I’ve been recently reading several  research reports about something I hear all the time and questions I get a lot regarding fat loss and one thing I hear a lot is “I’m eating so good and I’ve cut my calories down and I’m not losing any more weight I don’t know what else to do”  Yes! It’s a plateau and it’s frustrating and the answer I have for you is going to sound crazy but it works.

You see it’s impossible to cut down on calories for too long and still lose weight, much less fat loss, which are two different things.  You can lose weight but still be fat, why? because you haven’t gained lean muscle and you have probably restricted your calories way too much that your body is just not going to let you starve yourself and get away with it, at least not for long. 

Your body needs fuel and that comes from the food you eat and its calories, of course you want calories from the right foods and you don’t want to restrict your calories too much for too long, I usually recommend to my clients no less than 1200 a day.   But you also have to take your current size, the bigger you are the more your body will need to function during the day.  A good resource to use is  myfitnesspal.com this will give you a starting point.  It has also been proven that there’s a better success rate when you journal your food. Everything you put into your mouth counts, there’s a saying  “if you bite it, you write it.”  Every little bit is calories.

So now you have your daily calorie intake you need to be exercising right?  But on those days you need to be increasing your calories in order for your body to have enough energy to get through the workout, recover and repair.  So you need to be sure to fuel your body before and immediately after. You want to build lean muscle so your metabolism will increase and burn even more calories even while at rest, so don’t worry those extra calories are going to get burned up and you’ll preserve your lean muscle.

So what’s next? Well with restricted calorie intake it’s hard to not crave your favorite foods right?  We all have those days we want something yummy that is not so healthy, even I have them, sometimes more than I would likeJ  So what is the answer?  Incorporate “Cheat Days” yes it’s ok to eat that cheese burger and pizza or hot wings, many of you have seen me do it.  Sounds crazy but it is true and important for many reasons one be our sanity and being able to stick with this new lifestyle.    

So really how does this work to your advantage? I am pretty sure you want to know because if you love food the way I do you don’t want to be deprived at parties or when you go out with family and friends because you are on a “diet” I hate that word, because that usually translates to something temporary and weight loss is not something you want to be temporary, right?  We want it off and to stay that way.  It should be a lifestyle goal to maintain.  Fad diets just don’t work, I don’t care what people say, check back with them in about a year and see how it’s going.  I bet they will say something like “I lost 25 pounds but things got crazy and I don’t know what happened, but it worked for me”.  No not really right it was only temporary.

In order to understand how cheat meals help, you need to understand how your metabolism works. Again the things I suggest are never diets, they are a new way of living, something you should get used to doing on a regular daily basis.  You will still be able to enjoy foods you love and maybe even more because you will have control over your choices.  But you will need discipline and commitment in order to succeed.  It’s not only about moderation, but what foods you eat together and when, timing makes a difference between just a little weight loss or a LOT!!

So here are some tricks I have learned from so many great articles written by very well respected nutritionists and trainers alike.  When you do a “diet” that restricts your calorie intake way too low and for too long you are actually doing yourself more harm than good.  As I mentioned  your body needs a certain amount of calories to just function, to breath, pump your heart, moving around and keeping your body warm. So when you restrict more calories than your body needs, you will lose weight, at first, but you will also begin to have less energy, probably get headaches and just feel awful.  What’s happening is your body is thinking you are starving yourself, which you are, so it will go into survival mode and slow down your metabolism, slow down fat burning and increase fat storing hormones, and that’s the problem.

One of the major players in fat burning is the hormone leptin, I love these guys but they are tricky, they are abundant when you eat high calories and tell your body to burn fat.  But when you restrict your calories too much and for too long you go into survival mode and the leptin decreases and tells your body its starving and needs to hold on to the fat survive. 

Leptin is regulated by your calorie intake, high calorie intake means high leptin levels, low calorie intake means low levels of leptin, which means slow metabolism and fat burning, something you don’t want right?

So what do we do about this?  We know that to lose weight we need to decrease calories to a safe level and eat the right calories as well, but we also need to keep those leptin levels high so we will continue to burn fat.  But wait I just said you need to eat lots of calories,  Ahhhhh!!… just doesn’t seem possible…but it is!  Why because it takes about a week for the leptin levels to decrease and only about 24 hours to increase the levels, thus the “Cheat Meal”. 

One really good example of how to do this is the 21 Day Belly Blast meal plan.  You start with a detox, which yes is very low calorie on the first three days but not long enough to do any harm, then you start eating more healthy food , still somewhat low calorie so your leptin levels are starting to decrease but enough time to see a big dip in your weight.  Then it tapers off a bit but then comes your cheat day.  I really have to tell my clients go out eat whatever you want and don’t feel guilty, enjoy it, they often don’t want to but again it’s important for fat loss.  You are doing your body good, I promise.  So now those leptin levels go up and you’ll be burning fat again, just what you wantedJ

So now you know you can have your cake and eat it tooJ Go out eat that cheese burger, pizza or tacos because you can enjoy the foods you love you’ll just have to learn to schedule your cheat days and eat healthy on the other days.  You can do this, so far the 21 Day Belly Blast program has helped many of my clients to lose those extra pounds and see results a lot faster than other programs. 

So next time someone tells you about some quick fix crazy diet, think twice about it and research it because if it’s something temporary without a long term sustainable plan then don’t do it, if it sounds crazy it probably is.  But the 21 Day Program is one that you can maintain and that will help you lose that unwanted fat.

So remember you can lose weight if you do it correctly it’s not just about lowering calories it’s about the way you lower calories and adding in foods you love at least once a week.  Enjoy!

Get Fit, Get Strong, Live Long!!

Victoria McCullough

Her Strength Fitness



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