Before continuing to read, I ask for one thing: please take a few seconds to dump your brain of anything you think you know regarding fat loss. I need you to have an open mind before continuing because the things I’m about to share with you are quite different than anything else you have likely been taught!
If you are a woman reading this you are likely someone who has been spinning your wheels for quite some time yo-yo dieting or has flat out struggled with looking and feeling the way you want. You have been on the struggle bus trying to lose those same 10 to 15 pounds over and over again!
Maybe you are sick of eating next to nothing everyday because you feel like that’s what you have to do to stay in a smaller size. You restrict all week and then lose your mind on the weekends because you feel like the food sitting in front of you is something you can never have again and it’s back to your “diet” on Monday.
Do you believe you have to restrict yourself and do hours of cardio exercise to slim down? Are you the girl who cuts out carbs every so often in an attempt to shed unwanted pounds only to fall on your ass a couple of weeks later? Maybe you even manage to shed 20 or 30 pounds completely eliminating foods you love, but fast forward six months later and end up gaining 35 to 40 pounds back.
All of the above I have lived through at one point or another. I have pretty much tried every diet imaginable and spent a good portion of my 20s and early 30s on the yo-yo dieting wagon.
Fast forward to now. I’m 38 years old and wearing a size 6 (for the first time in my life)! I feel comfortable in my body eating roughly 2600 calories most days now. I love wearing shorts and don’t dread swimsuit season at all! You’re likely wondering how the hell did this happen?
The short answer is I stopped being impatient. To be honest, I was so tired of trying and trying to lose those last pesky 15 pounds. I decided to finally have an open mind and give things time because what else was I going to do? I had already tried it all!
The fall of 2016 I finally got serious about wanting to shed some pounds. I allowed moving to a new state, finishing up my masters degree, and the stress of a new job get in the way of taking care of myself the way I needed to. The end result was about 15 pounds more than I wanted on my frame and I had managed to gain back all the weight and then some from an extreme diet I did back in 2014. During the middle of all of this, I had “tried” to work toward slimming down again, but I failed many times. Basically the same extreme things I did before did not work again. During this time I had also started to learn about flexible dieting. The problem I had was I wasn’t patient enough and couldn’t gain the traction I needed to see good progress.
Back to the fall of 2016; by then, I was ready! I was so fed up and frankly got tired of making excuses. Little did I know by letting go of wanting results right away, I would end up accomplishing something so amazing! I stuck with a consistent intake and got in my workouts on a regular basis. The scale moved at a slow pace, but I was happy I lost 8 pounds after feeling stuck for so long. I still wasn’t at my goal weight, but I remained hopeful. The problem I had was when I got to about 20 weeks into this process my intake was getting low and I was running out of steam.
Some of the things people do not get told about dieting is your body will eventually begin compensating for putting yourself in a restrictive state. I noticed my energy levels were getting lower and I had less motivation to do simple things like go for a walk or clean my house. My gym sessions also started to take a hit and I noticed I had a hard time applying the same intensity that seemed so much easier months earlier.
By Spring 2017, and working with a coach, I pulled the plug on the diet and decided to slowly reverse my calories back up for a bit through reverse dieting. Basically reverse dieting allows your body to adapt to increased calories slowly over time and if done correctly, can minimize fat gain. Since I already practiced flexible dieting, I basically got increases in my fats, carbs, and protein in small amounts over time. If the scale weight stayed the same or I lost weight I would get an increase in calories each week. The amount of calories depended on what was going on with my body each week.
I won’t lie and say the experience in the beginning was wonderful. I hated seeing the scale spike and eating more intentionally was messing with me mentally because all I have heard my whole life was to restrict. I also did not really see any true physical results during this time, which also messed with me because I was still mentally in fat loss mode. With that said, I figured I had nothing to lose because I really did not want to deal with gaining everything back again.
As the weeks went by, I did notice something. Overall I was staying the same. Sure the scale was up a few pounds, but some days it would drop right back down to be within a pound of my weight at the end of my diet. I knew scale fluctuations had more to do with adding in more carbs to my diet rather than actual fat gain. Reasons why the scale fluctuates is another blog topic I’ll save for later!
I felt like implementing a reverse dieting strategy was promising. Since I was eating more, I also noticed great strength gains in the weight room and I was having fun deadlifting and bench pressing! Before I knew it 4 months later, my intake got up to about 2300 calories most days and I really didn’t lose the results I achieved. After working up my intake past 2,000 calories again, I felt a lot better and I was ready for another fat loss phase again.
