For years, Melissa McCarthy has been known primarily for her weight and, secondarily, for her roles in popular TV shows, like Gilmore Girls and Mike and Molly. Once known as one of Hollywood’s biggest starts (literally), McCarthy recently dropped 75 pounds for a new role.
How did she do it? We’ll spell out how she changed her diet and what her exercise routine looked like day-by-day so you can see exactly how she pulled off this incredible weight loss.
What is Melissa McCarthy’s Weight Loss Secret?
The secret to Melissa McCarthy’s transformative weight loss is a healthy diet, pure and simple. But not just any diet – it’s a low-carb, high-fat diet known as the Ketogenic Diet (or Keto for short, in the popular parlance).
While Keto diets aren’t implicitly high-protein, upping her protein intake was part of what helped Melissa stay satiated without eating tons of carbs.
Here’s what McCarthy had to say about her history of dieting:
Over the years, Melissa McCarthy’s weight has gone up and down – most people can relate to that. But it wasn’t until she was cast in a new movie that she really took her weight, and her health, seriously.
The Health Benefits of a Low-Carb Diet
A high-protein, low-carb diet worked wonders for Melissa McCarthy, but will it work for you? While many fad diets make unrealistic claims for near-instant weight loss, a high-protein, low-carb diet is backed by science.
One popular version is the Atkins diet – it has helped millions to shed unwanted pounds. But what is the main benefit of a low-carb diet? It kills your appetite, helping you eat less, without starving yourself.
But the benefits of a high-protein, low-carb diet can go much further than that – here, I summarize some benefits associated with this diet:
These are just a few of the many benefits associated with a high-protein, low-carb diet like the one that supported her weight loss. Keep reading to learn more!
What Does Melissa McCarthy’s Diet Look Like?
Melissa McCarthy has become a role model for women everywhere, who have struggled with their weight. She took control of her life and made a commitment to getting healthy. She didn’t cut corners; she worked hard. Here is a list of some changes she made to her diet to accomplish her goals:
- Increased protein intake. To cut her carbohydrate intake, McCarthy consumed more protein – lean protein, to be specific. A high-protein, low-carb diet should comprise around 50% protein from healthy sources, like chicken breast, cage-free eggs, wild-caught fish, and grass-fed meat.
- Staying hydrated. Many people underestimate the importance of staying hydrated, but it is an essential part of any weight loss program. Melissa McCarthy drank a tall glass of lemon water each time she felt hungry. Besides keeping her hydrated, the lemon water helped to fill her stomach, so she ate less at each meal – it also boosted her digestion! If you are trying to stay hydrated, just listen to your body, since it will tell you how much water you should be drinking. The old adage about drinking 8 cups a day may not be the right choice for everyone, so do your best to drink the right amount. A good rule of thumb is to drink when you are feeling thirsty.
- Kick-starting the metabolism. The key to steady weight loss is to keep your metabolism going. Melissa McCarthy kick-started her metabolism each day with a healthy diet and by consuming two cups of green tea with every meal. It is better for your metabolism to consume several small meals throughout the day than to overindulge in two large meals a day.
- Consuming more fiber. One of the biggest challenges Melissa McCarthy faced in previous diets was hunger. She found, however, increasing her consumption of fiber helped keep her feeling full between meals. High-fiber foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and whole grains, are loaded with fiber and other essential nutrients. Try your best to incorporate your favorite fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, so you will have a better chance of sticking to a diet like this.
- Moderating blood sugar. This may be the most powerful aspect of Melissa McCarthy weight loss diet. Many people who are overweight have unbalanced blood sugar levels, which can lead to fluctuation in insulin levels. Keeping your blood sugar steady by avoiding sugary foods and processed foods helps to regulate insulin levels, encouraging the body to burn fat for fuel, instead of sugar. The more protein and fat you consume, the more your body will turn to stored fat as a source of fuel.
- Eating healthy fats. Besides reducing carbohydrate intake, Melissa McCarthy focused on healthy fats as part of a balanced diet. Healthy fats, like olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado, are infinitely better for your body than hydrogenated vegetable oils. The more healthy fat in your diet, the more your body will burn fat for fuel. Keep in mind that your body needs a little fat, so you can feel your best.
