In my experience, people don’t have trouble losing weight at all. They have trouble losing weight and keeping it off. This begs the question, “Why do people have so much trouble keeping weight off after losing it?”
Here are the main reasons people struggle to keep weight off after a diet:
- They overeat immediately after a diet. After a diet is complete, your metabolic rate is down-regulated. This causes you to rebound in weight quickly if you overeat calories.
- They don’t make their diet into a lifestyle. After a diet people act like they can go back to eating the same as before. Because your metabolism slows down as you lose body fat this isn’t the case whatsoever.
- They don’t practice good eating habits. When dieting, it’s so important to set up good habits for yourself. Just because you hit your calorie intake doesn’t mean you’re building a good relationship with food!
- They eat delicious foods right after the diet. At the end of a diet, you don’t want to start eating tons of delicious, high-calorie foods. If you do, this is the easiest way to gain the weight back incredibly quickly.
With all this in mind, how do we set up “the diet after the diet”? We use a principle called Reverse Dieting.
Sounds interesting right?
Without reverse dieting, nearly 65 percent of dieters return to their pre-dieting weight within three years, according to Gary Foster. Gary Foster is the clinical director of the Weight and Eating Disorders Program at the University of Pennsylvania.
This is an insane statistic and something I noticed from working with over 150 people over 2 years. This means over 2/3rds of people regain the weight within just 3 years. In my experience, they gain weight and even more than they weighed originally. Let’s see what we can do to fix this problem once and for all!
Stop Overeating After A Diet!
As soon as a diet is over so many people return to how they were eating beforehand. This is a horrible idea and can create a horrible binging relationship with food, unfortunately.
Why is overeating after the diet such a big problem? After a diet, your maintenance calories are going to be drastically lowered due to a principle called, metabolic adaptation. This is a function in the body that down-regulates your Total Daily Energy Expenditure or TDEE.
TDEE is the total calories burned per day and is comprised of multiple components.
These components are:
- BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) 70% of TDEE
- NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) 15% of TDEE
- TEF (Thermic Effect Of Food) 10% of TDEE
- EAT (Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) 5% of TDEE
BMR is the total calories burned just from being alive. If you sat down all day without moving that is your basal metabolic rate.
NEAT is the total calories burned from non-exercise activity. Anytime you’re chewing, tapping your foot, moving around, doing housework (housework is not working out), or walking.
TEF is when our bodies process food and break it down into energy. As I shared in this article, fiber and protein have a thermic effect of up to 30%. Diets rich in protein and fiber maximize how much body fat you lose due to TEF.
Finally, EAT is calories burned through exercise. I know what you’re thinking, only 5%? That’s why they say diet is the most important factor when it comes to weight loss!
All the exercise you do only contributes to a small portion of Total Daily Energy Expenditure. You should still train hard due to all of the important benefits it brings though!
We now know the specifics of what our metabolism is and what it’s compiled from. With all this in mind, why does it all matter you might ask?
Because you lose body fat by decreasing calories over time, your metabolism also down-regulates accordingly. This means after your diet you can’t eat the same calories as before, otherwise, YOU WILL gain weight quickly.
If you’re losing 1 lb a week at 2000 calories you’re most likely in a 500 calorie deficit. If we increase your calories quickly to 3000 or don’t track at all, we’re going to gain back body fat quickly! This is not the ideal situation you want after all of your hard work.
So what can we do to stop this forever? Reverse Dieting!
Reverse Dieting: Keep The Weight Off Forever!
Reverse Dieting is the #1 thing you aren’t doing that you NEED to do after a diet. You might have heard of it before but most people haven’t! This is fine because I’m going to go over the basics and link you to an awesome resource after.
When dieting, you decrease your calories slowly over a period of 2-3 months normally. Usually, a deficit of 250-1000 calories to start is what you’re looking at.
By the end of the diet, a couple of things are happening in your body we need to correct. This is due to creating an energy deficit and losing body fat.
Here’s what happens due to Metabolic Adaptation:
- You burn fewer calories during non-exercise activity thermogenesis, NEAT.
- Your heart actually beats slower due to your sympathetic nervous system activity declining. This is from the energy deficit from lower calories.
- Muscles become more efficient which requires less fuel.
- Organs consume less energy to function.
- Hormones such as testosterone, leptin, ghrelin and thyroid hormone are all adversely affected. These hormones influence our metabolism and appetite.
That last bullet point is the most important!
Ghrelin and leptin are commonly referred to as our “Hunger Hormones”. During and after a diet, leptin levels decrease while ghrelin levels increase. This causes our appetite to increase and is a major reason why people gain the weight back so quickly!
Because our appetite after a diet is so much higher, we become ravenous! Combine this increased appetite with our decreased metabolic rate and you have a recipe for fat gain!
