We've all been there: It's day two of your new clean eating plan, the coffee withdrawal has kicked in, and you can't stop thinking about McDonald's french fries. Your colleague innocently suggests Nando's for lunch. She didn't do anything wrong, you remind yourself with clenched fists before mustering up a half-hearted smile and a feeble "No thanks!" Why did you decide to do this again?
No, it's not you. It might not even be the diet plan you chose, at least not specifically. It's science—from cravings to fatigue to an initial loss of water weight, there's sort of a blueprint for the way your body reacts to a new, cleaner eating plan. And knowing exactly what to expect might just make it easier to navigate and power through that first initial challenge to find health and happiness on the other side; trust us—it's there. (Again, science.)
Take a look:
During those first few days, your body still isn't used to your different food intake, which is why your hunger hormone levels go into overdrive to compensate. Powering through this initial challenge is crucial (it gets so much better, promise), and it's a little easier if you go on the offensive: Rather than diving right into your new meal plan, start slowly by phasing out off-limits foods a few days before. When you're in the thick of it, plan smaller meals or snacks every few hours, and start the day with a protein-packed breakfast—research says doing so helps curb cravings for the remainder of the day.
There could be a few different factors at play here: If you gave up coffee but are usually a three-cups-a-day kind of gal, then there's your answer right there. (Psst: Vitalife Japanese Matcha Green Tea, £26, is a great energising alternative.) If you're restricting carbs, it's going to take a few days for your body to adjust, since it's used to using those sugars for energy. A too-low calorie intake could be to blame for fatigue as well—not to mention it might actually backfire and cause weight loss to stall. Even as you clean up your diet, make sure you're still eating enough.
And sleep! Take the excuse to clock in more shut-eye.
Annoyingly enough, bad breath and body odor are actually common side effects of fat loss—especially if you're following a low-carb diet. If you're not purposely aiming for ketosis, consider phasing some healthy carbs back into your diet. Otherwise, stock up on gum and deodorant, friend.
Losing muscle mass?
Fueling yourself with more protein is the easiest way to maintain your muscle tone. If you're logging cardio-centric workouts, consider cutting back and adding in strength training instead.
Hit a plateau?
As you lose weight, your body actually requires fewer calories to function, and it also begins to regularize to your new diet and physical activity level. The easiest way to keep things from stalling is switching up your fitness and what you're eating. Never miss a spin class? Try out boot camp instead. Getting by on three square meals per day? Make that six small ones. Don't be afraid to experiment—everyone is different. And most important, don't make yourself crazy about it!
Did you know that your body reacts like this to a diet? Got any tips for getting through those first three days or breaking out of a plateau? Sound off below!