Yes, you can improve your body composition by eating more.
When it comes to improving body composition, most people want to lose fat and tone up. In simpler terms, we want to be a little bit leaner and for there to be a little less jiggle. So how do we get there? Dieting, of course.
If the answer is that simple, why have so many people cut their calories, tried a juice cleanse, eliminated their favorite foods, tried intermittent fasting, and still hit plateau after plateau, just short of their body composition goals?
The shocking answer is that they are probably not eating enough. Search for a diet on Google or scroll through social media, and you will inevitably find a handful of low-calorie celebrity diets promising a lean figure and quick results. Headlines like this are not hard to find:
“Alessandra Ambrosio Went on 1,200 Calorie-a-Day Diet for Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show”
And then there are also Tik Tok videos like this one from model Lori Harvey explaining how she lost weight on this same 1,200-calorie diet. So clearly, caloric restriction is the secret to losing weight and looking like a supermodel, right?
The problem is that for most people, that strategy simply isn’t enough food. Such a low-calorie diet will help you slim down fast, but according to researchers, the chances of you keeping that weight off are “slim” (see what I did there?). By not fueling your body with the right amount of foods, you will most likely experience fatigue, intense cravings, nutrient deficiencies, and even hormonal issues in the long term.
If you stay on a low-calorie diet long enough, you may not even lose any weight. As you basically starve yourself, your body will slow down your metabolism and decrease energy levels to the point where you become so sedentary that even on very low calories, you will hit a plateau.
Eating more with the goal of weighing less requires discipline to choose the right foods and the right volume
This is where reverse dieting comes in. A reverse diet is when someone that has been dieting and has not seen their desired results starts to slowly increase their caloric intake over time to repair their deficiencies, increase their metabolism, and find a level of maintenance caloric intake that they can now use as a baseline for a more sustainable approach to losing weight. Basically, you would add a little bit more food each week over time while closely monitoring how you feel. The goal is to reach a point where you feel your best while stopping short of when you start gaining too much weight.
If you track your calories through this process, it should give you a maintenance calorie number that tells you how much food to eat to fuel your body appropriately. With that information, you can now find a sustainable dieting goal to follow that will allow you to lose weight and improve your body composition over the long run.
The best part about reverse dieting is that if you are also doing some resistance training, you may even see favorable body composition changes without the number on the scale necessarily decreasing. Since you are now eating enough and training your body, you will gain muscle, giving you the “toned” look you were looking for in the first place.
The key takeaway? If you want to change how you look and improve the way you feel and have been frustrated by diets you’ve tried in the past, skip the low-calorie approach and try a reverse dieting approach instead. You’ll be surprised by how much better things will go if you just start fueling your body appropriately and working towards long-term results instead of constantly chasing the quick fix.
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