fitness/ Reverse Diet

My life without My Fitness Pal

April 28, 2014
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Almost 4 weeks without tracking a single macro and I have to say overall… I am loving it!

It’s been such a relief to not be so tied to my phone calculating, planning, or weighing my food.  I’ve done my absolute best to estimate amounts in my head based on my previous intake and mental/physical cues.  Moreover, I feel like I’m finally feeling “normal” again.  Just having the weight of the stress I was putting on myself during my reverse diet and cut completely lifted has probably made the biggest difference in my performance and mental state.  Within about a week and a half of not tracking, I was back to hitting PR’s on my lifts and I felt my energy levels come back up.  It’s been nice feeling strong again.  Knee is almost better as well since I’m still modifying exercises, but I know I am well on my way to being 100% again.

I will be honest here as always though.  There have been days where I have second guessed my decision about stopping my cut and felt a HUGE need to jump on MFP just to check where I was at for the day.  Feelings of guilt as well as “quitting”.  There were lots of days that I felt so unsure about my intake, wondering if I had eaten too much protein, not enough carbs, too much fat, not enough fat, not enough calories, too much food, too many nibbles and bites.  When you have relied on tracking EVERY single gram of protein, carb, and fat for a solid 8 months, quitting cold turkey has it’s repercussions.  Logging into MFP a few times a day became my lifestyle and I was happy to do it for those months, don’t get me wrong.  I liked the structure, the planning, seeing what would work for me, and making things fit into my caloric “puzzle”.  So when something (anything) becomes a habit for you, it’s difficult to just turn around and step in an entirely different direction.

However, it was MUCH needed to save my sanity and performance.  I felt like I learned enough about my nutritional needs and goals to fly on my own so again, I’m happy with my decision and know it was the right path for me to take at this point in my journey.  Living my life without any “deadlines” or stress, makes the journey so much more enjoyable.  I’m finally back to doing things strictly because it makes me happy.  I can try new things without worrying how its going to effect my progress, just do things because I want to NOT because I feel like I have to, not feel guilty about missing a workout (OK… I still get a little annoyed when stuff comes up and I have to change my gym plans BUT thats simply because I LOVE lifting and working out).  Overcomplicating my fitness journey towards the end of my cut didn’t do me or my body any good.

So how did I do it?  How was I able to stop tracking but still stay somewhat on “track” for my new goals?

For the most part, it’s actually been pretty simple to tell you the truth.  First, I needed to decide what my new goals were.  Was I going to attempt to continue cutting/dieting to lean out my tummy more (again, that would be the ONLY reason I would continue) OR was I going to try reverse dieting again?  This was probably the only thing I have struggled with the past few weeks.  Part of me still wanted to stay a bit on the leaner side through the Summer, but my heart was really screaming to build/rebuild some muscle & metabolism with a reverse diet.  Instead of me jumping in either direction right from the start, I decided I would first try to maintain where I was at and get used to not tracking.  That took me about a couple of weeks.

In the end, I decided I would go ahead and reverse diet a bit…I would be SLOWLY adding in more carbs and fat back into my daily intake.  Protein has ALWAYS remained relatively the same, regardless of reverse dieting or cutting.  I aim for roughly 1.15-1.25 grams of protein PER pound of body weight so for me, I get about 125-130 grams of protein per day.  Fortunately, I was eating the same basic thing for 4 meals each day of my cut, not because I had to but because I loved my meals.  Breakfast was always a version of my pancake roll ups (99% of the time it was this one), lunch was HUGE salad (romaine, spinach, peppers, chia seeds, corn, avocado, and salsa for dressing), pre workout is oatmeal with 1/4 scoop of Trutein protein and a little fruit, and my last meal of the day is Greek yogurt with Trutein protein, powdered peanut butter, raspberries, and almonds.  So really, the only meal left I had to worry about was dinner and then adjusting amounts of carbs and fats based on the new goals… to BUILD!!!

