What is Reverse Dieting and Who is it for?

Hey guys! I’m excited to have you reading this post today… I think it’s one that will really give some of you an AH-HA moment and those are the moments that give me life, so thank you for being here and being willing to learn and grow with me!


Today’s blog is about reverse dieting and it’s such a simple thing but psychologically, it can be so difficult for women especially. We think dieting simply means eat as little as possible, lose a little bit of weight, and repeat until we hit our goal weight.


I know that’s what I thought dieting meant much of my life and I went through the cycles of undereating and then feeling so restricted that I gave up completely and overate, gaining the weight back very quickly. It’s frustrating right?!



For me personally, this process would send me on an emotional rollercoaster ride because first of all, my worth felt tied to my weight, and second, I was so frustrated not being able to figure it out. I would always think there’s gotta be some kind of secret these fit people are holding from us. What the heck is it? You don’t hear about it in magazines or articles or commercials. You pretty much hear how to structure a diet so that you eat less. That’s all we get. But when it only works for maybe a month or two, what are we supposed to do then?! We can’t live in restriction right? And that’s one of the reasons I started this podcast because I want people to know what the mainstream media / diet culture holds back from the general population.


I want to educate you so that you don’t have to live a life of restriction and binging, doomed to repeat this cycle until death do you part. And I wish so badly that someone would have told me this a long time ago so I wouldn’t have lived my life trying to starve myself. But that’s ok, I’m here now with the knowledge and I’m here to give it to you so you don’t make the same mistakes I did.


I remember going on a fad cleanse and trying to eat nothing but vegetables one time in a failed attempt to lose weight. I remember stir frying some bell peppers for the 3rd time of the day and I just started crying over my stove. I didn’t want to eat the bell peppers. I wanted to eat something that made me full and satisfied… and was tastier. I was so miserable. Anyone relate?! Needless to say, I ended up binging that night and then feeling guilt about it afterwards… UGH!


So, what do we do when we get stuck after dieting? Are we supposed to eat even less? I know for me that’s not sustainable. And at this point what you have to start thinking about is not just calories in – calories out… you have to start thinking about how to manipulate your metabolic system. Your metabolism is the makeup of all your organs, hormones, and your bodily movements that control the energy you burn each day. We’ve got to start revving up our internal engine to burn more calories… and we can do that through reverse dieting.


Here’s the thing, if you eat very low amounts of calories every day, your body has adjusted to what you’ve been giving it. You stop fueling it as much, it’s going to say “ok, I don’t need to burn as much… let’s simmer down.” Your body will do whatever it takes to survive… so by you giving it a low amounts of calories it is adapting for your survival.


And what reverse dieting does is train your metabolism to start revving up and burning more. It’s simply the opposite of a traditional diet. You start to add calories or macros each day and begin training your metabolism to adapt to the food you’re fueling it with. So the goal is to SLOWLY add calories over a course of time (I’ll get into that in a minute), but you add slowly allowing your body to adapt efficiently so that you don’t gain a lot of excess fat, and then once you’ve hit a higher amount of calories to eat every day, and you stay there for a while allowing your body to adapt, THEN you can cut calories for a time to lose excess fat… and once that’s been done, you walk your way back up to your average or maintenance calories.


So, let me talk a little more about metabolism. In a nutshell it is your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). And the energy expenditure comes from a handful of ways your body burns energy…. your non-exercise activity (NEAT) … things like cleaning, walking around, doing your normal day to day stuff. Then your regular exercise of 30min – 1 hour (EXERCISE ACTIVITY THERMOGENESIS or EAT), basal metabolic rate (BMR), and thermic effect of food (TEF).


Let’s talk about basal metabolic rate first (BMR) which is the energy your body burns just to survive. From breathing, to digestion, to your heart beat… it’s all the important stuff your body consistently does to keep you alive. So, let’s say you are in an extreme calorie deficit of say 1000 calories a day… your BMR will lower because it’s not digesting as much, it senses danger of possible starvation, and thus begins to conserve energy. ON the flip side, when you add calories, it starts working harder for you.


On to exercise and non- exercise activity or NEAT. All movements in some way requires energy. This can be anything from standing, walking, cleaning your house (NEAT)… to jogging, sprinting and lifting (EAT). With more movement and food, your body is willing to burn more energy. The less food you eat, the less your body will be willing to do.


