, Sugar, Flour, etc.
- Eat only whole foods
- Restrict, restrict restrict
- Get B12 Shots
- Juice, Cleanse, Fast
- Eat 500 calories a day…
While our intentions are right (get the scale moving again), sometimes our implementations of the efforts above get results, but over a period of time the results slow to a screaching hault or even stop entirely.
So what do we do? We bear down and cut even more, restrict even more, we go to extremes. We call ourselves “hard core.” But if you are like many women out there, you find that your “hard coreness” eventually backfires, creating obsessive behaviours, excessive hunger, lack of energy, injury, lack of period (for women), hormone imbalances, rage, binge eating, weight gain, exhaustion and a number of other symptoms.
We beat ourselves up; we think we are broken and destined to just “remain at this weight forever,” so then we do the opposite– put on our stretchy pants, bust out the ice cream and zone out on our next Netflix binge.
I’m sharing about this because I have been in that exact spot. I can’t even count the number of times through my 20s and 30s I tried diets that were 1200 calories a day or less, thinking that if I could just stick to that plan; just stick to 20 net carbs a day, that I could finally lose weight!
But then I would break, binge, and hate myself. Can you relate?
If you’ve experienced any of the above, then I want you to read this…
Nothing is wrong with you. Period.
Our bodies are built for survival, so if you regularly train your body to exist on 1200 calories a day, it will absolutely adapt to doing that even if you are still above your goal weight and your stomach is growling.
Your body doesn’t care that you still want to lose weight. Your body cares about staying alive. So if all you’re giving your body to survive on each day is 1200 calories, you are metabolically adapting to maintaining survival on 1200 calories.
The problem is that you may not be that far along on your journey, or you you may still be 30 pounds over your desired weight. If that is the case, dieting on 1200 calories doesn’t give you much room to work with, so what do you do?
My friends, let me introduce the concept of reverse dieting.
Reverse dieting is a process of metabolic repair that may seem counterintuitive to many people because essentially you have to do the opposite of what you may think you need: exercise less, eat more.
If you are only eating 1200 calories a day and you are an active person, then cutting fat would require a sub-1000 calorie a day diet, which I would never reccomend.
Instead, appreciate that you are in a place where your body needs a diet break, and while you may have done an amazing job dieting, it is now time to reverse your diet by slowly adding in calories (50-100 per week) over a period of several weeks until you are at a “normal” maintenance level.
When I say normal maintenance, I mean that you can eat your projected caloric intake and maintain your weight.
How do you know what your normal calories should be?
I would recommend starting with a simple online calculator to measure your BMR (basal metabolic rate) and activity rate to see what yours should be. Click here to do your own calculation.
So, for example, if you were a 150 pound female, at 5’4″ and moderately active, your maintenance calories may be 1990 calories a day (let’s call it 2000 for simplicity). If you were currently maintaining your weight at 1200 calories, then the process to get the scale moving again would be to repair your metabolism by implementing a reverse diet of slowly increasing your calories up to 2000 calories a day.
Typically a reverse diet would include starting out at your current maintenance (1200 for our example) and increasing calories by 50-100 each week. Let’s say you took the slow approach of 50 calories per week. To increase from 1200 calories to 2000, you would take 16 weeks if you consistently added 50 (50 calories times 16 weeks = 800 calories). If you wanted to go even slower, you may take 24 weeks to build in a few weeks for adaptation, or if your body happens to have a big weight jump one week and you don’t want to add.
One of the main benefits of reverse dieting is an increase in energy. For people who lift weights, they may be able to lift a lot heavier weight, and gain muscle in this process (don’t worry ladies, this process will not transform you into a female bodybuilder overnight). Building muscle will serve you well in increasing your lean body mass and raising your metabolism, along with providing some additional muscle, which will ultimately make you look better naked 😉 #win
Once you’ve arrived at your maintenance calories, you may have gained a couple pounds, but you may now begin cutting again from a much higher caloric level– perhaps 1750 calories instead of 1000.
The benefit of this process is that not only do you get a mental break from dieting, but you strengthen your metabolism, so you can make progress on your fat loss goals with a lot of room for progress.
So if you are in a place where you have been consistent with your protocol, but things just aren’t changing for you, then you may consider implementing a reverse diet to help improve your metabolism for the long-game.
If you have questions about reverse dieting, and would be curious to know what it’s like to work with a life coach for weight loss and metabolism repair, click here to schedule a free 30 minute solution session with me.
If you’d like to further explore information specifically on reverse dieting, I encourage you to check out this article by Precision Nutrition: https://www.precisionnutrition.com/reverse-dieting
Layne Norton, PhD & Holly Baxter, MS have also written an entire book about reverse dieting, which you can find here: https://biolaynestore.com/collections/accessories/products/the-complete-reverse-dieting-guide-e-book