Eat More To Lose Weight. Is It Really Possible?
Losing weight is pretty simple, right? Reduce calories and move more. Do that and the pounds will melt away like never before. But, despite reducing calories and hitting the gym, you hear talk of a different approach. An alternative that sounds far more appealing... Eat more to lose weight? Now THAT sounds like a diet you can get excited about. But before you head off into the donut glazed sunset, you need a little more information.
Because, it might not surprise you, but it might not be as straightforward as you've been led to believe.
So, in this article, you'll discover the missing pieces of the puzzle. How it's possible for the strategy of 'eat more, lose weight' to actually work. Sadly, it's not magic, it's very much explainable.
Here's what you're going to learn.
- What triggers a slow down in metabolism and reduces weight loss to a snail's pace.
- How the stress caused by dieting and exercise can impact weight loss.
- The 5 reasons the 'eat more to lose weight' approach, results in more progress.
And if you prefer to listen to the audio version of the podcast, click the play button below:
Eat More, Lose Weight. What's The Story?
"Eat More To Lose Weight. Is Reverse Dieting The Fix For A Damaged Metabolism?"
Wherever you look, there's a different view on the best way to lose weight. Despite science clearly showing a calorie deficit is the ONLY way to kickstart weight loss, the debate rumbles on. With talk of what you eat being pushed as the alternative option.
"Eat 'clean', highly nutritious foods all the time and you'll lose weight, regardless of how many calories you eat." Or words to that effect.
So, in theory, you can eat more to lose weight. And THAT sounds like the perfect antidote to the hell of hunger and cravings you're stuck in now.
But, that's all nonsense, because calories matter most. Sure, they're not the only thing that matters for weight loss, but they matter most. However, even within the evidence-based community, there's discussion around eating more to lose weight. Often, linked to the concept of reverse dieting.
Transformation pictures depicting huge reductions in body fat, even though calories have seemingly been jacked through the roof.
So what's the story? Are these people genetic freaks? Or is reverse dieting the cure to repair a damaged metabolism?
To answer the question, we first need to look at how dieting can trigger defence mechanisms in the body.
Dieting Triggers Defence
"Your Brain And Body Doesn't Want To Diet"
Your brain and your body doesn't want you to diet. Even though the human race has advanced beyond belief in the last few centuries, our bodies are still relatively unchanged. The search for food to sustain life, is still part of our genetic make up. And while we may not be foraging for food, and hunting our dinner with rudimentary tools, we're still hard-wired to a certain degree.
So when you attempt to lose weight, your body starts to defend the level of body fat you've proudly acquired over the years.
Hunger hormones are increased, giving you the urge and drive to eat. Cravings for specific foods seem to feel stronger than ever before. The desire to eat custard creams by the packet wasn't there before the diet started, but now it's all you can think about.
Not only that, but over time, your body starts to adapt to the reduced calorie intake.
Your sub-conscious fidgeting starts to reduce. Suddenly, air drumming in the office is no longer a thing. You feel more lethargic from day to day. Like the dieting process sucked the life out of you, leaving you a shell of your former self.
And without realising it, you're moving less during the day. And your workouts have gone from being an all out smash-fest, to lack-lustre, hopeless efforts that would see your Grandma out-do you in the squat rack.
These are all contributors to metabolic adaptation. A process that occurs during dieting and typically results in reduced energy expenditure, which could lead to your deficit being wiped out. And no deficit, means no weight loss.
To understand if you should eat more to lose weight, you first need to understand why you're not losing weight at your current calorie intake.
Dieting + Exercise = Stress. It's Simple Maths.
"Dieting And Exercise Are Stressors And May Cause Water Weight Increases That Mask Fat Loss"
Dieting is a stressful process. Both in the physiological and psychological sense. Maintaining a calorie deficit for an extended period of time can be draining on the mind, that's undeniable. In fact, your struggles with the mental side of weight loss, are often the biggest challenge to overcome.
However, there's a physical stress that's taking place at the same time. Like a double-dieting whammy conspiring against you.
You see, losing weight is stressful for the body, as is the process of exercising. But don't panic, because this is all a necessary part of the process. For example, resistance training is taxing on your muscles, joints, and central nervous system. But you need a degree of stress in order to create the impetus for adaptation. Because, if your training were to simply consist of bench pressing the 2kg dumbbells for 4 sets of 10 reps, there's not much reason for your body to adapt.
You have to push it. Not to the degree your bowels prolapse and your eyeballs pop out of your head. But to the degree to which adaptations are triggered.
So with this necessary stress can come an increase in water weight, commonly associated with increased cortisol levels. However, despite the opinions of ill-informed social media gurus, you can still lose body fat with elevated cortisol. It's merely the case that increased water retention may mask reduction in body fat levels.
Ultimately, dieting and exercise are stressors on the body. Possible increases in water weight may mask actual fat loss, providing the perception that progress has slowed and even ground to a halt.
5 Reasons Why You Might Eat More To Lose Weight
"Eat More To Lose Weight Is Not As Simple As It Sounds"
Now that you understand more about why your weight loss may have slowed, here's 5 reasons why you might want to eat more to lose weight.
1. Reduced Stress On The Body
If dieting causes a stress on the body, then it makes logical sense that increasing calories would reduce this stress. So, with a small increase in calories, water retention may drop, resulting in the scales moving in a southerly direction.
However, it's important to remember that even though water retention may affect your weight, it doesn't prevent body fat reduction. Providing you're still in a calorie deficit, you WILL lose body fat, despite any degree of water retention caused by dieting and/or exercise induced stress.