Now the last aspect of the metabolism is TEF or thermic effect of food. Your body needs energy to digest and absorb the food that you eat. This is only about 10% of your TDEE, but it’s nice to know that even the act of eating more will help burn more energy.


Now when we diet or go into a calorie restricted state, the body will react to the changes.. and those changes can include fat loss, but usually also include loss of lean muscle and includes a hit on your overall BMR and thermic effect of feeding… all meaning that your body is simply ensuring that you survive so it starts adapting to the energy you give it.


So, let’s say you are eating at 1200 calories consistently. Your body has adapted, you’re no longer losing weight, and you’re hungry. It’s time for you to reverse diet my friend. And you can do this by adding about 100 calories a day in either carbs or fats because your protein should stay relatively the same at .8-1 gram per pound of your goal body weight. So slowly add calories. 100 more a day for a couple of weeks and then go up about 100 calories again the next two weeks. And you want to do this until you hit your maintenance calories or until you see a slight increase on the scale for 3 or more weeks. I do recommend that during this time clients weigh themselves daily so we can see a trend. If a couple of pounds have been added and remain there, then it’s time to sit at those calories for a while.


Now let’s say you were at 1200 calories and over the course of time you were able to get to 1900 calories without significant weight gain. I actually have a client who has done this… she actually lost 8 lbs during this process and now that we are at 1900 calories her weight has steadied out. But once you’ve hit that maintenance calories, I suggest staying there for a bit allowing the body to adjust and enjoy the food that you’re finally giving it. You should stay in maintenance for as long as possible… at least as long as you’ve been in a cut.

And if you’ve lived a life of restriction, I’d say to even stay at maintenance for at least 6 months-1 year. But when you’re ready, now you can cut calories and lose fat without having to be so low in calories. So, you can cut for about 6 weeks or so, lose a few pounds of fat and then jump back up to your maintenance calories. Let your body adjust for a bit and then lather, rinse, repeat right?! Now you’ve trained your metabolism. You can walk your way up in calories without fat gain, cut calories to a reasonable amount of calories that doesn’t make you feel like you’re starving, and continue the process until you are at your goal weight.

Because the lower your calories are, the harder it’s going to be to stick the diet out, right ?


So who is reverse dieting for?!

-If you’ve been a chronic low-calorie eater and you still haven’t hit your goal weight or even if you have hit your goal weight.

-If you’re just coming off of a diet and you’re ready to rev up your metabolism.

-If you’re content with your body composition and just want to eat more food.


Keep in mind that these restrictive diets like no carbs, fasting, and cleanses will eventually leave you nowhere to go because you WILL plateau, and you can’t eat less carbs if you’re already eating no carbs. You shouldn’t continue cleansing. Now is the time to reverse diet so you can rev your metabolism back up and then cycle back to dieting if needed. But constantly staying in a low-calorie state is not healthy for your body. You don’t want to constantly be in survival mode. You want your body to thrive.


Now like I said previously, reverse dieting can be psychologically challenging especially for women. Cause I mean it sounds crazy to say “eat more calories” when you want to lose weight right? That’s because you’ve been conditioned to believe that the less amount of calories the better. But where has it gotten you in the past?! And if it’s not working, isn’t it insanity to continue doing it and living a miserable life in the process?!


Reverse dieting is a must if you fit in these categories. You have to manipulate your metabolism to be able to lose fat and eat as many calories as possible while doing so. So when you reverse diet, you need to expect that you MAY gain a minimal amount of fat. You might not. My client lost 8 lbs and has been at a steady weight from 1600-1900 calories. And we’ll continue going up as high as we can go without significant fat gain.


Here’s the thing… you’re stuck, right? You’re stuck eating a low amount of calories with no progress and you can’t reasonably restrict anymore. So where do you go from here? You HAVE to start reversing. You have to teach your body to burn more calories so you can eat more and eventually cut again at a higher amount of calories than you’ve previously been stuck at. You HAVE to be willing to gain 2-3 extra pounds for a long-term and sustainable weight loss strategy. It’s absolutely necessary. And look, I get it… my worth was once tied to the number on the scale but we’re grown.. it’s time to get past that. The number on the scale is JUST DATA. It’s just information about what’s going on in your body. And it’s not the whole picture either. Most of the time, the weight you gain is from water retention. So, we’ve got to get past this obsession with a low number on the scale.


