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When I first started lifting weights and cleaning up my diet, I did so because I wanted to gain healthy weight, feel strong and get my vitality back. But it was no easy road. I tried every diet going. I did the typical ‘healthy’ bodybuilder style diet of protein shakes and carbs with every meal, but I just felt horrid.I spent most of my life meal-prepping and cooking. I battled with bloat and water retention. I’d have to nap after every meal. But it was all in the name of gains, right? Because this is apparently what it takes to get in shape… Or so I thought, until I found a better way.The low carb high fat (LCHF) lifestyle changed my life… because it made everything easier. I finally got my freedom & vitality back… and the best bit is that I didn’t have to give up my pizza & red wine either.

Carbs are not the devil, but you still need to know the facts!

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​Low carb does not mean NO carb

But before we go into detail as to why low carb rocks, let me just make a point. ‘Low carb’ does not mean NO carbs. Remember, I said I didn’t have to give up my beloved pizza and red wine? That’s because it’s not about cutting food groups out altogether, it just comes down to smart timing and smart choices.Not all carbs are created equal and we don’t actually need huge amounts of them to fuel our bodies and build muscle. In fact, it’s far less than you think. The body can only handle about 5g – that’s only ONE TEASPOON – of sugar in the blood stream per meal sitting, before things start to go a little crazy. Have a read of Dr. Eades take on how much sugar you should actually be eating without sabotaging your health.Healthy fats are a far better option for fueling your body (and more delicious imo)… did someone say bacon?! Sounds totally nuts, right? But, if you’re a woman who lifts weights and what you’re currently doing isn’t working for you, then read on. Here are 5 reasons why you need to start doing LCHF to get the body & health that you deserve.

1. No more yo-Yo ‘cut & bulk’ to get in shape

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Can you build muscle & lose fat at the same time?

You want to build muscle and grow curves in all the right places (hello booty gains). But you also want to be lean enough to get some tummy definition (hello abs). Yet the general consensus in the health & fitness world is that you can’t have both at the same time. But this is only true if you eat a typical low fat high carb Western diet.

The ‘bulking phase’

First, you have to do a ‘bulking’ period of ‘eating for gainzzz’ (normally carbs and a LOT of them) because, “you gotta eat to grow”. Normally known as the ‘off-season’, it goes for months on end during the dreary winter months when you can hide your unshaven legs under full length stretch pants.Sure, the extra kilos gained will equate to a little bit of muscle.. but also, a hefty bit of body fat. You feel chunky, fluffy, you’re holding water and feel bloated most of the time. Good times… said no one ever.

Then comes the ‘cutting phase’

Summer is getting closer so you start ‘eating clean’, counting macros, decreasing calories, cutting carbs and upping the cardio. Sure, you lose the extra kilos, your abs make an appearance, but you’re exhausted and you find yourself wondering… “where the feck did my arse go?!”So you maintain this starvation/over-exercising mode for 6 weeks (or as long as you can hold onto any thread of sanity you have left) and then you decide, “I’m over it. Who needs abs anyway? Oooh, look… nutella!” And the whole cycle begins again.

What a friggin’ effort! Geez. Life does not have to be this way! The constant yo-yo effect of losing weight by torturing yourself, only to gain it all back is de-moralising, unsustainable and wreaks havoc on your metabolism.

There  is another way… and it’s called LCHF.

Build muscle & stay lean on Low Carb High Fat (LCHF)

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One of the best benefits of LCHF, is that you can build muscle and stay lean. AT. THE. SAME. TIME.Yes, you read that right. I’m not going to go into the science-y stuff here, on how LCHF & Keto works. But if you do want to know more, Perfect Keto does a darn good job of explaining it all here. Basically, the major benefits of LCHF is that it stabilises your insulin levels and turns you into a fat burning machine, where you use your own body fat stores as fuel (hello abs). But that doesn’t mean you can’t build muscle too (hello booty gains). In fact, this way of eating gives you more sustained energy levels throughout the day so you can smash your workouts AND it has been proven to actually preserve more muscle mass than your typical low fat carb heavy diets, as this study shows.My point is, if you become fat-adapted and lift weights, you can have your metaphorical cake and eat it too because it eliminates the need to ‘bulk & cut’ to get in shape. Stay lean all year round and grow those strong curves too. No more yoyo-ing. Hoorah!

2. balanced hormones = better body composition

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​Constantly feeling crappy? LCHF might just be the answer

Hormones are responsible for your overall well-being, digestion & body composition.

Ask yourself if any of these things ring true:

  • wake up tired but feel wired at night
  • struggle to lose weight
  • feel bloated & sluggish
  • slow progress in the gym
  • feel moody & exhausted

If you feel like your body is working against you, then your hormones may be out of whackeven if you think you’ve been ‘eating healthy’ and staying active. The typical ‘healthy’ low fat diet of the Western world simply doesn’t work. In fact, this type of diet has been shown to be detrimental to female hormone health.

