Learn everything there Is to know about fItness, performance, fat loss and lifestyle from Adrian McDonnell.
Losing weight is a challenging task.
It can put a lot of stress on our bodies and mentally, it’s draining.
But losing weight itself is only half the battle – for many people, the bigger challenge is actually keeping weight off in the long-run.
Why? Because after a period of dieting, it’s common for people to regain some, if not all the weight they lost. Often referred to as “yo-yo” dieting, research indicates that up to 90% of people who lose weight regain it.
So how do you make sure you beat the odds and become one of the 10% who lose weight and keep it off?
While exercising and continuing to train are extremely important, for the purpose of this blog post I’m going to purely focus on nutrition.
I’m going to describe:
Why Maintaining Weight Loss is Difficult:
Do you know someone who may have lost a lot of weight in the past only for them to rebound and put it all back on?
Unfortunately, this is all too common because while losing weight can be a difficult thing to do, maintaining your weight loss can be even harder.
Why? When you reduce your calories, your body size (and often your weight) reduces. This means your metabolism will eventually slow down – a smaller body burns fewer calories than a bigger one.
On top of this metabolic slowdown, our brains are hardwired for us to want to eat more after long periods of dieting. Why? When eating in a calorie deficit, your body has to become more efficient with its reduced food intake to ensure you have enough energy to perform basic bodily functions.
You might find yourself slowly becoming lazy from not wanting to pick up the remote when it falls off the couch to being selective when you laugh at things because of the extra strain it puts on you (I went through this during my peak week!).
Essentially, your body can go into survival mode where it starts to hold onto calories instead of burning them.
All too often, by the time someone reaches their goal weight, the number of calories they need to eat to maintain their new weight doesn’t translate into a lot of food. This can become frustrating & difficult to stick to. Not to mention the psychological stress and mental challenges that come from long periods of dieting.
After resisting high-calorie foods for a period of time, it can be difficult to keep this up over the long term. What usually happens then is, once we “arrive” at the destination and reach our goal weight, we increase our calories too rapidly.
We eat way more food than we previously did when dieting and slowly slip back into our old habits. Suddenly the scale can start to increase very quickly.
This is commonly referred to as “rebounding” where we put back on the weight we lost. Once we regain the weight, the process begins again. And the yo-yo cycle goes on.
What Happens When We Diet?
Before we discuss how to prevent yourself from rebounding, lets firstly analyse what happens after a period of dieting. We’re gonna pretend that there’s a guy called Jack who wants to lose some weight. Jack’s maintenance levels of calories are 2,500. This is the number of calories he needs to consume to maintain his current weight.
But Jack doesn’t want to maintain his weight, Jack wants to lose weight. He reduces his calories by 20% to 2,000 calories a day. He does this for 6 weeks. Then he decides to reduce his calories further to 1,700 for another 6 weeks and he really begins to see some changes. He loses some weight.
However, while loss of weight on the scale occurs, it’s not the only changes that happen when you drop down in weight. Other things change too:
Because of these changes, Jack – maintenance calories will likely reduce by 5-15%. This means his new maintenance calories are likely going to be anywhere from 125-375 calories less than his previous maintenance.
In other words, if you lose an extreme amount of weight, the percent drop in calories needs to reduce too. Your lighter body will have a new maintenance level of calories than your previously heavier body.
This is where reverse dieting comes in.
How Can You Prevent/Minimise Rebounding:
If someone told you that you can eat more food without gaining weight, you probably think it sounds too good to be true. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great trade off. But isn’t this impossible?
Reverse Dieting. Reverse dieting involves slowly & strategically increasing your food intake over time all in an effort to increase your metabolism. So instead of rapidly increasing your calories after a period of dieting, reverse dieting is more of a gradual approach.
Reverse dieting will make you more likely to be able to sustain your fat loss over time.
How Reverse Dieting Works
If you’ve been dieting for a long time and are finally happy and ready to maintain your current level of bodyfat,reverse dieting can help increase maintenance calories.