We’re going for long term FAT loss.. not just weight loss, because the weight on the scale is a number of things. Organs, bone, tissue, blood, water, fat, and muscle. It’s not a prediction of your worth or your value… it’s simply telling you “hey here’s what going on in your body right now… not just hey this is how much fat you have. Not at all. So please please please stop looking at the scale as an indication of your entire being.


Reverse dieting is a scientific systematic process of slowly teaching your body to burn the calories you give it. The timeline varies depending on how quickly you can get to maintenance calories. It could be 12 weeks or even longer. Whatever it takes to help your body help you by burning more energy. This is a necessary process and is NOT a quick fix. The time really depends on the individual and how your body responds to adding more calories, how high you’d like your caloric intake to be, and your long-term goal needs to be considered. Everyone is going to be different.

That’s where having a coach is really beneficial. In my programs, we’ll track each week to see what’s going on and what steps to take moving forward each week. But the main thing to keep in mind is that metabolic adaptation takes time.


We’re not going for quick fix lose 5lbs in a week… we’re going for long-term weight loss and keeping the weight off while eating a healthy amount of calories. Ideally, we want to get you as high in calories as possible so that when you DO cut calories, it’s an amount that you can handle without being so restrictive to the point of binging. Ideally, I’d like to get my client at around 2100-2200 calories so that when she cuts to shed more fat, she’s at 1600-1700 calories instead of 1200. So, we monitor her weight each week and if she begins to show an increase steadily over a few weeks we know it’s time to stop reversing, sit there for a while to let her body adapt, and then we’ll cut to lose the excess fat. Simple as that. She’ll lose the weight she wants and be able to eat in a calorie range that is sustainable for 6-12 weeks.


My personal goal is to get to about 2500 calories for my maintenance. It’s a long process but in the end, it’s going to be absolutely worth it. Because I can eat 2000 calories in a cut and lose weight as needed. And another awesome thing about reverse dieting is that since you are fueling your body more, you are going to have extra energy to lift heavy and gain some muscle in the process. Extra calories should be put to good use by lifting weights. Another plus to this is that muscle burns energy.. weight lifting is that long slow burn that cardio does not give you.


So, in a nutshell the goal with reverse dieting is minimum weight gain with maximal calorie intake. It is a slow process, but I promise you your life will change! More food= more energy, better mood, better sleep, and overall better health. It’s so freeing to know that the solution to your best body is to EAT MORE FOOD! There’s so much freedom in that especially when you’ve lived a life of restriction like I have in the past. It’s crazy to keep doing the same old dieting methods that aren’t working for you. It’s a viscous cycle that leaves you feeling frustrated, self-doubting, and hungry! Stop doing it. There is a better way. And that better way entails eating more food.


So, I hope all of this makes sense to you and actually gives you some hope! There’s a lot of things in life we can’t control but what you do for your body is not one of them. You absolutely have control over how you treat your body. And your body NEEDS fuel. You don’t want to live your life in survival mode right?! We naturally want to thrive and hopefully this thread gave you the insight you need to start doing that. I know this was a good bit of information to take in so If you have any questions I’d love to hear from you. You can message me on insta or on my website. Instagram handle is Bridges2Barbells and website is http:www.bridges2barbells.com.


I do want to let you know that for the entire month of January I am offering 30% off of my one-on-one coaching programs which includes a custom nutrition plan and education, a workout plan with access to the exercise move videos, weekly check ins, monthly assessments, and mindset training videos. So if you want to jump start this year with laser focus and accountability, this coaching method is the perfect way to do that. Consultation calls are FREE so to schedule yours just go to www.bridges2barbells.com/plans and sign up for your call so we can get a custom plan started for you!


Also, If you feel like this information was helpful or enlightening to you, please leave a comment below! I love to hear from the people who learn and feel empowered by what I’m teaching! So leave me a like and a comment 😊


And if you know any chronic dieters out there… I think we all know at least a couple, make sure you share this episode with them.

Once again, thank you guys for being here. I love sharing this information with you. I love to dig in, do the research, and share the goods to enable others to live a life of freedom. So thank you for being here to support me in this endeavor! Make sure you’re subscribed so you can get notifications on the next blog post!

Talk to you soon! -Jess

Recent Posts

See All