The truth is… women do better on high fat

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When we exercise we burn more fat and less carbs & protein than men do. We rely less on carbs for fuel, probably because we naturally store higher levels of fat in our muscles and have a lower capacity to store glycogen, than males. So using fat for fuel is a much wiser choice!Cholesterol is the building block of your sex hormones and your brain loves the stuff. Eating a diet high in healthy fats will keep your hormones happy. P.s. for those of you still scared that high fat will give you a heart attack or other such nonsense, this study, as well as this and this should put your mind at ease.

In fact, the body uses large quantities of cholesterol every day and it is so crucial that every cell in your body has the ability to make it independent of food! How cool is that?!And if you need further clarity, please read this brilliant book by Jimmy Moore, who dispels many of the ridiculous myths about cholesterol and high fat diets.

A diet high in cholesterol Rich foods is the key!


To truly reap the benefits of LCHF you should eat an abundance of cholesterol-rich foods like:

  • eggs
  • liver & other organs
  • fatty meats like lamb
  • sardines & shell fish
  • grass fed butter, ghee & other oils

High in Vitamins A, K, D, these super-foods are important for hormone health, especially thyroid function which regulates your metabolism and weight.

Low carb high fat is best for lean muscle building

Shelley Darlington standing in a door way

If you’re on a mission to build curves in all the right places, then yep… you guessed it –  LCHF wins again. Keeping carbs low has actually shown to be favourable to body composition (losing body fat & gaining muscle) and improves metabolism.

The anti-inflammatory & anti-ageing benefits of LCHF, are due to the potent little powerhouses called ketones (fatty acids). They are responsible for turning you into a lean & mean fat-burning machine but, even more so, ketones promote longevity & increased muscle mass too.The more fat women eat, the more estrogen and testosterone they produce. These are both anabolic hormones that play a crucial part in building muscle & burning fat. In fact, this study shows that a LCHF diet helps women burn more fat & get stronger, compared to a typical low fat diet. Epic!

The LCHF lifestyle healed my own health issues when nothing else worked. I suffered from metabolic damage, which then affected my digestion, my mood and my body composition. But when I started eating high fat low carb, my body transformed in a matter of weeks.

3. Calories don’t matter anymore

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‘calories in vs. calories out’ is wrong

The reason I LOVE LCHF so much is because it is so liberating.The old school way of thinking says that if you want to get in shape, the #1 rule is calories in vs. calories out. Basically, the energy from food you eat, has to be at a deficit to the energy you burn from exercise, for you to lose weight. So, eat less and exercise more.Wow… welcome to the Dark Age of fitness. It might work (sometimes) in the short term, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best way… or the easiest.

It’s not about eating less, it’s about eating the right things

The whole calorie thing is pretty stupid and completely redundant… if you are eating the right foods for your goals. Read this to see why.

Studies like this and this have shown that dieters on fat-based diets consistently lose much more weight than dieters on carb based diets, even though both diets had exactly the same number of calories.

Who wants to count calories, obsess over labels and constantly feel guilt due to what you put in your mouth? Because if you eat the right foods, you can forget all about counting calories.  LCHF allows you to eat until fullness, without compromising your fitness goals.

Freedom from ‘dieting’

This is the beauty of LCHF. You get a real sense of freedom from the bondage of ‘dieting’. Eating more fats keep you fuller for longer, eliminates cravings and allows you to eat delicious nutrient-dense foods in abundance.The human body is a super intelligent machine. It’s way smarter than you and is always trying to heal itself (no matter what you throw at it) because it knows exactly what it needs in order to thrive and look it’s best. You just need to get out of the way 😉LCHF is a far moreefficient way for the body to use it’s fuel and something truly amazing happens when you embrace this lifestyle… Your body starts working FOR you, not against you by self-regulating appetiteand that’s where all the magic happens.

4. Less cooking, more LIVING

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Low fat diets are impractical in today’s busy world

This one is a biggie for me and made a real noticeable improvement to my everyday life. We try to be superwoman and do it all. Run the household, raise the kids, pursue a career, maintain a social life, smash gym goals and have enough ‘me time’ so we don’t go completely insane.But the outdated way of low fat ‘healthy’ clean eating diets means you have to eat regularly -usually every 2 hours (because low fat diets aren’t as sustaining, making you prone to snacking) and in some cases eating up to 6 meals a day. That’s a lot of time prepping and cooking! I don’t know about you, but I’d rather spend less time in the kitchen and more time truly living!

