Wellness Wednesday

How to ADD more Calories and NOT gain Weight

The idea of reverse dieting goes against everything we believe. We are taught that restricting calories and increasing exercise will ultimately lead to weight loss. And it might…for a little while. Until your body reaches a plateau and you have to continue restricting more and more and working out more and more. This is how eating and exercise disorders begin.

Many (women especially) clients and patients I have talked to do not eat enough calories, but are categorized in the “overweight or obese” classification based on BMI. How does that make sense? Well, your body adapts to what you put it through when you restrict calories – whether it is a conscious decision or just because you are busy and “forget” or “don’t have time” to eat. Your metabolism will slow down to accommodate the fewer calories it is receiving (aka it will try not to burn too many calories because it knows it needs to store up for later). This, in turn will lead to an accumulation of fat because your body is in a “starvation” mode and is trying to store up any extra energy to make up for the calories it is not receiving. You can also throw your hormones out of whack – especially the ones that control hunger and satiety cues. Many people I’ve talked to who do not eat enough calories tell me they aren’t even hungry. This is because your body has been in a state of hunger for so long that, again, it has adapted to the situation and has simply stopped sending hunger signals to your brain.

This is where reverse dieting comes into play. It is exactly like it sounds. Instead of increasing exercise and reducing caloric intake to lose weight, a reverse diet decreases (or maintains) exercise and increases calories over time. The goal of this diet is to re-charge the body’s metabolism and slowly work back to caloric maintenance without an excess fat gain. Over time, the additional calories will actually assist your metabolism to burn more energy!

Now, there are frustrations with reverse dieting. I have spoken to many individuals who want to lose weight and it can become a struggle when the scale does not reflect this hard work. BUT if you are only eating 1000-1200 calories a day initially, it will take some time for your body to adjust to eating anywhere from 1700-2200 calories a day (generally). As you can see just by those numbers, of course you are not going to lose weight right off the bat. It will take some time for your body to reach its level of homeostasis where it no longer functions in that “starvation” mode and it can start utilizing those calories and nutrients you are feeding it during bouts of physical activity and intense exercise.

Be patient with your body! It is smart and it knows how to adapt to so many internal and external stressors but it will take time! This may take weeks, it may take months but focus on those non-scale victories. Here are some signs your metabolism is responding to the reverse diet:

  1. Despite the increase in calories, your weight has stayed the same for a few weeks, or you are starting to lose a little weight
  2. You are feeling hungry (almost all the time! Ha)
  3. You have higher energy levels during your workouts and throughout the day
  4. You are sleeping better
  5. Your skin and hair look healthier
  6. You don’t have trouble concentrating
  7. You’re experiencing better digestion (less feelings of bloatedness, abdominal cramping…etc)