Congratulations on making it through the HCG protocol and phase 3! HCG can be really challenging, and it takes focus, discipline, personal growth, and a serious intent to get this far. Yea!
The second 3 weeks after HCG, P4 (P3 – part 2 as some people call it), is just as important as the first three weeks of Maintenance (Phase 3) in stabilizing your weight. I encourage you to take it seriously. Give your body the time it needs to adjust to your new weight, and take time to develop new eating habits.
The information that I have found regarding this phase is pretty confusing. I have read varied & mixed things about it. In Linda Prinster’s book, she calls the second three weeks of Maintenance ‘P3 part 2’ and she calls ‘Phase 4′ the time after the Maintenance Phase, also referred to as ‘on with life’. In other materials, the second 3 weeks of maintenance is called Phase 4 or P4, which is how I learned it. Recently I heard that P4 is considered the entire time between the end of P3 and your next round, so it can be many weeks long.
The part of the protocol that I am referring to in this post is the second 3 weeks of maintenance and I am calling it the start of Phase 4 or P4.
P1: Loading Days
P2: VCLD: weight loss portion
P3: First three weeks of maintenance
P4: Second three weeks of maintenance: sometimes called stabilization, or P3 part 2
After that: On with Life!
What I can tell you is what has worked for me and for others that I have supported. Be sure to read Linda Prinster’s Book and the original protocol regarding HCG, however I have found those books to be pretty vague about this part also.
I have found that it is a good idea to stick with the NO SUGAR & NO STARCHES rule for these three weeks also, except for sweeter fruits and some starchier vegetables. Some books recommend starting to integrate sugars and starches at this time and many people are successful at it. Others even try this in the first three weeks of Phase 3.
I personally think that for this phase of stabilization, it is a good idea to stay away from sugary foods and most starches, and to very slowly test other new foods out. (*see my list below of P4 foods to test). You will note that I have included some starchier and sweeter foods than in P3: I just don’t eat breads, pastas, desserts, etc. In other words, do NOT jump into eating desserts and pastas, flour filled sauces, and other foods that could cause weight gain. I tend to go really slowly, and to err on the side of caution. For me, starting to eat heavier foods at this point is not worth the risk of gaining the weight back. The good news is that after HCG and P3, I really didn’t crave those foods, and found that foods like apples or persimmons became pure decadence.
In addition, this is a great time to teach yourself how to eat differently. The longer you stay away from desserts, pastas, and similar foods, the more you will get used to not having them all the time and you may find that you truly break some habitual eating patterns. Of course, everyone is different, and you have to discover what works best for you.
Many people make the mistake of thinking that HCG (or any weight loss program) is a miracle cure. It is easy to think that you can lose weight, and then go back to your old eating habits and not gain it back. (I am sure that most of us wish that were true!) The big advantage of the HCG protocol is that it gives you a fresh start, however, you do need to change your eating habits if you want to keep the weight off long term.
I do think that is important to use P4 is to continue to stabilize your weight; I don’t think that the three weeks of P3 is enough for many of us. I have found that it takes not only the time in P3, but at least 3 more weeks in P4, and then perhaps 6 -12 or more weeks after that to really set your weight at a new level. After losing weight so quickly on HCG, your body wants to gain it right back. You really need to give yourself time by being really careful for a while, and retrain your body and mind so that your new weight becomes the norm.
I know that my body fluctuated A LOT the first 6 weeks after HCG, and for at least 6 – 12 more weeks after that. Now, 9 months after my last round, my weight is really stable as long as I am thoughtful and conscious about how I eat, but it took awhile to get here.
Please take a moment to read my blog post on going slowly in P3 if you haven’t already.
Tips on P3
The ideas and philosophies that I shared about P3 are the same for P4. By this point, you should have gotten your calorie count up to a stable level for you. Depending on your age and activity level, the ‘sweet spot’ for you (where you get enough food, you feel satisfied and energized, and you don’t gain or lose weight) might be anywhere from an average of 1500 calories a day to about 2500. Dr Simeon and Linda Prinster both recommend that you weigh yourself everyday during these phases and I agree. It keeps you honest and accountable, and helps you see the effects of what you eat.
I also suggest that you count calories. Many people have no idea how much food they are consuming, and it is really easy to overeat. Counting calories for awhile will get you used to eating a healthy amount of food and it will assist you in understanding what is the right amount of food for you. You will quickly understand why you gain weight if you are eating too many calories. (There are many easy to use phone applications that make it simple to keep track. I personally love ‘lose it’ on the iphone.)
I am not much for ‘fact’s and ‘figures’ however, I found it interesting that there are quite a few studies easily found on the web that show that people who count calories and weigh themselves daily after weight loss are more likely to maintain their new weight.
Another way that you can use P3 and P4, along with stabilization, is to discover what makes you gain weight. You can do this by integrating foods very slowly and see what effect different things have on you. You may be surprised at what makes you gain weight and what doesn’t.
For example, I found that almonds almost always make me gain weight, however, I can eat a small portion of peanuts or peanut butter and not gain weight. Don’t ask me why, I have no idea. Most forms of dairy almost always makes me gain weight. Major Bummer 🙁 But butter and cream don’t seem to. It really makes no sense to me, but by integrating foods very slowly during P3, P4, and after, I have learned how to maintain my weight over time by only eating certain foods ‘with caution’, thoroughly enjoying other foods I used to think were ‘off limits’ and being more deliberate in my food choices.
