We’ve all stepped on the scale after doing a juice cleanse for a few days and were impressed with the reading on the display.” WOW, I’m down 4 kilograms! So, why can’t I get into these jeans?” You moan, as you suck in your gut and strain to do up the button. No amount of rationalizing is going to make those jeans fit. The weight you lost was either water or muscle. In fact, if you have been avoiding or minimizing your food intake for a long time or haven’t been eating the appropriate nutrients to stimulate fat loss, you might be GAINING fat, even though the scale shows a weight loss.

One pound of fat contains 3,500 calories, so to lose 1 pound of fat in a week, you need to eliminate 3,500 calories (500 calories per day) from your diet or burn off that much through exercise. Better yet, combine the two. Get more exercise and eat less. This is standard knowledge, but we often ignore it. The big misconception is that by drastically reducing your food intake, you’ll lose more weight and fat. Yes, you will, but to a point. After about three days of severe calorie deprivation, your body will think there’s a famine going on and start to hold on to – you guessed it – the fat. So, the longer you starve yourself, the less weight you will lose and the more fat you will gain.

“If I’m eating less fat, and less everything else, why am I storing more fat?” you ask. The fact is, you are now losing muscle. Fat is more calorie-dense than carbs or proteins, so the body holds on to it for dear life so it will have the fuel for the basic metabolic functions like—breathing.

So what’s the answer?

Your muscles are the furnace that burns fat. By building more muscle, you’ll be able to stoke your metabolism and burn more fat. When you starve yourself for a period of time, your body goes into what is called a “catabolic” state, where it stores more fat to provide more energy, and burns more muscle for immediate fuel.

For a weight and fat loss program to work, you’ll need to cut down only a little eating and exercise a little more. Sure, it would be nice to drop those fat pounds fast, but it’s not realistic. Five hundred calories sounds like a lot, and if you are used to eating very little, it is. However, if you are currently overeating, the daily reduction won’t be too hard, and you’ll fit into those jeans in no time.