The chances are good that you know at least one person who always seems to be on a diet. The odds are also good that although these habitual dieters may achieve some small weight losses, they are among the 95% that always gain it back. Then, discouraged with the failure of their last diet, they quickly embark on the latest “diet of the month” and repeat the cycle.
When fat loss stops or begins to slow down after being in a substantial calorie deficit, most people panic and cut their calories even further. Sometimes this works and it breaks the plateau. More often than not, it digs you into an even deeper metabolic rut. The best thing you can do is to raise your calories for a few days or sometimes even for a few weeks.
Your body’s weight regulating mechanism works both ways: It can decrease your rate of energy expenditure when there is a calorie deficit, or it can also increase its rate of energy expenditure when there is a calorie surplus. When you eat more, your body burns more. A temporary increase in calories when you have hit a plateau will “spike” your metabolic rate. It sends a signal to your body that you are not starving and that it’s ok to keep burning calories.
This practice of raising your caloric intake up and down is known as “cycling” your calories (also known as the “zig-zag” method). In general, the lower you go with your calories, the more important it is to take periodic high calorie days.