What Is Reverse Dieting?

This dieting tactic is supposed to help you maintain weight loss.

  • Reverse dieting is a method that allows you to slowly increase your calorie intake after stopping a low-calorie diet, enabling you to consume more calories while preventing weight regain. 
  • This method might normalize hunger hormones and boost energy. However, research on reverse dieting is limited, and the eating pattern may cause weight cycling.
  • Consult a healthcare provider about healthy, sustainable weight loss methods.

Reverse dieting involves slowly increasing your calorie intake after stopping a calorie-restrictive diet. Essentially, that method allows you to add more calories to your diet while boosting your metabolism and preventing weight gain.

Here's what you should know about reverse dieting, including how it works, who should try it, and the benefits and risks.

What Is Reverse Dieting?

Essentially, reverse dieting allows you to gradually reintroduce calories into your eating plan after finishing a calorie-restrictive diet. The goal of reverse dieting is to prevent regaining any weight that you lost.

If you follow a diet that severely restricts your calorie intake, returning to your usual eating plan may result in weight regain. For example, if you followed a strict diet for several months, suppose you celebrate by enjoying some of the foods you loved but avoided. If you do not develop sustainable ways to eat mindfully, you may unwittingly return to your old eating habits.

While strictly dieting, your metabolism decreases. Your body adapts to a low-calorie diet. You do not need to consume as much food as you previously did to maintain energy throughout the day. Therefore, if you eat more calories than your body needs, you risk weight regain.

Still, the type of diet, how long you were on it, and your eating habits affect your risk of regaining weight. Metabolic changes and mental and emotional factors contribute to weight regain, too.

Also, having friends, family, or a registered dietitian encourage you to practice healthy habits may help motivate you to eat more mindfully. Having a support system is essential during and after strict dieting.

How Does Reverse Dieting Work?

With reverse dieting, the goal is to slowly reintroduce more calories to your diet after you complete the low-calorie plan you were on.

Suppose you cut your calorie intake to a low 1,200 daily to lose weight. Proponents of reverse dieting might suggest gradually increasing your calorie intake by 50 to 100 calories per week for about four to 10 weeks instead of returning to your pre-diet eating plan.

In that case, you may start eating 1,300 calories daily for one week, 1,400 calories daily during the next week, and so on. By the eighth week, you will be eating 2,000 calories daily. Most dietary recommendations are based on a 2,000-calorie diet.

However, your calorie needs vary by your sex, age, weight, and activity level. Consult a healthcare provider about how many calories you should be eating daily.

Who Should Try Reverse Dieting

Reverse dieting is common among athletes of weight-sensitive sports, like bodybuilders. Reverse dieting allows those athletes to follow low-calorie diets and lose and gain weight per their activity needs.

However, anyone coming off of a low-calorie diet can try reverse dieting to slowly reintroduce calories into their diet. Likewise, some evidence suggests that a similar eating pattern might help people with anorexia nervosa meet their nutritional needs.


Proponents of reverse dieting claim that the method reduces the risk of weight regain by normalizing hunger hormones. Research has found that carefully controlling your calorie intake might normalize the amount of the hormone leptin, which controls feelings of hunger.

Reverse dieting may also increase your energy. For example, strict dieting can often lead to low energy levels due to low-calorie intake. However, if you slowly reintroduce calories into your diet, reverse dieting allows you to increase your energy. That extra energy boosts your mood and helps you concentrate.

All in all, reverse dieting balances your hunger hormones, metabolism, and energy in a way that allows you to eat more calories without weight regain.


However, reverse dieting is only grounded in theory and anecdotal evidence. In other words, no research focuses specifically on reverse dieting.

The low-calorie diet that comes before reverse dieting can also trigger physical and emotional side effects, like:

  • Gallstones
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, like constipation
  • Impaired concentration
  • Low energy
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Slowed metabolism

Then, for many people, the calorie counting that reverse dieting requires can be tedious and stressful, such as in cases where you need access to the calorie content of foods. 

Also, reverse dieting risks weight cycling, also known as "yo-yo dieting," in which you rapidly and repeatedly lose and gain weight. Research on whether weight cycling is harmful is inconclusive. Still, one study, which studied athletes, noted that weight cycling increases the risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease.  

General Tips for Weight Loss

Reverse dieting might not be necessary if you avoid strict or low-calorie diets in the first place. Weight loss approaches focusing on calorie intake are outdated and may be harmful to your health. 

Instead, to lose weight, try focusing on factors like:

  • Food quality: Replacing processed foods with whole foods increases post-meal calorie burning. For example, trading a pastry or sugary cereal in the morning for oatmeal with berries and nuts can help with weight loss without focusing on calories.
  • Meal balance and timing: Eating more vegetables, increasing fiber, and tweaking meal times can lead to weight loss without deprivation.
  • Hunger and fullness signals: Developing healthy, sustainable eating patterns includes eating when you're hungry and stopping when you're full.
  • Emotional eating: When people who struggle with emotional eating begin to find healthy coping tools that don't involve food, their calorie intake automatically drops. In other words, addressing your relationship with food rather than rules or numbers is a more sustainable approach.

Following a strict diet with continued calorie monitoring for a month or two via reverse dieting can be unnerving. Also, there's no evidence that reverse dieting maintains weight loss in the long term. Instead, healthy weight loss comes from sustainable lifestyle changes that adequately nourish your body.

Ultimately, any method used to lose weight should not require a diet after the diet. It should optimize your overall wellness, not compromise it.

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