I started to increase my carbs based around my training since my lifts had been suffering with a lack of fuel.  Instead of having 1/4 cup of oats pre workout, the first week of this reverse diet I increased to 1/3 cup oats, added more fruit, and also had a little handful of cereal with it (all mixed in together).  These 2 small increases made the BIGGESt difference in my performance while training.  No idea if it was just mental or the little boost of food (probably both), but I certainly stopped running out of juice during my lifts.

In addition to the increase in my pre workout meal, I was also much more willing to allow myself a nibble here and there of things like chocolate, a bite of ice cream, etc.  I didn’t go crazy and definitely no binge eating.  The last thing you want to do after dieting is eat like an asshole for days/weeks at a time… I assure you that all the weight/fat you had lost will come right back (and then some probably).  This is a time you need to show restraint and be cautious with your increases.  NO drastic changes.  I needed to make sure I was paying attention to my body and even though I still wasn’t using the scale to measure weight, I had to be aware of my portions.  As always, you must be gentle with your body.

After this first week or two, I felt like my body handled the carb and fat increases really well.  I continued to lift 4-5 days a week for around 45 min-1 hour, cardio 3 times per week for 25-30 minutes.  I was still feeling lean and I don’t think there was a significant increase in weight or fat.

What does all that mean during a reverse diet?

That my metabolism hadn’t suffered too much during my cut (again, thank you initial reverse diet NOT ever crash dieting).  My body was ready to handle further carb and fat increases.  Again, SLOWLY add in food.  I want to maintain as much of my current leanness as I can (while building muscle) so nothing drastic.  No adding in triple portions of pasta, donuts, ice cream, pizza, etc.  Just small adjustments here and there so your body can adjust and metabolism can catch up.  The third week of this reverse diet and not tracking, I added in a sandwich for lunch to accompany my salad and a piece of fruit post workout.  I may or may not have also had Froyo 2-3 times that week 🙂

All in all, this transition from tracking to not tracking has been very smooth for me I think.  I have had my moments of feeling like I needed to see where my calories were at, kicking the “habit” of logging in, but for the most part I’m happy with the last 4 weeks!  More than anything, I’m back to enjoying this journey, my lifting, my eating, and even cardio!  I can’t believe I just said that but it’s true… now that I don’t “have” to do it, I don’t mind doing it!  Hallelujah!!!!  Maybe one day I will even enjoy it?  It’s a stretch, but anything is possible 🙂

Current state of the tummy after 1 month of not tracking just for shits & giggles…Corina Nielsen- Live Fit

In addition to not tracking, I had also made the conscious decision to not weigh myself or check my body fat as frequently as I had been.  No more numbers, no more stress.  Just trying my hardest to pay attention to my body, differentiate between hunger and boredom, eat when I felt like I needed to, be aware of my portions, etc.  The ONLY numbers I am now concerned with is the amount of weight I am pushing & pulling when lifting!  Dumbbell and plate weight, reps, and sets.  That’s all I see now and it feels AWESOME!!!!

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  • Reply
    Emily @ It Comes Naturally Blog
    April 29, 2014 at 7:06 am

    Corina – you are an inspiration. I use MyFitnessPal far too much as a crutch. It’s great that your metabolism hasn’t been affected by the cut, and that your body is crying out to be strong again. Go and smash those PBs!

  • Reply
    August 29, 2015 at 3:32 pm

    Would you recommend the reverse diet if I’m just beginning my weightloss journey or only once I’ve hit a platue?

    • Reply
      September 2, 2015 at 3:36 pm

      If you have eaten in a caloric deficit for a long period of time or have a history of yo yo dieting, then you may want to try simply eating at maintenance and see how your body responds. Most people who diet for long periods of time or do low carb diets have compromised their metabolisms. Reverse dieting and feeding you body more can help restore that. It is also great for breaking through plateaus!

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