Self-Experimentation

2018 Reverse Diet

In July 2018, I took a break from gaining weight to (unnecessarily) lean out for my wedding in October. On 9/2, I began my reverse diet so that I would be running on more fuel and be feeling great in time for the wedding on 10/27.

What is a reverse diet?

A reverse diet is a type of structured exit from a diet in which calories are gradually increased. After a long/severe caloric deficit, body weight often decreases or stays the same in response to these small caloric increases. After dieting, small increases in food can lead to relatively high increases in energy expenditure via internal regulation systems and our external actions. In addition to our hormonal and metabolic responses to these small food increases (which can vary from individual to individual), we have an important psychological response: “I get more food this week? I’m gonna crush my workouts!”…and expend more energy in the process. Regardless of how energy expenditure is increased, the increase in energy expenditure is what makes it look like magic is happening – eat more, weigh less?!

Why reverse diet?

Reverse dieting is not always a good idea. After a long and/or severe diet, many individuals benefit from much larger increases in calories than reverse dieting requires. I would argue that the primary benefit of reverse dieting is the potential to increase intake pretty high with little to no gain in body fat. I also find it really fun! 🙂

My reverse diet

I started increasing my intake at the beginning of September, but my weight kept falling until mid-November. Since then, my weight has been fluctuating with an upward trend. As my weight has still not reached my reverse diet starting weight, my reverse diet is technically still in progress. However, I have decided to effectively end my reverse diet by drastically increasing calories to increase my weight faster than what is happening now. You can see the overall trend between 9/2 and today (11/24) below:

Start (9/2/18):
111.8 lbs
6 days per week at 45f/90c/125p = 1265 cals
Weekly refeed at 48f/185c/125p = 1672 cals

End (11/24/18):
109.3 lbs
6 days per week at 60f/260c/130p = 2100 cals
Weekly refeed at 65f/330c/130p = 2425 cals

You can see how much I was able to increase my intake without gaining weight above my starting weight. From 9/2 until 10/17, I was consistently increasing calories and losing weight until I hit my reverse diet low of 107.1 on 10/17.

What’s next?

I’m finally gaining weight. As I mentioned earlier, I could continue with this approach, but I want put on some body fat now rather than waiting for whenever my body catches up with small increases in intake. For the past few weeks, I have been increasing calories based on how I feel more than how much I weigh. (Hungry? Eat more!) I think that’s what helped me finally start getting an upward trend. I’m still tracking my weight to make sure I continue to gradually gain. I haven’t decided if I will stop tracking my intake altogether at some point. Right now I’m trying to have at least one untracked day per week. I don’t know when I will end my gaining phase. I plan to stop when I “feel good,” which I’m guessing will be after I gain at least 10 lbs.

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