Another reason to integrate foods slowly is so that you can pay close attention to what different foods do to your body and your state of mind. HCG gives you a clean slate. Take this time to discover how different foods affect you; what makes you sleepy, bloated, gain weight, or feel heavy? What foods leave you feeling energized, well fed, comfortable in your body, and good, and clear headed?
The best way that I have found to integrate new foods is to alternate what you eat. Try something new one day and then wait a day to see how you feel and see if your weight fluctuates. In other words, in P4, VERY slowly integrate some new “healthy” carbs (*see the list below), and notice the effect those food have on you.
For example, one day, have some green beans. Wait a day. Then have some almonds. Wait a day, then try a banana. Etc. Let your body accommodate to the new foods slowly. Pay close attention to which foods make you gain weight and which don’t, and what effect different foods have on your moods, energy, and attitude.
I think that it is really important to be careful about not getting into diet mode and trying to cut calories. If you are anything like me, that will just get you back into dieting, and which can certainly contribute to weight fluctuations and low metabolism problems in the first place.
I read recently that people that don’t eat enough during the stabilization phase tend to have the most problems. I like to think of this phase as a template. Your body is now like a blank slate, and you are getting it used to metabolizing food in a healthy way. If you don’t eat enough, your body will gain weight more easily later. Another problem people tend to have is not getting enough real protein; from what I have read and experienced protein seems to really help with long term maintenance.
When you begin P4, you can continue to eat from the list of P3 foods except for anything that seems to make you personally gain weight.
What to eat on P3
Below is a list of foods I have used for myself and suggested to others to test during P4. I only included foods that I might actually eat. This list is only meant to give you an idea of what types of foods to eat and what types of foods to NOT eat.
P4 Foods to test
- Bacon: I would stick with organic and all beef or turkey, rather than the processed stuff. Be sure it has no added sugar.
- Half & Half
- Hot Dogs: I would stick with organic and all beef, all turkey, or all chicken. Be sure that they have no added sugar.
Test with Caution & integrate SLOWLY
- Bamboo Shoots
- Green Beans
- Cheeses: low fat in small amounts
- French Beans
- Nuts: VERY carefully! I find it really easy to quickly overeat any type of nuts. (*see note below on which nuts to avoid, any really fatty nuts)
- Salad Dressings: low fat, non dairy, low sugar, small portions (Make your own with ‘P4 approved’ ingredients)
- Squash: varied types
- Yogurt: plain, low fat or fat free only (try Siggis or Smari Icelandic yogurt with some Vanilla Stevia. YUM!!)
DO NOT EAT OR DRINK THESE FOODS
- Beans & lentils of many types
- Flavored Yogurts
- Fried Foods
- Honey, Molasses, Maple Syrup, Agave
- Pinto or Black Beans
- Refried Beans
- Salad Dressings: pre-made types that are full of sugar or dairy.
- Soy and Soy products (except edamame)
- Alcohol of all types (wine, beer, mixed drinks, etc)
- Drinks with any type of sugar in them, including drinks with honey, etc
- Soy Milk, Almond Milk, Rice Milk, etc
- Heavy whipping cream
- Dried Fruit
- Plaintain Chips
- Any really sweet or high carb/high calorie fruits
Vegetables & Beans
- Corn in any form
- Garbanzo Beans
- Anything starchy
- Macademia Nuts
- All Nuts That Are High In Fats
Flour & Starch
- Almond Flour
- Breads of any type
- Coconut Flour
- Gluten Free Flour: has many types of starch in it (tapioca starch, etc)
- Potatoes: white
- Potatoes: Sweet
- Wheat Flour
- White Flour
- Rice of any type
- Rice cakes
- Tortillas: flour
- Tortillas: Corn
Most Sauces Have Sugar And/Or Flour
- Alfredo Sauce
- Barbeque Sauce
- Curry Sauce
- Teryaki Sauce
- Tomato Puree: unless it is Tomatoes ONLY
- Avoid any season with high amounts of sugar. Many seasonings have sugars and starches added, so be careful!
In addition to integrating foods slowly, I use protein days often during p3 and p4 whenever I need it, as an ‘avoid a steak day’.
How to avoid a Steak Day
I also use Steak Days when needed. I often avoid them by doing protein days regularly, however when needed, I definitely appreciate Steak Days. They work wonderfully.
I completed two rounds, and I stuck really closely to my LIW for the first 16-20 weeks after P2 both times. Anytime my weight hit that 2 pounds up mark, I did a Steak Day. I still use both of these methods to help me maintain my weight long term. They feel great, are easy to do, and are quite effective. 9 months after my last round, I am stable at 3 pounds above my LIW; I credit this to sticking strictly to the protocol for P3 & P4 as I have described, and to staying at my LIW for an extended period of time.
Please don’t take anything I say here as the ‘right’ way to do this. I really encourage everyone to read lots of blogs, read the original protocol, read Linda Prinster’s book, and use HCG Chica’s amazing web site as one of your main resources. Remember that ultimately, your own personal process of trial and error will be your best teacher.
I wish you the best in your ongoing HCG journey! This protocol really can transform your life and your relationship to food and your body if you choose to take it on like that. You have worked really hard to get this far, I say GO FOR IT!
Let me know how it goes!
~inspired girl aka Barbara