August 2017, I began round 2 of my fat loss efforts. Immediately I reaped the benefits of implementing a reverse diet. I started from a higher intake this time and the first six weeks was smooth sailing. I stuck with my macros and just kept going! I also felt good because I was eating a decent amount, and the scale dropped quickly! I’m convinced giving my body time to recover from dieting down and building up my intake helped with the scale budging so quickly.
Eventually my calories did have to continue to drop because ultimately a caloric deficit is what is needed for weight loss. Toward the end of my diet, my calories got down to about 1600 calories most days and I was doing roughly 20 to 30 minutes of cardio 6 days a week. I won’t lie, some days toward the end I did get tired, but I kept my goals in mind and pushed through. I also remembered in my past I used to run well over an hour most days so 30 minutes on the treadmill was nothing compared to what I used to do. In December 2017 I reached my goal weight, but the best part was instead of losing 15 pounds I lost 20 pounds!
After trying a reverse diet once already, I knew without a doubt it was going to be my plan once I reached my weight loss goal. Since December last year, I have been reverse dieting again. Based on lessons learned from my last attempt, I also made it a point to be very consistent coming out of my diet. Week after week calories got added in strategically and I continued to stay at the same weight! A couple of months into the process I realized I was also finally ready to start working on building some muscle too (Side note: for the most part, muscle building requires eating at least slightly past your maintenance calories).
Since December I have managed to add almost 1,000 calories a day to my daily intake. I have stayed within 5 to 6 pounds of my “goal weight” I achieved back in December. I used quotes to describe goal weight because the way I look and feel now is better than what I looked like when I reached my goal last year. I know without a doubt some of the weight I have gained is lean mass. My body composition has changed and my waist is the smallest it has ever been. I am finally starting to see changes in areas I never thought would ever look different.
I do cardio 4 days a week because I like it and it is only for short amounts of time. I went from not being able to do any body weight chin ups to doing sets with extra weight attached to me. Basically I am in the best shape of my life eating far more than I ever thought possible.
Reverse dieting is difficult. I think a true reverse diet effort is harder than an actual diet because there really is not an end goal. You don’t have to necessarily reverse diet for as long as I have, but I am personally trying to test my limits. You see at some point in my crazy journey, I decided I wanted to compete in my first bodybuilding competition. Since this is a new goal of mine, I want to make sure I have plenty of fuel in my tank to actually dive into a prep.
I think if you are someone who has a history of under eating or yo-yo dieting, reverse dieting can benefit you. I know it sounds crazy to eat more to get results, but our bodies are smart! Our metabolisms have the ability to adapt to anything you throw at it. Chances are you are stuck where you are currently at because you have been treating your metabolism like shit. Yo-yo dieting also occurs because most of us know very little when it comes to sustainable weight loss. We typically lack a good plan after the diet. A reverse diet is an excellent way to help you hold on to the results you’ve worked so hard to achieve.
If you start a reverse diet for the first time expect it to be hard. It’s more mentally hard than anything. I basically went through a couple of cycles of dieting down and reverse dieting to get to where I am at today. The body I have today is the result of over a year and half of work. I used to think I was cursed with a slow metabolism and wasn’t as fortunate as other people. In reality, I just needed to know a better approach. I had to earn the metabolism I have today. I talk about consistency a lot, but that is because it is what is necessary to achieve true lasting results. Are you willing to embrace doing the same things over and over again and not seeing a lot of results up front? If not, ask yourself how many more times are you going to keep trying the same things over and over again?
There is no magic pill, no true way to “jump start” your metabolism, but if you’re willing to be open minded, invest time, put in some effort, be consistent and patient, you can absolutely look and feel the way you want. Today, I have such a great relationship with food and I am beyond happy. This process has also helped me instill more discipline within myself, which has spilled into other areas of my life in such a positive way! I am also now helping other women get off the yo-yo dieting wagon and this has fulfilled me in more ways than I thought possible.
This blog was a bit longer than my other ones so thank you for taking the time to read. If you think there is a girl out there who would benefit from reading this please feel free to share. I also love connecting with all of you so feel free to reach out to me anytime! My website contact form and Instagram are the best ways to get a hold of me.