Ask yourself if weight loss is really the goal? Body fat reduction should be the main marker of progress, which is not always best measured by the scales.
2. Spontaneous Increase In Activity
Low calorie dieting might leave you feeling worn out. The process grinds you down and leaves you all out of energy. Or, at least it can for some. So, by increasing calories you may become a little perkier. Simply put, you get the spring back in your step. No longer do you feel as though vegging out on the sofa for 48 hours is the ONLY way to spend your weekend. Instead, you're full of beans, bouncing off the walls and getting that NEAT up like never before.
Plus, your workouts have been restored to all-out muscular annihilation like before. And the net result of all that is one very simple thing... An increase in calories burned. And you, know what that means? That's right, the DEFICIT STRIKES BACK!
Having more calories may help you increase energy output, thereby restoring your calorie deficit and kickstarting weight loss.
3. Improvements In Lifestyle
When you start to eat more calories, other aspects of life get a boost too. You become more attractive to the opposite sex and perform better in the bedroom. Ok, that's not quite true. But there are a few lifestyle benefits that might materialise from an 'eat more to lose weight' approach.
For example, the reduced stress levels might lead to longer and more high quality sleep. This could have a positive impact on energy levels. Again, supporting the notion, you'll burn more calories and get your calorie deficit back on track. Not only that, but sleep may also improve body composition, ie your body may burn more body fat, rather than free fat mass (the gains).
But it doesn't stop there, because a little more food should reduce hunger hormones. Meaning, you're less likely to drift over your calorie target. Because, let's face it... That's happening too, right?
Reduced stress and reduced hunger may positively impact aspects of your life that support greater weight loss.
4. Reverse Dieting Is Still Dieting
If you've bought into the idea that reverse dieting is the cure for your damaged metabolism, understand one thing. Reverse dieting is STILL dieting.
Think about it this way.
Let's assume you wanted to lose weight as quickly as possible, so you started with a calorie deficit of 1,000 calories. Things were going well, until the metabolic adaptations (covered at the start of the article) kicked in. And weight loss ground to a halt. Holy shit balls, you've fucked your metabolism with the aggressive approach.
So you started a reverse diet to repair the damage. But here's the thing.
Your metabolism wasn't damaged in the first place. And reverse dieting wasn't necessarily a miracle cure. The increase in calories has started to counteract those metabolic adaptations and kickstart weight loss again. So rather than diet at 1,000 calories, you've reduced that to 500 (or maybe lower). But you're still in a deficit and losing fat, just at a higher amount of calories. And that process of fat loss will continue as you increase calories all the way up to maintenance.
Reverse dieting is still dieting. You can eat more to lose weight this way, but it's not magic or necessary in all cases.
5. 'Better' Food Choices
Maybe, in your efforts to combat hunger and maintain your calorie deficit without resorting to murder, you reviewed what you were eating. Was it the case that burgers, pizza, donuts, cookies, and cake were swapped for fruit, vegetables, and other low calorie options.
If this is the case, it can give the impression that you're able to eat more to lose weight. For example, a slice of your favourite cake at 450 calories, is a lot less filling than a more nutritious meal of chicken, vegetables, and rice. So strategic food swaps, whether conscious or not, can result in you eating more food, but in exchange for fewer calories.
More often than not, more nutrient-dense foods contain fewer calories and therefore can be eaten in larger amounts. This creates the feeling you're able to eat more to lose weight.
6. You Stop Lying
You're a liar. But you're not alone.
When it comes to dieting, misreporting calorie intake happens to 100% of people. Whether you know it or not, odds are you'll under-report how much you eat, and over-report how much you exercise. It's human nature, and also a symptom of the fact that no measurement of either is foolproof.
But you can reduce the likelihood of it happening. For example, if your calories are set at a level that's hard for you to stick to, then your risk of going off track is greatly increased. And just because you didn't log it in MyFitnessPal or tell your coach, doesn't mean it didn't happen.
So by eating more calories, you may find dieting easier and more consistent over the longer term. And all that, contributes to sustained weight loss, rather than doing well for 5 days, then blowing it all at the weekend.
An aggressive calorie deficit can work for some, but not others. If calories are too low for you, eating slightly more may create a more sustainable approach to weight loss.
The Bottom Line On How To Eat More To Lose Weight
The concept of eating more to lose weight isn't magic or weight loss voodoo. However, it may help to restore a sustainable calorie deficit that supports your long-term weight and fat loss.
The bottom line is that a calorie deficit still matters most.
The process of dieting can cause a slowdown in weight loss for a number of reasons. If you decide to eat more to lose weight, you are likely to be addressing some of these root causes. Whether you refer to this as reverse dieting, a diet break, re-feed, or simply eating a bit more, you are essentially restoring your calorie deficit.
So can you eat more to lose weight? Yes, it's possible.
But make sure you understand the mechanisms at play first, and if they apply to you. Don't jump straight to ramming 24 Krispy Kremes down your neck, because someone told you to eat more to lose weight.
Your Next Step To Mastering Nutrition And Shaping A Leaner, Healthier, Stronger Body
Here’s what to do next to get on the fast track to a leaner, healthier, stronger body. Simply click the link below and I’ll send you my Lean Life Kickstarter Pack. In it you’ll find a free 4 week beginner’s training programme (complete with exercise videos and a workout tracker), a guide on calculating your calories, plus so much more.
So if you want it, grab it here.
But for now, all I’ll say is… Keep living the Lean Life and I’ll see you soon.