The key to sustained weight loss is something called “Reverse Dieting”, and no it’s not the opposite of a diet (AKA eat more than ever!)
To understand Reverse Dieting, you first need to understand something called your Basal Metabolic Rate… This is the amount of calories your body needs just to stay alive.
Your body uses calories as energy- Like gasoline in a car- so for everything to function in your body like your hair growing, eyelids blinking, lungs pumping, and your heart beating all requires calories.
The amount of calories required to keep all of this working depends on how tall you are, how much muscle mass you have (muscle burns a lot of calories!) and sometimes determined by genetic or medical conditions.
This is to say that, the bigger,heavier or more muscular you are the more calories you burn just living.
Typically people can have a Basal Metabolic Rate (or BMR for short) between 1200-1800 calories.
Now, when we go on a strict diet and cut down the amount of calories we take in, we start to lose weight.. This is good!
The problem happens when we cut our calories for about 6 or more weeks, our Basal Metabolic Rate decreases… It decreases due to whats called Metabolic Adaptation, which means your body starts to say “We’re bringing in very few calories… So let’s conserve energy by lowering our Basal Metabolic rate number”
Let’s say that your BMR starts at 1600, but you go on a 1200 calorie per day diet.
Your body will start to say “We are only getting 1200 calories, so we’re going to lower our BMR to match what we are bringing in”
You’ll notice things happen in your body like: Hair growth slows, eyelid blink rate slows, digestive system doesn’t function as well… This is your body slowing down to adapt to lower calories. (This is also not good to do for long term!)
So, now you’ve been on this restrictive diet for a while and you’ve lost a lot of weight. Great job!
What typically happens next, is you go “off” the diet.
Maybe you were cutting weight for a vacation, and on vacation you go nuts.
Maybe you just got sick of following such a restrictive plan.
Whatever the case is, you go “off track”
The problem then becomes that your BMR is 400 calories LOWER than it was before the diet… So even if you go back to eating what you were eating before the diet, you’re going to GAIN weight rapidly, and gain MORE weight than you lost.
This is because by following a 2000 calorie diet, before you were at a surplus of 400 calories a day (remember, your BMR was 1600), NOW you are at a surplus of 800 calories because you lowered your BMR to 1200!)
This is why restrictive diets can cause long term damage… Studies show that when you lower your BMR, it typically does NOT rebound back to normal!
UNLESS… Drum roll please…. You do Reverse Dieting!
Reverse dieting is the process of slowly adding calories back IN to your diet, and letting your body naturally adjust to eating more to slowly bring your BMR back to normal.
So, if during your diet you slowly lowered your calories 100 calories every week or two, you’d want to do the same thing by increasing.
A 6 week “diet” should then be extended to 12 weeks of focused eating when you add in Reverse Dieting.
It sounds like a lot of effort… right? To double the time on a diet?
Think of it this way… If you skip the “reverse” dieting portion, you’re very very likely to gain ALL of your weight back + extra.
This leaves you all the way back to ground 0, and having to restart an entire diet over anyway.
A teacher once told me, “Be lazy, do it right the first time”… I didn’t understand that saying then, but I do now.
Reverse dieting will make the process twice as long, but the results will LAST FOREVER… instead of being lazy, cutting corners and having to start your diet over every few months!
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