The "Reverse Diet": What It Is and How It Works

"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 you're distributing nutrients better." 

Skolnik and her friend Tricia Cunningham came up with a book called The Reverse Diet ($15), where they outline that having a larger, protein-rich meal for breakfast and a small meal come dinnertime (like the size you'd normally have for breakfast) will help you lose weight.

Skolnik continues, "Especially back when we wrote the book, protein wasn't 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 claims to be successful is because it pushes whole versus processed foods, nixes sugary drinks, and encourages more vegetables. And the authors also cite mindfulness within the pages of their book and include a section on setting realistic goals so that readers can manage their expectations throughout the process. 

We wanted to tap another expert's brain to get their take on the diet, so we turned to holistic nutritionist Kelly LeVeque of Be Well by Kelly. Her take? Two thumbs up.

"Front loading your calories in the morning and lightening up dinner is one of the best things you can do to support your body to detox daily and a strong recommendation I make with clients. At Be Well by Kelly, I suggest completely shutting down hunger hormones in the morning (with a #bwbkfab4 meal to keep from binging later in the day." 

If your typical dieting methods are to skip meals and eat a full dinner, LeVeque strongly advises against that. "Fasting all day and eating a big dinner will sabotage your sleep and goals. What can you do? Wake up with the sun, eat a complete breakfast, fill up at lunch and lighten up at dinner."

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.

Ed. note: quotes have been edited and shortened for content.

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