Reverse Dieting 101: What Is It & How to Do It


You’ve heard of dieting before, but have you heard of reverse dieting? Experts explain what this nutritional approach is and how to effectively and safely reverse nutrition.

Many of us can say that we’ve dieted at least once in our lives, whether it’s preparing for a big event, working toward a specific health goal, or just trying to look and feel good. While every diet is different, most involve restricting one type of food, a certain number of calories, or your intake of a specific nutrient (e.g. carbohydrates as a means of weight loss). While in many cases any weight loss as a result of dieting is usually welcome, the problem with most diets is that they are temporary and the weight will return. A study published in the journal Medical Clinics of North America found that more than 80 percent of dieters actually regain the weight they lost during the dieting period and some after five years.

This is partly because most diets are not designed to be sustainable over the long term, resulting in a person often regaining all of the weight they’ve lost during the period they’ve been following the diet, once she’s finished or she don’t follow it anymore.


What’s more: Various health complications often result from extreme dieting, particularly among athletes and bodybuilders, warns Kimberly Duffy, RDN, LD, CPT, of Strength in Nutrition in Minnesota. “Those who engaged in extreme calorie restriction and weight loss for competitions often suffered from hormonal changes, such as elevated cortisol and ghrelin levels and decreased insulin, testosterone, leptin, and thyroid hormone levels,” she says. “These athletes struggled with reduced resting energy expenditure, increased hunger and satiety, muscle wasting and fat gain after returning to their normal eating habits.”

In recent years, more and more people have come to realize that staying in deep deficit and restriction for a while causes more metabolic damage and health concerns, which is one of the reasons why reverse dieting is becoming more popular. But what exactly is reverse dieting? We spoke to experts to find out everything you need to know — including how to safely reverse the diet.

What is reverse dieting?

Reverse dieting is the process of slowly and strategically returning to an eating plan that is sustainable and healthy after a diet or period of significant weight loss. This usually involves slowly increasing your calorie intake back to maintenance levels week after week, explains Emily Tills, RDN, virtual nutrition coach in New York. “Everyone has a basal metabolic rate, or the minimum energy requirements necessary to sustain all life processes, but many diets try to get you well below that,” she says. “Reverse dieting puts you back on the maintenance dose and can help reduce the risk of weight gain as well as correct metabolic changes that are common with dieting.”

Benefits of reverse dieting

reverse diet

While there isn’t much medical research that supports or supports the concept of reverse dieting, it has anecdotally received a lot of support, including from dieticians and nutritionists. Here are some ways you can benefit from reverse dieting.


It can reset your metabolism

Reverse dieting can be a great way to kickstart your metabolism after you’ve been in a calorie deficit for a long time, according to Tills. “Our bodies are forced to make metabolic changes the longer we are in a calorie deficit. So when we slowly bring our food intake back to true maintenance levels, you have more energy, digest better, and burn more calories,” she says.

It can help prevent muscle wasting

In times of calorie restriction and low body weight, muscle loss can often occur, explains Duff. “This is due to increases in the stress hormone cortisol and decreases in testosterone levels that often accompany dieting,” she says. “Because muscle protein is more metabolically active than fat, it affects resting metabolic rate.” When reverse dieting, she always recommends her clients incorporate increased protein intake and structured resistance training to counteract the effects of reverse dieting.

You’ll feel better – and have more control

Wondering how to eat more but don’t know how? Coming off a diet can feel a bit uncomfortable, especially if the diet involved significant calorie or nutrient restriction. Reverse dieting can help you add calories back in a healthy, stabilized way. “Increasing your calorie intake slowly also improves your mental well-being, since suppressing calorie intake can also mentally exhaust you, making you feel sluggish and irritable,” adds Holly Schiff, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist with the Jewish Family Services of Greenwich, added.


Should You Try Reverse Dieting?

Most nutrition experts agree that dieting generally causes a person to fail. “It often reinforces food obsession and isn’t usually sustainable,” says Kayley Myers, RD at Freedom and Glory Nutrition.

But if you’re someone who’s constantly trying new diets, she recommends following them a reverse diet. “The concept could also be a good fit for someone who’s nervous about stopping their diet because they’re afraid they’ll get out of control when eating,” she says. “Some aspects of reverse dieting might give these people structure as they come off their diets.”

It may also be beneficial in reducing side effects that may occur after stopping a cold turkey diet. “Some people experience bloating and other unwanted side effects when they suddenly eat significantly more than they would have with calorie restriction,” she explains.


An important note: Individuals with a history of eating disorders would not be good candidates for the reverse diet, as Myers warns that maintaining a healthy relationship with food can be difficult. “These people would benefit from working with a registered dietitian to determine the right amount of food and types of food for their particular circumstances,” she adds.

How to reverse the diet

what is reverse dieting

Do you want to try it yourself? Here are a few expert tips to help you create a reverse diet plan.

1. Determine your current calorie intake

Before starting any reverse diet, Tills recommends finding out where your current calorie intake is trending. “I usually recommend my clients to chart a week’s food and then average out the calorie intake, carbs, protein, and fat to see if we’re balanced,” she says.

This will help you understand your starting average deficit, which can help you determine your end point so you can gauge how quickly you’ll start adding calories again. Typically 300 to 500 calories will be over the deficit you were in; However, if you were in a deep deficit, between 500 and 1000 calories can be added back on,” she says.

2. Make a flexible plan for what you’re going to eat

Write down what you would typically eat during your diet for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, and when you plan to have your meals. This will help you create a plan to follow and make sure you don’t go over or under your desired amount of food.

3. Start adding calories slowly

Tills recommends adding 50 to 100 calories each week to slowly bring you back to maintenance status. For example, if you started with 1550, you should aim for 1600 in the first week. “This will take time, and it’s important not to rush into it, as increasing intake too quickly can lead to rapid fat and weight gain.” ” She says.

To make sure you’re not undereating like you may have been during your diet, Myers recommends adding an extra serving of food to your daily meals. “That might mean adding an extra piece of fruit for breakfast, adding avocado to one of your meals, or making a yogurt parfait as a snack,” she says. “Write down your ‘extra’ food for the week and where it will be served on your menu.”

5. Prepare and prepare your meals

Myers suggests eating within 30 minutes of the designated time on your meal plan. This can be made easier when you can prepare your meals in advance and take them with you wherever you go. “Life happens – it’s easy to get distracted and before you know it it’s 2pm and lunch is still in the work fridge,” she says. “Do your best to be consistent while also having self-compassion for the days when you have a hard time sticking to the plan.”

6. Specify an end point

After reaching the goal, you shouldn’t have to track the intake as much. However, Tills does point out that it can be helpful to do occasional spot checks to make sure your intake isn’t dropping or you’re overeating. All in all, you should get to a point where you’ve learned from your diet experience, but also slowly added calories and nutrients back in so that you’re maintaining rather than losing.

“By gradually increasing your energy intake, you have some time to evaluate what you want your diet to be like going forward,” explains Myers. “Rather than just looking at food in black and white, a modified reverse diet approach can provide an opportunity to decide the next steps on your journey to health.” She recommends considering some gentle ways of caring for your body long-term that are beyond go out to eat, e.g. B. Meditation, journaling, yoga, massage, etc. to improve your overall health and well-being.

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