Here’s what McCarthy had to say about how she feels about herself now:
A Day in the Life of Melissa McCarthy’s Diet
The secret to Melissa McCarthy’s transformation is simple. She didn’t starve herself, and she didn’t spend a fortune on exotic supplements. She followed a healthy, high-protein, low-carb diet. Here’s what a typical page from McCarthy’s meal plan looks like:
Breakfast: Chicken, Egg Whites, and Smoothie
- 3 ounces grilled chicken breast
- 4 scrambled egg whites cooked with spinach and mushrooms
- Green smoothie made with kale, apple, almond milk, and chia seeds
Mid-Morning Snack: Fish and Veggies
- 4 ounces grilled fish
- 1 cup steamed broccoli and carrots
- 1 large glass lemon water
Lunch: Chicken, Quinoa, and Veggies
- 6 ounces grilled chicken breast
- 1 cup steamed quinoa
- 1 cup steamed mixed veggies
- 2 cups hot green tea
Dinner: Beef and Veggies
- 6 ounces grilled grass-fed lean beef
- 1 cup steamed mixed veggies
- 1 large glass lemon water
Evening Snack: Yogurt with Nuts
- 6 ounces plain Greek yogurt
- 1 ounce toasted almonds
- 1 large glass lemon water
Besides following a high-protein, low-carb diet, McCarthy changed her lifestyle. One of her more surprising weight loss secrets is sleep. McCarthy has been quoted saying, “The real secret is a super-boring life… go to bed at 7:30pm. That’s the trick.” Another important element of Melissa McCarthy’s weight loss secret is – you guessed it – exercise.
What Does Melissa McCarthy’s Fitness Plan Look Like?
If you saw a picture of McCarthy dressed for her role in The Boss, you might not expect her to be capable of any real exercise. But you don’t know that McCarthy follows a non-traditional workout regimen that incorporates elements of martial arts and kickboxing.
McCarthy has said, time and time again, she wouldn’t be caught dead on a treadmill. And so, she adopted a unique workout plan that wasn’t just effective – it was fun, too.
Melissa McCarthy’s fitness plan incorporated a blend of cardio and resistance training exercises. To burn calories, she performed martial arts and used a rowing machine. For strength training, she used a combination of bodyweight exercises and resistance exercises that targeted her major muscle groups.
McCarthy alternated between days of cardio exercise and strength training, giving her muscles time to rest and repair between workouts.
Here’s a sample of what McCarthy’s weekly workout plan looks like:
- Monday: Total body workout incorporating different bodyweight exercises, such as push-ups, wall sits, jumping-jacks, air squats, walking lunges, and crunches.
- Tuesday: Cardio workout comprising 30 minutes rigorous martial arts training and 15 minutes on a rowing machine.
- Wednesday: Lower body workout comprising various resistance training exercises to work the legs and glutes. Exercises included: dumbbell squats, dumbbell walking lunges, barbell deadlift, barbell step-ups.
- Thursday: Cardio workout comprising 30 minutes rigorous martial arts training and 15 minutes of burpees (45 seconds movement followed by 15 seconds rest, repeated 15 times).
- Friday: Upper body workout comprising various resistance training exercises to work the arms, back, and shoulders. Exercises included: dumbbell bench press, dumbbell shoulder press, dumbbell upright row, dumbbell tricep extension, chair dips.
- Saturday: Cardio workout comprising 45 minutes rigorous martial arts training and 15 minutes on a rowing machine.
- Sunday: Stretching and 45 minutes of yoga.
Here’s what McCarthy has said about her weight in the past:
How Can You Try Melissa McCarthy’s Diet for Yourself?
If you are struggling to lose weight, follow Melissa McCarthy’s example and give the high-protein, low-carb diet a try.
For many people, the hardest part of starting a new diet is… starting a new diet, (see other inspiring weight loss stories here).
Changing your eating habits can be overwhelming at first, but you may find it easier if you start by learning exactly which foods you should be eating.
Remember, McCarthy’s diet is about more than just reducing carbohydrate intake – it’s also about maximizing your intake of lean protein and healthy fats.
Here is a list of foods you should avoid while following this diet:
- Sugary foods (cakes, candies, snacks, etc.)
- Processed foods (snack bars, potato chips, cereal bars, etc.)
- Starch (potatoes, pasta, bread, etc.)
- Sweetened beverages (soda, sports drinks, energy drinks, etc.)
- Processed grains (wheat, rice, barley, etc.)
- Unhealthy fats (margarine, butter, vegetable oil, etc.)
- Diet foods and low-fat foods
The foods you SHOULD eat include fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, lean proteins, and healthy fats. You can also eat healthy carbohydrates in small amounts, such as whole grains (like quinoa) and some starchy vegetables (like squash and sweet potatoes).
What’s the Deal with Fat?
You’ve probably been raised to think fat is bad – no exceptions. But fat comes in many shapes and forms. When you think of fat, you might picture a greasy hamburger or a bowl of ice cream. But there are healthy fats as well!
So, where does fat fit in with a high-protein, low-carb diet? It’s right there in the middle.
