We all know how hard it can be to stay at the weight we want at any age but particularly as we get older. It gets frustrating when it seems we are putting on additional pounds when we have done nothing different.
This is when the dreaded ‘diet’ word gets mentioned as you start to think about how to take charge of your body. The diet works – yay - but then I hear so many stories of the weight coming back. This is why I strongly support, and run, a habit changing approach along with the diet that can be more sustainable, rather than getting into the cycle of ‘yo-yo’ dieting. It’s this yo-yo dieting that can often lead to a person putting on more weight than they were trying to lose in the first place.
There is another way to approach keeping the weight off – reverse dieting.
Let’s Break it Down
Though you may associate weight loss with better looks and feeling better in your own skin, a traditional diet really means starvation for the body.
The more weight you lose, the more you’re priming your fat-storing mechanisms, because the body perceives the deficit of energy as a period of starvation, as I mentioned above. The body starts to slow down the metabolism in reaction to less calories and that number of calories becomes the amount your body needs to function as it adapts – basically your maintenance calories.
The more time you spend on a diet, the more you have to decrease food.
So, What Can You Do?
If you want to counter act this there are a couple of things you can do – one during the diet and in the period following.
Though it may sound quite misleading, diet breaks are periods during your diet, when you bump up your calories back to your normal baseline, maintenance level.
This helps your body keep the metabolic rate up and thus, prevents the risk of excessive caloric decrease.
Now of course, a diet break doesn’t really mean you can ditch the diet and totally go crazy on your food consumption.
Again, a diet break is simply a period where you consume slightly more ‘healthy’ food, in amounts that won’t lead to drastic changes in weight.
Diet breaks are best implemented every couple of weeks, for a couple of weeks.
For instance, if you’ve been consistently losing weight for 2-3 weeks, you can afford to have a 2-3-week diet break, during which you’ll consume at maintenance and train with a slightly higher intensity.
Though this will make the total time dieting longer, it will minimize the risk of a weight gain rebound.
After your diet is over and you reach your desired shape, you can’t just ditch everything altogether.
You have to understand that keeping the weight off is a matter of sticking to the same habits that helped you lose it in the first place.
While dieting implies a gradual decrease in your caloric intake overtime, reverse dieting is, well, the exact opposite!
After your diet is over, it is time to gradually bump up your calories and training intensity.
This will help you increase your food intake, WITHOUT risking a weight gain rebound.
The goal of a reverse diet is to help you increase your food consumption, without drastic changes in weight.
To do so, follow these simple steps:
Each week, increase your calories by 50-80 (Up to ~400 extra calories in 5 weeks)
Increase your workout intensity - increase the weight, sets and repetitions
Just like your dieting phase, during the reverse dieting phase you must still monitor your weight and if there are sudden changes, adjustments should follow (i.e if you’re losing more and more weight, you should bump up food intake and vice versa - if you’re gaining too much weight, food intake should be decreased).
In many cases, reckless dieting leads to unwanted weight gain rebounds, that make all your hard work worthless.
To avoid this, you have to make sure that your deficit is not overly aggressive (up to 500 calories per day), while also including dieting breaks every 2-3 weeks of being in a caloric deficit.
After your diet is over, you should gradually increase your caloric intake and training output, while monitoring your weight and adjusting the diet as needed.
Ultimately, sustainable weight loss is a slow, gradual process which is supported with proper habitual changes, sustained even after the diet is over.