The way we fix this is by using Reverse Dieting to slowly increase calories over time. This builds your metabolic rate back up, your ghrelin levels start to decrease, your leptin levels increase and your appetite is slowly curbed. We’re essentially trying to fix our diet fatigue and prevent body fat storage.
Here’s how we do it!
Reverse Dieting For Beginners
Let’s say you were at 2,000 calories losing 1 lb a week at the end of your diet. This most likely means you were in a 500 calorie deficit. If you were losing 2 lbs a week, this would be a 1,000 calorie deficit.
To decrease the chances of increasing body fat storage we want to increase our calories slowly! This means we start by adding only 50-200 calories per day per week.
For our 2,000 calorie example above you’ll start at 2100 calories and weigh yourself EVERYDAY. This is the hardest part but something that needs to be done. Because we’re increasing calories you can and will see a fluctuation in body weight due to two factors:
- Increased glycogen stores due to extra calories replenishing muscle glycogen
- Increased water weight for the same reason
What we will be doing is weighing every day to get a weekly average in body weight. Here’s what it might look like.
We add these numbers together and divide by 7 from here.
Based on our math we gained only 0.6 lbs on average at 2,100 calories. This tells me two things; we’re on track, and we can increase our calories another 100 for the following week. When minimizing fat gain as much as possible we want to keep our body weight gain minimal as well. This means no higher than a 0.005% gain per week.
Somebody that is 200 lbs should be gaining no more than 200×0.005=1 lb per week. If you’re 300 lbs we can do 1.5 per week. This is incredibly important because as we increase calories slowly we should see our metabolic rate increase as well, minimizing fat gain in the process!
Much different than how people usually increase calories after a diet! You can already see how using this method is going to set us up for success.
The other thing you might notice is no mention of cardio! What I recommend is to slowly decrease your cardio as your body weight and metabolic rate stabilize. If you were doing 3 times a week at 30 minutes keep doing that! Slowly drop it down 5 minutes at a time until you’re doing 15 minutes 3 times a week.
This allows us to remove the need to do tons of cardio to maintain our body weight. Usually, people drop the cardio and eat tons of food at this point. Don’t do this and stay the course! Slow and steady wins the race.
What To Do If You Gain Over The Recommended Weight Limit?
Each week, keep hitting your calories and weighing in every day! If you see you’re going over the recommended level of weight gain, increase calories by only 50 a week.
Here’s an example!
200.6 lbs (+0.6)
201.4 lbs (+0.8)
202.7 lbs (+1.3)
203.2 lbs (+0.5)
As you can see from the table, Weeks 1-3 we only gained 0.6-0.8 lbs per week. We’re in the perfect range of no more than 1 lb per week.
In Week 4, we gained 1.3 lbs so instead of adding 100 calories in Week 5 we only added 50. This puts us right back in the sweet spot at 0.5 lbs gained.
This is only a hypothetical example of what MIGHT happen! All those that try this might have completely different results which is fine!
Some people actually notice they lose weight doing this! They have restricted calories for so long their metabolic rate is completely gone. They do tons of cardio, eat less than 1,200 calories a day and still gain weight!
If this sounds like you or somebody you know, follow the guidelines laid out in this article and see what happens!
You might notice you lose weight while eating more food and doing less cardio. I know it sounds like a dream and not plausible but this is how it can work for some of you! You need to get your metabolic rate up and this is the way to do it.
Stay the course and reap the benefits! If you want help with this definitely consider leaving a comment below! I’ll help you out the best I can!
Reverse Dieting is an amazing process and something I haven’t heard many people talking about. The biggest benefits are eating more food, decreasing fat gain after a diet, and setting ourselves up for future diet success!
You can’t just continuously decrease your calorie intake and increase cardio. After a long period of time, you’re going to burn out, binge on food and gain all the weight back! Make sure to diet no more than 3 months at a time!
When you’re done, refer to this article and design your own Reverse Dieting plan to minimize fat gain, increase your metabolic rate, and get ready to diet again in the future!
If this article helped you out, definitely drop a comment below and let me know what you thought of it! If you have any more questions please ask them as well. I know this seems complicated but once you have the process down it’s incredibly easy and rewarding.
Until next time,
P.S. If you want to learn more about Reverse Dieting, Dr. Layne Norton is somebody that walks the walk and talks the talk. He TALKS A LOT TOO! Layne is a wealth of knowledge and somebody I’ve learned from substantially! He has tons of videos on Reverse Dieting, dieting in general and strength training as well.
Check out this video and enjoy his hilarious intro on Reverse Dieting. He has tons of free information on the subject on his YouTube channel so don’t miss out!