Once You Get There, It’s Time To Put It In Reverse

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Healthy-Eating-101If you are like most people, you’ll find that the concept of losing weight is relatively easy to figure out. I’m not saying easy to do since it does require willpower, but basically you cut calories and exercise and the weight comes off. Calories in less than calories out, repeat until done. It’s maintaining the weight loss that’s the hardest part. Ask several of the past contestants on The Biggest Loser if you don’t believe me. Studies show that almost 65% of people regain the weight they lose within 3 years. (Source: Livestrong)

I’ve mentioned before that reaching goal weight is very similar to what competitors go through during contest prep. You work hard to cut calories. Some times you give up foods that you love. There’s even mental deprivation for some. You reach your goal, but then what? Life goes on as normal. Everything pretty much remains the same which can feel strange. There’s no sudden life-changing moment. It can feel almost… weird. Like limbo. At least it did for me.

If you’re like most people (see the statistics above), you start eating more calories right away because you’re no longer dieting. You allow yourself a few treats here and there. Oh boy, does this and that taste amazing! You may find that the scale starts jumping up even if you’re eating less than you were originally. How can that be?! There’s a couple reasons for this.

First, you weigh less so it takes fewer calories to maintain the new you than it did to maintain the old you. Second, depending on how long you were in a calorie deficit, your metabolism may be slower than it usually is. Your body is always looking for a state of maintenance to survive. When you eat in a deficit for an extended period of time, your body slows down its processes to preserve fat and muscle.

How much or little it slows depends on genetics, how long you’ve been dieting, and a bunch of other factors. If you suddenly increase your calories even to a reasonable amount, your body doesn’t have time to adjust and you can end up gaining weight until your metabolism catches up. Before you panic at the thought of forced dieting forever or doomed to weight gain, there’s good news.

Just as you gradually decreased your calories to lose weight, it’s best to gradually increase your calories once you’ve reached your goal. It’s a simple concept called reverse dieting. By all means, celebrate the new you when you reach your goal. Have a cheat meal or two. Even a cheat day. Barring any wild feeding frenzies that rival the movie Jaws, one cheat day won’t undo all your hard work. But after that, it’s back to real life and your health. Rein it back in.

If you’ve been tracking your food, you should know approximately how many calories you were eating when you met your goal. Add 100 calories to this number and stay there for a week. The next week add another 100 calories. Repeat each week until you reach the point where you comfortably maintain the scale within a pound or two. By gradually adding calories, your body has time to adjust to all the additional fuel and won’t automatically store it as fat for the future.

It’s also a lot easier on your digestive system to eat a little more each week. You won’t be as likely to lay around feeling like a Thanksgiving turkey.

What topics would you like to see next in Healthy Eating 101? Any burning questions out there?

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