Reverse Dieting: What It Is and How It Works

You may have seen the concept of reverse dieting popping up around the internet lately—it's big in the bodybuilding community—and it's where after a long period of dropping calories, you intermittently add more calories into your diet so your body can reset itself and begin to burn calories again, fending off that dreaded weight-loss plateau.

It's here where you also do less cardio and more weight-lifting to enhance lean muscle. The results are pretty astounding (check out this post for proof!). But while I found this type of dieting to be interesting, it's probably best suited towards those who have been dieting strictly and are working to build muscle. But after doing a few more Google searches of "reverse dieting" and speaking with a nutritionist on the phone, I was thrown a big curveball.

"It's an old adage: eating breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper," nutritionist Heidi Skolnik tells me. "It's the reverse diet. So we kind of flip the way we're eating. You don't have to go that big, but you know, go ahead and have dinner for breakfast and breakfast for dinner. The real idea is that you're also distributing your calories throughout the day and your distributing nutrients better." Reverse dieting. Same name, totally different idea. But now I'm intrigued.

Skolnik and her friend Tricia Cunningham came up with a book called The Reverse Diet, where they outline how having a larger, protein-rich meal for breakfast and a small meal come dinnertime (like the size you'd normally have for breakfast), you'll lose weight. It's not the reverse diet weight-lifters use, but it's one that's easy to follow and proven to show results.

Skolnik continues, "Especially when we wrote the book, protein is not as imminent as it is now, so protein throughout the day is very helpful for numerous reasons. So start your day with a higher-protein breakfast. Traditionally you think of protein at dinner, but make sure that you get that in at breakfast because it's really helpful for weight, body mass, appetite regulation, insulin regulation—a whole bunch of things."

In terms of an example day of meals on this diet, the authors suggest having fish for breakfast and shredded wheat with orange juice for dinner (really). It may take some getting used to at first, but think of how full salmon and veggies will keep you throughout the day. By the time you get to dinner, you may only have room for cereal (unprocessed whole-wheat cereal, that is).

Cunningham followed this reverse diet for nine months and lost 172 pounds in the process. Of course, she started with a high BMI and was strict with her food choices, so depending on your initial weight and how you follow the diet (and incorporate exercise, etc.), your results will vary. It's all relative.

Another reason the diet is so successful is because it pushes whole versus processed foods, nixes sugary drinks, and encourages more vegetables. And the authors also do a great job of including mindfulness within the pages of their book, including a section on setting realistic goals so that readers can manage their expectations throughout the process. 

The reverse diet, in these terms, isn't new or revolutionary., but it's a reminder that by making a simple exchange of meals and eating healthier, you can help reach your weight-loss goals without following fad diets or starving yourself.

For more information on this diet and suggested meal plans and recipes, grab your copy of The Reverse Diet today. But remember, before starting any diet, please speak with your doctor first.

Do you think you could follow this diet, or does fish for breakfast sound unappetizing? Tell us below!