The beginning of a weight loss program is pretty straightforward. If you eat less and exercise more, you tend to drop pounds at a fairly consistent clip. This is because when you instill healthy habits, you bring your nutrient and hydration levels back to normal and this creates a flushing effect on your body. This results in dumping excess water and undigested food, generally leading to good results out of the gate.

Next, under-feeding your body and exercising simultaneously trains your body to use its fat stores for energy more efficiently. For a while, this results in increased performance, which leads to further weight loss.

But then something counterintuitive happens. Your body composition?ratio of muscle to fat tissue?changes, further increasing your metabolism. While as logical as 1, 2, 3, the process results in a situation where you need to eat more in order for your weight loss to continue, something that?s always hard for first-time dieters to adjust to.

This can happen long before you?re at your final stage of weight loss, but that?s irrelevant. Once your state of fitness indicates you need to eat more, follow the steps below in order to keep the weight falling off and your six-pack chiseling into form.

1. Lose weight slowly. You probably lost weight quickly when you began working out but you need to redesign your attack on the last hurrah. By targeting a 1 to 2 pound per week loss, you can eat enough to fuel workout performance and recovery, which will keep your metabolism revving, which is the key to everything you?re after. Shoot for a caloric deficit of 300?600 calories a day. Sometimes less, but never more. That means DO NOT eat less than 1200 calories a day!

2. Zigzag your calories. Also called ?refeeding? in bodybuilding lexicon, zigzagging means eating more calories on some days and less on others to determine that number of calories that works best for your goals. For example, if you?ve been eating a low-calorie diet you can assume you need to add calories. To find out how many, try increasing by 300?600 a day (depending on your size). Eat that way 4 days per week while keeping calories where they are now on the others. Pay very close attention to your body?s performance and keep zigzagging up (or down, it works both ways) until your performance and recovery feel right (workouts are great, sleep great, weight moving how you?d like, etc.). This will mean you?re at your weight loss (or gain) sweet spot. Keep in mind that, as your fitness increases, so do your caloric needs. Zigzagging should be done periodically (every month or so) as your training and fitness is increasing (or decreasing, but we?re not talking about that here).

3. Train on an empty stomach. Work out three to five hours after your last meal (depending on the size of your meals). This ensures you?ve been able to convert that meal to muscle glycogen, so you can train your hardest and maximize your body?s ability to use fat for fuel. A University of Birmingham study bolstered the effects of this long-time sports practice in 2010.

4. Eat small meals often. One of the oldest weight loss tricks in the book is to eat less, more often, to keep your blood sugar steady in order to stave off bingeing. In spite of the proven effects of different methods, particularly intermittent fasting, it?s still the go-to protocol when weight loss is the be-all-end-all goal.

5. Train easy after a longer fasting period. Adding some morning exercise on an empty stomach also improves fat mobilization and is a good way to burn some extra calories and not negatively affect your hard training session of the day. When you?re looking to cut the last few pounds, this ?trick? is effective, but be careful. Too much exercise, especially when your diet is lean on calories, can make you catabolic (burning muscle as well as fat) and that?s something you probably don?t want. The catabolic risk means that this is probably not a great tactic for those with figure and bodybuilding goals, and should be saved for those whose ultimate goal is weight off of the scale. Note that this is the reason we have an FAQ for what to do when you?re bonking when you do your hardest workout upon waking up(small carb snack before or more complex carbs at dinner is the answer).

6. Get enough protein. Not only is protein vital for muscle building; high-protein diets increase the body?s ability to burn fat for fuel. While the notion of needing a gram of protein per pound of body weight has been disproven for performance, it?s a good strategy for cutting diets or last hurrahs, as Tony Horton likes to call them.

7. Don?t cut out carbohydrates. Strategic use of carbohydrates for fuel is vital for performance, and performance is how you gauge how your diet is working. While dramatically cutting down your carb consumption can be helpful in the initial stages of weight loss because your body isn?t fit enough to train very hard, it?s a huge mistake to cut carbs once you?re fit. Carbs fuel both your muscles and your brain. They are also more muscle-sparing (slowing muscle breakdown) than either proteins or fats when you?re training, so you need them so that you don?t go catabolic (see tip #5). Carbohydrate intake should be strategic, however, since excessive carbs are stored in adipose tissue (visible body fat). Somewhere in the 40% area, depending on your training, is best for this stage in your nutrition arsenal.

8. Don?t cut out fat. Dietary fat is vital for performance-enhancing hormone production, which is key for both muscle gain and fat loss. Studies indicate that diets consisting of less than 15% fat can inhibit testosterone production (the male gold standard in natural PEHs), and a safe range for dietary fat seems to be the 20?25% range. Since fats have more than double the calories of proteins and carbs, keeping them this low means your diet should hyper-focus on the healthiest choices: fish, avocados, olives, nuts, and seeds.

9. Do cut out junk. Look, there?s just no simple way to get your body to weigh less than it naturally wants to, which is what you?re attempting when you go for a chiseled look, without some sacrifice. Notice I just cited the importance of every macronutrient food group. Junk foods have no importance, except (arguably) for pleasure. If you want to nail the tips above, something?s got to go.

10. Periodizationally diet. Periodizational dieting is eating differently throughout the year with different goals. Essentially, don?t keep your diet super-lean all the time. Like your fitness training, it?s good to have some variation. Periodizational dieting is eating for what you do, and you?re not always competing (which is what you?re doing when you?re trying to be a chiseled as possible). Make sure there are periods in each year when you eat more. Using this example, adding carbs and reducing protein is where you?ll start. All athletes spend at least part of the year eating all they want (within reason), perhaps even more than they need, to ensure they have the reserves to train as hard as they can. Fighting weight, race weight, or competition shape is a phase. Bodybuilders and fitness trainers don?t walk around in contest shape all the time. It?s not because they?re lazy. In a recent online chat Shaun Thompson said he doesn?t like the feeling of being in Insanity Max 30?shape all the time as it?s too draining. Six-packs look awesome in photos and impress your friends at reunions, but your body functions better with a little more ?reserve.?

I am SO close to me goal weight and I am definetly going to take some of these tips into caccount