Once you’ve reached your goal weight and physique and you want to maintain it, you need to increase your calories slowly from your deficit. If you’ve been dieting for 12 weeks, you might need to give your metabolism up to 12 weeks to adjust.
Reverse dieting, if executed properly will allow you to eat more food without gaining weight.
Eventually you hit a calorie intake where you feel energised, you’re performing well in the gym, you’re minimising fat gain and even adding on some muscle.
If You’ve Been Dieting For While but still want to Lose Weight:
Broadly speaking, after 12-16 weeks of dieting, it may be beneficial for you to go through a maintenance phase for a short period of time before going back to the dieting phase. Think of this maintenance phase as a short-term break from the diet to hit a long-term goal of fat loss. It will give you body a chance to reset and re-prepare for another dieting phase.
Your weight may increase during this maintenance phase but it doesn’t necessarily mean an increase in fat. This is very context dependent but a maintenance phase may last for as little as 1 week to as long as 4 weeks. It all depends on how long you’ve been dieting for and how strict you’ve been with your caloric intake during that period.
How to Reverse Diet:
Just to recap, reverse dieting is effective once you’ve reached your goal physique and want to maintain it. Once you’re happy with your new toned, trim & sleek physique, here’s how you maintain it:
1. Track your Calories
You need a method to track your calories. If you’re not assessing, you’re just guessing. I’d recommend using MyFitnessPal.
2. Determine Your Maintenance Calories
Before you strategically increase your calories, you’ll need to determine what your new maintenance levels are. I did a blog post on how to find this out.
3. Determine Your Macros
I’d recommend keeping your protein high (2g per Kg of Bodyweight) and balancing out your carbs and fats. More carbohydrates on training days. More fats on rest days. However, protein is the most important macronutrient to keep consistently high to help you preserve your muscle and recover faster.
4. Slowly Increase Calories
Your rate of progression will depend on how long you’ve been dieting. In general, it’s not a bad idea to reverse diet for the same period of time as you dieted. So if you’ve been dieting for 12 weeks you may need to reverse diet for 12 weeks. Start by adding 50 calories per week. Adjust accordingly. Again, this is context dependent.
5.Monitor Progress and Adjust
Monitor your progress and adjust as needed. Here are some ways you can gauge your progress:
In general, it’s time to stop reverse dieting when you are comfortable with your physique because you haven’t gained much fat since you’ve dieted, you feel energised by your current calorie intake and you’re performing well in the gym.
What you do next is completely goal dependent – do I want to continue to maintain? Then eat at your maintenance.
Would I like to focus on building muscle? Then transition into a surplus.
Would I like to go through another dieting phase and lose even more weight? Then go back into a deficit.
Thank you for reading – I hope you enjoyed it.
If you did get value from it, please pay the fee. What's the fee?
If you find this content valuable (maybe you learned something new or are going to implement a new practice) then please share my blog post with a friend or on your social stories and tag me on Instagram (@McLifestyleFitness).
For such a small act that doesn't cost anything, it really helps me reach more people and spread the word on how to optimise your health and fitness.
I don’t run ads towards my blog posts, everything I’ve done to date has been done organically from people like you reading spreading the good word. I’d appreciate your continued support.
If You’d Like Some Additional Support:
If you found this post beneficial, then join my Free Facebook Group for more training tips. I share nutritional recipes, workout videos and even live coaching videos.
If you’d like a coach to help put a customised training plan in operation for you, then book your free consultation call today to see if you’d be a good fit for my Online Coaching.
If you know what to do, why haven’t you done it yet?
This is where having the structure and accountability of a coach comes in. I’ll help you get the results you’ve always desired and make your journey much easier and quicker than doing it on your own.
What’s the purpose of the consultation call?
To deep dive into your health & exercise history, your goals and current struggles and from there decide if we’d be able to work together (note – I am not the right coach for everyone which is why I have consultation calls with potential clients of mine).
If we are a good fit, we can get working on your personalised program so you can finally make the changes you’ve always wanted.
Adrian McDonnell -
Eat This to Tone Up & Build Muscle
Learn how to create the perfect meal with this simple 5 step guide.