LCHF gives you the gift of time back

If you’re time poor & busy, LCHF is a life saver:

  • It’s a nutrient dense way of eating… so you don’t feel the need to eat every 2 hours
  • It keeps you fuller for longer… so you won’t feel like snacking and no more hunger pangs
  • It’s a far more efficient way to fuel the body… so you can sustain yourself on fewer meals (less volume but more satisfying)

That means:

  • lessworrying about staying on track
  • lesshassle of prepping and planning
  • lesstime spent in the kitchen
  • lesslikely to fall off the bandwagon & eat off plan

…and more free time to spend with loved ones, have more fun and live your life. What’s not to like?

5. Bye-Bye Cardio

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Cardio isn’t necessary to get into shape

Let’s face it. Traditional cardio sucks. It’s something we endure, rather than enjoy because we’re told it’s ‘good for us’, you know… heart health, fat loss yada yada. But it’s just so damn boring! Being a hamster on a wheel just doesn’t compare to lifting heavy weights like a boss.It’s also been ingrained in us that the best way to get in shape is to eat a low fat high carb diet, count calories and up the cardio. I’m going to say something a little crazy right now that is the complete opposite… and it works.Excessive cardio is not healthy and if you don’t enjoy doing it, then you really don’t have to. If you want to build shapely toned muscles and lose body fat, then lifting weights is king and has been shown to be better than cardio alone in the long run.

Smarter nutrition trumps cardio every time

Cardio shouldn’t be the focus of your health & fitness routine. For the very best results, if you eat LCHF and then time your carbs around your training, there is no need to rely on cardio to get in shape.Of course, elevating your heart rate on a regular basis is super important for heart health – so I’m not saying you should avoid aerobic exercise completely. But running on a treadmill every day for 45 minutes, staring into gym wall is not the only way to do it! You can swim, do a dance class, try circuit training… anything that makes you get a sweat on and heart pumping. But most of all, just have fun with it.

​Benefits of Low carb High fat in a nutshell

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If you found this article useful, let me know in the comments below… and if you want to learn more about how LCHF and carb cycling on the Strong By Shelley program can help you achieve your goals, click here to get on the mailing list for more free content!


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Leave me a comment:

  • Cailey says:

    I would die for another what I eat in a day/recipe video on your youtube Channel! I really want to try LCHF after being trained to count calories and killing myself to stay in a deficit. Any tips, recipes, etc would be greatly appreciated! Thanks for always putting out the realest content!! 🙂

  • Julia says:

    Such an informative and eye opening article. Thank you so much for this! I’ve been implementing lots of your workouts lately and I really love them as well. Going to check some recipes out now and keen to see the membership options. You are an inspiration!

    • Hi Julia! Thanks so much for the feedback 🙂

      Really happy that you find my content helpful. The membership site will have a huge nutrition component (recipes, cooking videos, informational videos etc) as well as in depth training tips, form and technique demos, recovery & mindset. Essentially it’ll be like having your own virtual coach (me!) and will support my STRONG Curves guide which will be released at the same time! Very exciting and I think you’ll love it 🙂

  • lee says:

    thanks for the awesome suggestions. Nice article it is

  • Asaia says:

    Hi Shelley. This LCHF diet post is such an eye-opener. I’m in the beginning stages of learning the ins and outs of weight training (curves in all the right places) and understand a diet like LCHF is key for my fitness goals to flourish (build muscle and lose fat at the same time). I’m mind blown with all this new information (again, I’m a newbie in the world of fitness, diet and weight training). Happy to come across your content dedicated to women’s needs and am looking forward to the membership site plus the STRONG Curves guide. Is that still happening? Crossing fingers it is. Gracias!

    • Shelley Darlington says:

      Hey Asaia, thanks for the lovely feedback and I’m glad you enjoy my content 🙂

      There is a lot to take in as a newbie, especially in the world of LCHF but it will all be detailed in my STRONG Curves Guide and membership site. It is still happening. The current climate with covid, protests etc have delayed the launch but I promise it is coming soon!

  • Danielle says:

    I have never felt more inspired or motivated to change my eating habits and start weight lifting than after I binge watched all your YouTube videos! Ive fallen in love with weighting lifting and I’ve been doing LCHF for only a week now and I already feel SO much better. I’ve struggle with digestive issues, a dairy intolerance, low energy, and low motivation for as long as I can remember, but by following the LCHF diet, I already feel like a different person! I never have bloating, digestive issues, or fatigue while I’m eating LCHF. You’ve changed my life! I can’t wait for your guide to come out! Thank you for finally giving me the tools I needed to make a healthy change.

    • Shelley Darlington says:

      Hi Danielle,

      Thanks so much for the awesome feedback! I’m so happy that you have regained your health on LCHF and that you’ve fallen in love with weights. I also suffered from poor digestion, bloating, fatigue etc when I first started out and finding LCHF was life changing for me! So I really *really* empathize with you. The guide is coming very soon and it’ll go into full detail on making LCHF work for your own body type and goals – if you’ve found my content helpful so far, then this guide will become your bible. I’m excited to release it! Stay tuned and thank you for your support 🙂

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