For the average person, a celebrity’s weight loss transformation may be inspiring, but it’s often not something that’s very accessible. Celebrities have access to the best personal trainers, fitness classes and healthy chefs that money can buy. It’s literally their job to look good, so they have more time to devote to it than a regular civilian. On top of that, often the ways that celebrities lose weight aren’t actually healthy habits to adopt, such as extreme calorie restriction or fad diets.
It’s why whenever actress Melissa McCarthy talks about her weight loss journey to the press, it’s a breath of fresh air. Unlike many other celebrities, McCarthy’s weight loss secrets have nothing to do with crazy diets, intense calorie restriction, marathon sessions in the gym or anything else unattainable—and she’s still lost over 75 pounds in the process. Keep reading to find out how McCarthy has lost and kept the weight off and what health experts have to say about it.
McCarthy’s Food Philosophy
McCarthy has spoken out against fad diets. In fact, she says she doesn’t diet at all, instead focusing on eating nutrient-rich foods the majority of the time. The cornerstones of her eating habits include lean protein, fiber, healthy fats and lots of fruit and veggies.
“Fad diets do not work for lasting weight loss because they are too extreme and restrictive to be sustainable,” says Gabbi Berkow, RD, CDN, CPT, a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer. For this reason, focusing on eating nutrient-rich foods the majority of the time, as McCarthy does, works better. Berkow says that in order to lose weight in a healthy way, she recommends eating nutrient-dense foods that are low in calories. That way, you’re getting as much nutritional bang for your buck as possible.
Berkow recommends eating at least one gram of protein per pound of body weight each day, divided into meals and snacks with at least 20 to 30 grams of protein each. “Ample protein is key for staying full and preserving muscle so that the weight you lose is fat, not muscle,” she says. Examples of lean protein sources like what McCarthy prioritizes include white fish, beans, lentils, white meat chicken, Greek yogurt and tofu.
Related: 40 Foods for Weight Loss
Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, a registered dietitian and co-author of Sugar Shock, says that she also never recommends fad diets to people who are trying to lose weight. “When someone is on a fad diet, they usually run into a situation where their dieting rules make them feel left out or craving something that’s off-limits. Then what? Plus, fad diets can make you preoccupied with food, and restricting calories can increase your cortisol production—a stress hormone that can promote weight gain,” she says, adding that this can be both mentally and physically draining.
Like Berkow, Cassetty says that when it comes to losing weight in a healthy way, prioritizing protein and fiber as McCarthy does is key. “One strategy that’s easy to implement is to get ample protein at breakfast. There’s evidence that this helps suppress your appetite and reduce the amount you eat later in the day, so maybe you skip your usual morning snack that adds hundreds of calories to your diet,” she says.
She also reiterates the importance of eating lots of fruits and veggies. “One of the biggest mistakes people make is not giving veggies any love,” she says. “Try adding vegetables to foods like eggs, pasta, and smoothies. These are great vehicles for extra veggies!”
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The Exercise Habit that Helped McCarthy Lose Weight
McCarthy’s weight loss journey didn’t just focus on her diet; movement has played a key role too. The actress told Life & Style that in preparation of her role in Spy, she started working with a martial arts instructor. “Martial arts is pretty intense and requires a lot of strength, so it would burn a lot of calories,” Berkow says.
While both health experts say that exercise is a key part of losing weight, Cassetty says that it’s a myth that your workout routine has to be super hard. “Any movement is good for your body, so pick something you like,” she says. “I suspect that typical gym workouts weren’t appealing to Melissa, and that when she tried martial arts, it made exercise more enjoyable. When you find something you enjoy, you look forward to it and practice it regularly.”
The takeaway here: If you think martial arts—like what McCarthy did—sounds fun, then go for it. But if it doesn’t sound appealing to you, try something else. Ideally, Berkow says strength training should be part of your workout routine. She recommends strength training two to three times a week and doing at least 20 minutes of brisk walking daily. “If you’re just starting to exercise, try walking for at least 10 minutes a day and between 10 to 20 minutes of strength training at least twice a week, with at least one day in between strength training sessions to recover,” she says. But again, she says that what’s most important is to find something you enjoy; otherwise you won’t stick with your exercise routine.
Related: 12 Trainers Share Their Favorite Workouts for Weight Loss—and Yes, Walking Counts!
Mindset Matters, Too
Throughout her weight loss journey, McCarthy does her best not to focus on her weight—or the numbers on the scale. “I have two great kids and the dreamiest husband on the planet, and everything else is just a work in progress,” she told Us Weekly.
Berkow says this type of mindset is something she tries to relay to her clients a lot. “You can’t control the number on the scale. The more you obsess about it, the more stressed out you’ll get—and the more likely you are to stress eat,” she says. “Focus on behaviors you can control: what and how much you eat, how much you exercise, how you manage stress, how much sleep you get, and what you prioritize. There are so many more important lifestyle benefits to making healthy nutrition and exercise changes than just the number on the scale.” In fact, Berkow recommends not weighing yourself every day, both for mindset and also because it’s completely normal for weight to fluctuate from day to day.
As McCarthy’s weight loss journey shows, obsessing over calories or the number on the scale is completely unnecessary for losing weight. There’s a better way to go about it and it’s one that will benefit both your body and your mind.
Next up, read up on 13 reasons why you may not be losing weight. Plus, expert tips on what to do about it.