I’ve lost 46 pounds in 3 months, but now the scale is stuck. A friend says cheat days can help bust a plateau. True?

Absolutely! Cheat days can be a great way to counteract the most common cause of weight-loss plateaus: declining levels of the hormone leptin. This hunger—and metabolism—regulating hormone is produced and secreted by fat cells, but as you trim inches from your body, fat cells’ output of this hormone naturally drops. And when that happens, the body shifts into a “starvation state”, where hunger increases and fat burning slows.

When you add higher-calorie cheat days into your slimming plan, though, you “trick” the body into producing more leptin. In fact, cheat days have been shown to boost leptin levels by as much as 50 percent for 24 hours. The result: Appetite eases and the body’s fat-burning rate revs.

For best results, I suggest indulging in one cheat day every four days. To do: For 12 hours, enjoy all the treats you desire, then resume your normal slimming diet. It’s also wise to eat plenty of foods rich in healthy fats (like omega-3-rich fish, olive oil, almonds, walnuts and flaxseeds) on your cheat days. Healthy fats have been shown to be particularly effective at increasing the body’s sensitivity to leptin and raising leptin levels. You should notice and uptick in slimming after your second or third cheat day.

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