At this point, you may be a little confused. Eating fat makes you fat, right? Not exactly. You get fat by eating more calories than your body can burn daily, and fatty foods are the foods highest in calories. It doesn’t matter what kind of food it is; however, if you overindulge too frequently, you will gain weight.
What you may be surprised to learn is that eating more fat can help you to LOSE weight! But it’s all about eating the right fat. The keyword you need to know to understand how consuming more fat can help you lose weight is the word “ketogenic.”
The word “ketogenic” comes from the word “ketosis”, which is a state the body enters when it burns fat for fuel, instead of glucose. If your diet is focused primarily around carbohydrates, your body will derive most of its energy from glucose, since carbs are broken down into glucose molecules by the digestive system. But if you eat fewer carbs and more fats, your body will burn ketones for fuel, instead of glucose.
Ketones are molecules produced by the liver as an alternative fuel source. These molecules can be used throughout the body, but they are particularly beneficial for the brain.
The brain requires a massive amount of energy every day, and it can utilize both glucose and ketones, but ketones are actually a more efficient fuel source for the brain. And when your brain is running more efficiently, the rest of your body will benefit.
So, how do you encourage your body to switch to a state of ketosis? You simply switch from eating mostly carbohydrates to eating mostly fat and protein.
When your body no longer has a ready supply of glucose for energy, it will tap into your stored fat reserves for fuel. This is why a low-carb diet can be so effective for fat loss.
Following a ketogenic diet, like the low-carb diet, is not just an excellent tool for weight loss – it can also benefit your health in other ways.
Bottom Line: A ketogenic diet can be very beneficial for your health and your weight, contributing to significant improvements that can reduce your risk for chronic disease.
So, how do you follow a ketogenic, low-carb diet? Besides reducing your consumption of the high-carb foods already listed, try to include more healthy fats in your diet.
This includes foods like fatty fish (salmon, trout, and tuna), whole eggs, unprocessed cheese, nuts and seeds, avocado, extra-virgin olive oil, and coconut oil. Just remember to aim for a balance in your diet of low carbohydrate intake and higher protein and fat intake.
To give you a taste of what a ketogenic diet might look like, here are a few sample recipes:
Breakfast: Classic Western Omelet
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon canned coconut milk
- Salt and pepper
- 1 teaspoon coconut oil
- ½ small yellow onion, chopped
- ½ small green pepper, chopped
- 2 ounces diced ham
- 1 ounce natural shredded cheddar cheese
- Whisk together the eggs and coconut milk in a small bowl then season with salt and pepper.
- Melt the coconut oil in a small skillet over medium heat.
- Add the onions, green pepper, and diced ham and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Pour in the egg mixture and let it cook for 1 to 2 minutes until the egg sets.
- Sprinkle the cheese over the omelet and fold it in half.
- Allow the omelet to cook for another minute until the egg is set then slide it onto a plate to serve.
Lunch: Creamy Cauliflower Soup
- 6 slices uncooked bacon, chopped
- 1 ½ pounds cauliflower florets
- 4 ¼ cups vegetable stock
- 1 cup canned coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- Salt and pepper
- Cook the chopped bacon in a skillet over medium-high heat until crisp.
- Remove the bacon to a bowl using a slotted spoon then reheat the skillet and add the cauliflower florets.
- Cook the cauliflower for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often, then pour in the vegetable stock.
- Bring the stock to a boil and cook until the cauliflower florets are tender.
- Add the coconut milk and Dijon mustard then season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Turn off the heat then puree the soup using an immersion blender until smooth.
- Adjust seasoning to taste and serve garnished with chopped bacon.
Dinner: Lemon Herb Baked Salmon
- 3 pounds boneless salmon fillet
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- ½ teaspoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 large lemon, sliced thin
- Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with foil then spray with cooking spray.
- Brush the salmon fillet with olive oil then season with salt and pepper.
- Combine the herbs in a small bowl then sprinkle liberally over the salmon.
- Layer the lemon slices on top of the salmon and place it on the baking sheet.
- Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until the flesh flakes easily with a fork.
- Serve the salmon hot with fresh lemon wedges on the side.
Melissa McCarthy is a testament to the fact that hard work pays off. By following a low-carb, high-protein diet and committing to a regular workout routine, McCarthy shed 75 pounds and transformed her body and her health. By putting some of the same principles to work in your life, you can achieve the same amazing transformation!
- The Atkins Diet: Why It Works. Atkins.com.
- Borreli, Lizette. Benefits Of Drinking Water: H2O Nourishes The Digestive System, Helps With Fluid Balance. Medical Daily, 13 July 2016.
- Chart of high-fiber foods. Mayo Clinic.
- Harding, Anne. Good Fats, Bad Fats: How to Choose. Explore Health, 10 May 2013.