Break Through Your Weight-Loss Plateau
By Kim Stoeger, MS, Clinical Nutritionist
Your new diet and fitness routine had you dropping pounds and looking and feeling good – until it suddenly just stopped. Now what? A plateau is essentially a point in your health where things just need to be adjusted. Health is an ongoing journey, and should never been viewed as a destination point.
So, you think you’ve hit a “plateau”? Having a stretch where your weight loss slows to nothing is a natural phenomenon, so do not get discouraged. You’re consuming fewer calories than you used to, so your metabolism has slowed down to conserve them. Keep in mind that, as long as you stick with your workouts and healthy eating, you’ll typically start losing weight again after about three weeks. It’s also important to measure success through other positive changes to your body like a smaller waist and hips from lost inches. You also want to measure success by noticing your body becoming more toned through lost inflammation and maintenance of lean tissue. If you don’t want to wait for the plateau to end on its own, there are things you need to ask yourself if you want to jump start your losing streak.
#1: Are You Keeping Track of Your Daily Calories?
In all honestly, plateaus are somewhat of a myth, and what tends to be happening is someone claiming to have hit one isn’t paying enough attention to detail. When you first start a diet and fitness program, you make drastic changes — maybe you gave up soda, sugar, fast foods — your body responded to that and you lost weight fast. To continue to lose weight, you’ll need to create a consistent calorie deficit, which means you’ll need to start paying attention to what really matters — how many calories you’re consuming, where those calories are coming from, and how many you’re burning. Multiples studies have shown that the more regularly someone keeps a diet/exercise log, the more weight they will lose. Pay attention to those dietary details because it will help you realize how many calories you burn on a day-to-day basis. Many people don’t realize that they truly aren’t eating enough!
#2: Are You Trying to Lose Vanity Pounds?
If you’re only trying to lose five, 10, or 15 pounds, you’re in a different place than someone who wants to drop over that amount, or well into the triple digits. You’re not necessarily considered obese, and these pounds are connected to simply wanting to look better. The human body doesn’t want to be carrying around excess weight, so it will respond to diet and exercise. When you have a smaller amount of weight to lose, your body is already healthy, which makes it tougher to lose weight. What people in this situation often do is cut more calories or increase gym time, but this method will not work. All this method does is slow your metabolism down and send your body into starvation mode. The best quick fix is to give your body a little more food so it feels secure. Varying your calorie intake and the specific foods that you’re getting your calories from is a great way to switch things up for your body.
#3: Do You Need to Change Up Your Workouts?
If you’re overweight, tracking the foods and calories you eat every day, and still not shedding any weight, here’s what you need to do: switch up your workout. You might not realize this, but your body will adapt to any type of exercise. The first time you go run a mile, it is probably going to be rough. But by the 40th time you run a mile, it’s a lot easier, right? As you get used to a type of exercise, it becomes less challenging and, as a result, less effective. That’s why it’s so important to mix it up. Change your workout routine by type, frequency, time or intensity.
#4: Do You Have Imbalances or Underlying Health Concerns?
If you’ve followed everything above, and nothing has worked, there’s one last area that might be causing your plateau: inflammation, hormone imbalance, or an underlying health condition. For example: food sensitivities, thyroid disorders, insulin resistance, parasites, environmental toxicity, polycystic ovary syndrome (to name a few thing) —could all be making your body hold onto pounds. Don’t immediately assume this is the problem, but if you have truly tried everything else, it might be worth getting specialized lab work done and working with someone who can evaluate you personally.