Now don’t hate me here, I am indulging in an eye grabbing title to get your attention. Sometimes these crash/fad diets we all have been guilty of trying, will work. One thing I am certain of is they will not be sustainable, the effects will not last, and it will be a temporary fix.
I speak from experience, before I discovered real nutrition and began learning and understanding how your body works and how food reacts to it, I lost weight on the ‘Special k diet’. Remember that drop a jean size in 6 weeks claim, 2 bowls of cereal a day and one meal. No exercise needed. What a shocker…but yes it worked, of course it worked, because in simple terms all you need to lose weight is a calorie deficit, or eat the same amount of calories and exercise more to create an energy deficit.
To uncomplicate the science of it all, when you partake in these crash diets, and go from giving your body 2500/3000 calories a day, and then suddenly give it 1000kcal a day, you will lose weight. BUT and this is a big one, that rapid decline in calories will cause damage to your internal systems, the systems that process your carbs, and store or don’t store fat in your body. Over time your body will stop losing weight and rebel against this, holding onto anything it gets. This is that ‘wall’ so many of you will be able to relate with having hit. All of this can cause metabolic damage and needs to be rectified.
These crash/fad diets will fail long term simply for the reason they are not sustainable. I couldn’t have gone on eating only cereal twice a day for the rest of my life, and there is no post diet plan to get your metabolism back up to speed.
Once you have lost your weight on your extreme calorie deficit diet you will then go back to ‘healthy/normal’ eating. But immediately your increasing calories by around 500/600 calories. That’s when you will gain weight, because your body isn’t used to getting that much, it has adapted to the lower calories and it simply doesn’t know what to do with the extra calories so stores them as fat.
The other thing people might do after a diet is to live in a permanent diet state, we all know those people, every time you see them they are on a diet. These people have no weight to lose, and yet have to continue only eating 1000/1200 calories a day to maintain it. Possibly binging at the weekends and putting on a few pounds every time they do.
Diets NEED to be sustainable. You are much better off figuring out how many calories you are eating before you start a diet, and then slowly decreasing calories; losing weight along the way, allowing your body to keep up with the internal changes. So many people start a diet throwing all of their tools at it. They will eat 1000kcal a day, do 30 mins cardio a day, go to the gym 4 times a week, drink only water. All of this has its place, but if you throw it all at your diet at the start, once you hit that inevitable wall when your body stops responding, you have no where to go. You would end up eating a lettuce leaf a day and running for an hour just to keep losing weight, which is DEFINITELY not something I recommend.
So what can I do?
Luckily there is a very good way to resolve this and get your body back to normal after a period in calorie deficit. The system is called reverse dieting, and it is a simple as that, slowly reversing your diet back up to higher calories. This process enables your body to have time to catch up to the extra calories its getting, by slowly increasing calories each week. If you are on a high protein, low carb, medium fat diet, I would generally suggest increasing weekly by as little as 5-10g carbs, 1g fat and 0-2g protein per week, this equates to around 50-80kcal a week.
Once you have reached a level where you are not gaining or losing weight this is where you stay, at ‘maintenance’ level. If you are happy with your weight loss when you began reverse dieting you could happily eat at this level for the rest of your life. Alternatively if you plan on dieting again to lose further weight, you are starting from a point of increased calories giving you a better baseline to diet down from, and after a period of maintenance could slowly begin reducing calories again to lose more weight.
I have just completed a period of reverse dieting and am now maintaining for a while before trying something else. It has taken me 10 weeks to slowly reverse diet up to maintenance, but in that time I haven’t gained a single pound in weight, and I am eating around 500kcal more per day. Happy Grainne!
I have had a lot of questions via Instagram around what reverse dieting is, so I hope I have given you the basic uncomplicated information on how it works. I understand in this day and age quick fixes are desirable, but in reality they are not sustainable and will cause your metabolism to slow. Try something different, try slowly decreasing then increasing calories back up after a diet, try something that will last.