Your diet has been going well. You have been eating everything you are supposed to be. Green, leafy vegetables, lean meats, and complex carbs are your best friends. You are exercising often, and you find little ways to move throughout the day. You have been consistently rewarded with a lower number on the scale each time you weigh yourself.
Now, for some reason unknown to you, the scale has not moved.
You have still been doing everything right, but the number on the scale just will not change. You have hit what the professionals call a “weight loss plateau,” where your consistent progress stalled in place as your body adapts to your new lifestyle.
While it is normal to feel a certain amount of disappointment at this point, try not to worry about it too much. This is a completely normal occurrence for anyone who is on a weight loss journey. However, through understanding your weight loss plateau, you can learn how to push past it and avoid reverting back to past behaviors.
Here are a few key things to remember:
Your weight is always changing. Day to day, your body can change pounds at a time. This has many factors, water intake, what you have eaten recently, and even what time of day you step on the scale. Weight loss is not a linear path. Long-term weight loss will have periods of both gains and plateaus. This is normal and healthy.
Weight loss is also difficult. It involves a large amount of change in the lifestyle, diet, and activity levels. You will often have to find new ways to cope emotionally. The effectiveness of specific diet and exercise programs vary greatly from person to person, and there is no “one size fits all” weight loss solution. The bulk of your weight loss hinges entirely upon your learning and experimentation.
Why did you plateau?
Rapid weight loss is common in the first few weeks of a new diet and lifestyle change. The body begins to take energy from alternative sources, and when this happens, the body loses a lot of water. This is where the term “water weight” comes from. Water weight is also easier to regain than “real” weight loss is, so if your plateau happens at this point, tread carefully because it is easy to put on those pounds.
As you continue to lose weight, you lose muscle as well as fat. Muscle is responsible for keeping your metabolism high, so as you lose overall weight, you also lose muscle, which lowers your metabolism. You then, in turn, burn fewer calories than you did at your previous, higher weight.
If you continue to eat the same number of calories, your weight loss will slow because your metabolism has changed. It is when the calories that you burn are the same as the calories you consume that you reach a plateau.
How can you compete with a weight loss plateau?
In order to overcome this plateau, there are some options. It may mean that this current path of action, diet plan, and exercise form have done all they can for you and it is time to move on. If you are satisfied with the weight that you are sitting at, then a plateau might be an ideal place to be. However, if you are not satisfied and want to lose more weight, consider the following:
Reflect on your habits.
Check in with the food that you are eating and the energy that you are expending. Reassess your commitment to weight loss. Have you given yourself too much wiggle room? Have you gone easy on yourself? Bending the rules is a common cause of weight loss plateaus.
Cut a larger number of calories from your diet.
This is advisable as long as you stay above the 1,200-calorie minimum. If you dip below this, you may feel constantly hungry. This can lead to overeating and more than just a plateau.
Up your workout ante.
While thirty minutes of exercise a day is ideal, when your goal is to lose weight, you should be aiming for more than that. Increasing the amount of time you exercise or the intensity of your workout can help you to burn a larger number of calories. Additionally, adding weightlifting or other forms of resistance training to your workout will increase your muscle mass, helping to raise your metabolism and burn more calories.
Move more in general.
Outside of your daily exercise, little ways to get moving are great at helping you keep active throughout the day. Walk more and drive less. Do more work around the yard or house. Any amount of activity, regardless of how strenuous, will help you to burn more calories.
You tried these things and you are still plateauing. Now what?
If you are still finding it difficult to move past a weight loss plateau, try talking to your doctor. They might be able to pinpoint the specific root of your problem and get you going in the right direction. Additionally, if you are unable to decrease calories or increase activity, your weight loss goal may need to be reevaluated. While the weight you have lost is impressive, it is possible that you are striving for an unrealistic number.
Remember that by taking these first steps into weight loss, you have already improved your health a thousand times over. By making changes to your diet and increasing your daily exercise, your body has been singing your praises. Even lesser amounts of weight loss decrease your chances of illness and disease.
The number on the scale does not define you. Remember that how your body feels and operates should be your best indicator of health, not the scale. Do not let this be a reason to go back to old habits. Regaining the weight that you have already lost will just put you back to where you started from. Celebrate what you have managed to succeed in thus far and continue to maintain your weight as healthfully as you can.