So you've made it through the HCG diet, congratulations! You've finally dropped all the weight you worked so hard to lose and have reached a number that you're comfortable to work to maintain and are happy with your results. And don't let anyone tell you that this isn't an accomplishment worthy of praise, the HCG diet has been started and left half-done or completely abandoned by many people; so getting through such a grueling caloric deficit is certainly something to brag about!
But just to avoid any confusion, I will go ahead and list out the stages of the HCG diet for clarity's sake.
Stage one is the loading days, where you bulk, cleanly, to facilitate the weight loss to come.
Stage two is the phase most widely known, the caloric deficit phase in which your diet is harshly restricted.
Stage three is the first three weeks of maintenance, also known as stabilization to some, in which you steady increase the scope and calorie count of your diet.
And finally, stage four is when your weight settles, you reintroduce sugars and starches into your diet, and you make the lifestyle changes that allow for you to maintain this weight for the rest of your life.
And here is normally we would go into the mental game of a diet, things such as urges to eat the wrong foods, being hungry when bored, lack of portion control, and other such things. But, as this is written for someone who's finished the HCG diet, we'll treat the matter with more of a scientific approach, as the mental toughness needed to finish the HCG diet should be more than enough to help you to fight the craving to get up in the middle of the night and ruffle through the freezer for a guilt inducing serving of ice cream.
This, of course, is not to say that you can't splurge from time to time. With a lower weight and more active lifestyle, your metabolism will naturally be higher, so you won't gain weight as quickly as you would have previously. So a fast food meal and a Sunday won't be the end of the world, but you should certainly not go overboard; especially for multiple days in a row.
But even if you do gain a bit after an ill-advised cheat or some time spent vacationing either on the couch at home or abroad, you can correct the next few days by taking a quick dip into phase three, removing starches and sugars from your diet, and restricting your calories a bit. Feel free to fall back onto an apple or steak day as well if the pounds are a bit stubborn coming off.
Phase 4 is the rest of your life, unless you plan on another round on the HCG diet protocol, and it's essentially the careful dieting of phase 3 with a slow build up to a calorie count that you can maintain both mentally, and physically, for the rest of your days without going crazy. Make sure that when you add these calories, you do so slowly. Depending on your age and activity level, the "sweet spot" for you (where you get enough food, you feel satisfied and energized, and you don't gain or lose weight) might be anywhere from an average of 1500 calories a day to about 2500.
Everybody has a limit as to how many carbs and calories they can consume without gaining, especially if you don't separate healthy carbs from unhealthy.
Now, to break this down, carbs themselves are usually comprised of either sugar, starch, fiber, or a combination of them. Carbs are usually listed on most nutrition labels easily within view. On that label they are broken down into sugars and fiber. What's left after you add those two up is the starches. Sugars, fibers, and their effects on the body are well known but starches are bit less well known.
Starches are long complex chains of single sugars, which is why they are called "complex carbs". It used to be thought that complex carbs didn't raise blood sugar like sugar did, but it's suggested now in certain studies that some starches are actually worse than some sugars. In fact, in certain people, all starch is worse than sugar. This is one of the reasons Dr. Simeons was sure to keep starches out of the diet in phase 3, as most starchy foods are rapidly broken down into sugars. It's also why you should keep your starch intake to mostly come from vegetables, rather than lots of beans and grains that are high in starch.
As for fiber, it's also a bit more complicated than if you were to take it at face value. Fiber is also known as roughage, which is the indigestible part of plant foods that pushes through your large intestines, absorbing fluid along the way and helping to keep you regular. Fiber is made up of non-starch polysaccharides, such as cellulose, dextrins, inulin, lignin, chitins, pectins, beta-glucans, waxes and oligosaccharides.
There is more than one type of fiber, two mainly. Soluble and insoluble. Rather obviously, soluble dissolves in water, while insoluble doesn't. No fiber can be digested, but soluble fiber changes as it goes through your intestines, where it is fermented by bacteria and absorbs water, and becomes gelatinous. Insoluble fiber goes through the digestive track without changing.
But with all that said, carbs are not all bad. However, there are many kinds, and eating the wrong kinds can have long-term effects on your body, causing diseases, weight gain, and even an early death.
A significant number of overweight people are both insulin resistant (IR), and leptin resistant. What does this mean? Well, in fact, most of us are likely to be somewhat resistant to insulin. It is just a matter of degree. The more processed and refined food that we eat, the more insulin we require to metabolize it (and this can happen over years of poor eating habits, or even "healthy" eating that includes lots of simpler carbs). The more insulin in our blood, the less responsive our cells become. As we age, this continual exposure wears out our tolerance for refined carbohydrates and reduces our sensitivity to insulin. So we gain weight, our cells cannot process the insulin, and we produce more fat. And, if that isn't bad enough, when we become insulin resistant, we also tend to become leptin resistant as well.
Now, leptin is the appetite hormone; so the implications of resistance to it are unfortunately obvious. Your brain's eating 'off' switch doesn't work as well as it should, and it takes longer for your body to realize that it's full when you eat. And though this may lead to overeating and is caused by processing too many sugary foods, it can be fixed. With elbow grease and time, as it certainly won't be instant, your body can be retrained.
The HCG protocol helps you reduce insulin and leptin resistance, but not by much during the actual phase 2 caloric restriction. But during phase 3 and 4, with proper discipline and correct food choices it can be very helpful in lowering insulin resistance, even if you have been that way for years.
It may take time, more than all the phases of a full HCG diet, as that depends on the degree of resistance from person to person, so you may have to eat an anti-resistance diet for possible years before you body re balances.
And honestly, it may be tough to wrap your head around initially, but any amount of thought should lead you to the conclusion that a few chocolate chip cookies a week are not worth the risk of diabetes or other similar diseases.
And while there is no 'right' way for everyone, there are certainly guidelines for maintaining a healthy diet.
Drinking water as an alternative to sodas or other sugary drinks will always be recommended, as it's critical to the healthy functioning of your body.
Minimizing fast food is also essential. They tend to be loaded with fats, carbs, and sodium as well as sugars and starches. If you must eat fast food, make sure that it's one of very few cheat meals in that period of time, and to return quickly to a more healthy diet.
When drinking water, make sure it's not just straight from the tap. A filter is essential to making sure your water isn't full of minerals that is common to water straight from the city to your glass.
Maintaining some sort of exercise program, even if it's as simple as walking. Every. Day. Keeping your heart healthy is vital in living a long and happy life, and it makes sticking to your caloric goal that much easier.
Now, this article certainly isn't the end-all-be-all of how to live a healthy life, as was stated before, there is no real 'right' way of going about healthy lifestyle changes. Make sure to follow the original protocol, and use the resources available from the internet and the wealth of experience from people who came before and walked our path. But always remember, consistency is the key. You don't want to fluctuate the rest of your life, you want to maintain the discipline required to be happy and healthy for the rest of your days.