Just because your weight loss has stalled doesn’t mean you have to fall back into bad habits. These tips can help jump-start your weight-loss program.
You’ve worked hard to eat a healthy, low-calorie diet and improve your exercise habits, and your reward has been to see your weight drop and you feel better. But today, without you being able to know it, the balance has stopped moving. You have reached a weight loss plateau.
Do not be discouraged. It is normal for weight loss to slow down and even stop. By understanding the causes of a weight loss plateau, you can decide how to respond and avoid going back to your new healthy habits.
What is a weight loss plateau?
Anyone who tries to lose weight ends up hitting a plateau. Even so, most people are surprised when this happens to them, as they continue to eat well and exercise regularly. The frustrating reality is that even well-planned weight loss efforts can get stalled.
What causes a weight loss plateau?
During the first weeks of weight loss, a rapid drop is normal. Part of the reason is that when you cut calories, the body gets the energy it needs by releasing its stores of glycogen, a type of carbohydrate found in muscles and the liver.
Glycogen is partly made up of water, so when glycogen is burned for energy, it releases water, resulting in weight loss that is mostly water. However, this effect is temporary.
When you lose weight, you lose muscle and fat. Muscle helps maintain the rate at which you burn calories. So, as you lose weight, your metabolism decreases, causing you to burn fewer calories than at your heavier weight. Your slower metabolism will slow your weight loss, even if you eat the same number of calories that caused you to lose weight. When the calories you burn equal the calories you eat, you hit a plateau. To lose more weight, you must either increase your physical activity or decrease the number of calories you eat. Using the same approach that worked initially may maintain your weight loss, but it won’t lead to greater weight loss.
How can you overcome a weight loss plateau?
When you hit a plateau, you may have already lost all the weight you wanted with your current diet and exercise program. Ask yourself if you are satisfied with your current weight or if you want to lose more, in which case you will have to adapt your weight loss program.
If you’re determined to lose more weight, try these tips to break the plateau:
– Reevaluate your habits
Review your eating habits and activities. Make sure you haven’t relaxed the rules, indulging in bigger portions or exercising less. Research suggests that an occasional loosening of the rules contributes to the plateau.
– Reduce the number of calories
Reduce your daily calorie intake further, as long as it doesn’t drop you below 1,200 calories. Fewer than 1,200 calories a day may not be enough to keep you from constant hunger, increasing your risk of overeating.
– Increase your training
Most people should exercise 30 minutes a day, almost every day of the week. But people trying to lose weight should exercise more often or increase exercise intensity to burn more calories. Adding exercises such as weightlifting to increase your muscle mass will help you burn more calories.
– Plan more activity in your day
Think outside the gym. Increase your overall physical activity throughout the day by walking more and using your car less. Or try doing more yard work or vigorous spring cleaning. Any physical activity will help you burn more calories.
Don’t Let a Weight Loss Plateau Lead to Backtracking
If your efforts to push past a weight loss plateau aren’t working, talk to a dietitian about other tactics. If you can’t cut calories any further or increase your physical activity, you can revise your goal. Appreciate the weight you have lost. Perhaps the number you are aiming for is not realistic for you. Because you have already improved your diet and increased your physical activity, you have already improved your health. If you are overweight or obese, even modest weight loss improves health issues.
Whatever you do, don’t give up and go back to your old eating and exercise habits. This could allow you to regain the weight you lost. Celebrate your success and continue your efforts to maintain your weight loss.