It often happens at some point – the dreaded plateau!
I know what it’s like experiencing a weight loss plateau; thinking “I’m never going to lose the rest of this weight!’ Frustration and discouragement settle in. Perhaps even a little anger or resentment emerge when we face a plateau. This is when we really need to take a step back and change our mindset and focus. Yes, we want to lose all the weight we’ve gained, but we also want to be healthier and feel better.
That was the most important thing to me. I knew a quick fix was not the answer because I didn’t want to just lose the weight; I wanted to keep it off so I wouldn’t have to focus on losing weight ever again. A lifestyle change is what I needed. Plus, I wanted to look and feel healthier, not just be thinner.
There are many reasons for hitting a weight loss plateau or getting off to a slower start than we’d like. Everyone is different at the rate they lose weight and where they lose it and it’s easy to get discouraged. However, if you continue to keep your new healthy habits in place, you will see results. Most people get discouraged and give up too soon before they see the results they want. “I just can’t lose any more weight” or “I’ll never reach my goal weight” are things we tell ourselves. It’s not true, though; we just tend to give up when we hit the weight loss plateau and further loss doesn’t happen within our desired time frame.
Change it Up
Instead of obsessing over the number on the scale, try changing your focus. Concentrate on getting healthier, making better food choices, and exercising smarter. You will do more for yourself with a renewed and proper focus. For example: if you are lacking sleep, have high stress, and you’re eating too much processed foods, you will have an uphill battle losing weight. So, by addressing things from a ‘taking better care of yourself’ perspective, the rest tends to fall into place.
While we can’t always control the number on the scale we can control how we take care of ourselves. In the long run, this is much more important in order to have a healthy, happy life. Truth be told, the scale is not the only (or always the most accurate) measure of our health or how we’re doing. Weeks where the scale doesn’t budge but you notice you’ve lost inches (this is why you want to take measurements) often occur.
6 strategies that can help you bust through your weight loss plateau:
- Focus on eating the healthiest, most nutrient-dense foods you can. (think ‘REAL’ food here, not foods with a long list of ingredients you can’t pronounce). The more healthy whole foods you eat (with plenty of protein and healthy fats), the less room you’ll have for higher calorie processed foods. When you give your body what it truly needs, you’ll have fewer cravings for empty calories and ‘junk food’, and this usually leads to consuming fewer calories throughout the day.
- Reduce stress and get enough sleep. Yes, this is a big deal! When you’re under stress and/or you’re not getting enough sleep, the stress hormone, cortisol is elevated and this can hinder weight loss. Also, when you’re tired, you’re more likely to eat more (studies show people consume up to 25% more calories when they’re tired) and make fewer healthy choices during the day.
- Mix up your workouts. Adding strength or resistance training is key and what you need if your goal involves reshaping your body. Avoid doing the same routine week after week. Our bodies adapt to new demands put on it rather quickly. By switching things up, you’ll see results quicker. Doing cardio-only exercise is not going to work long-term and can actually stall your weight loss efforts. It’s good to change your routine every 4-6 weeks or so. **Always check with your health care provider before starting a new exercise routine**
Note: Really tired and feeling run down? Then get the rest you need to recharge and give more effort at your next workout.
- Increase the time, frequency, and/or intensity of your workouts. If you’ve stopped seeing results, it’s also good to look at how often you’re working out as well as the length of your workouts and how hard you’re pushing yourself. If you’ve been exercising 3 days a week, it’s probably time to bump it up to 4 or 5 to start seeing results again OR do longer workouts on the 3 or 4 days if appropriate. You’ll also want to look at your intensity and evaluate if you need to bump that up a bit as well. Are you giving it 100% or just ‘showing up’ most days? We all have days where we aren’t 100% and that 70% effort is certainly better than no effort, but evaluate your effort level on most days.
- Food Journal or tracking. While I don’t focus much on calorie counting, it can be helpful to have an approximate calorie goal range. If you’re stuck with your weight loss progress, this is a good time to evaluate your food intake amounts and choices. It’s not always that your calories need to be lower, so it can be a tricky thing to figure out. If you’ve been eating too few calories, weight loss can stall too. Try playing with the numbers and see what works. Go too low and you’ll lose muscle. NOT what you want since that will affect your metabolism negatively as well as your shape.
There are some good apps for tracking food and some I like are ‘Lose It’ and ‘Myfitnesspal’ as well as ‘Fitbit’. The apps are handy since most of us always have our phones with us, so tracking is much more convenient.
- Don’t skip meals. This is a biggie! Clients who previously skipped breakfast and ate a very small lunch found themselves losing weight when shifting to eating balanced meals throughout the day. This makes perfect sense because our bodies keep track. If by late afternoon you haven’t had enough to eat, you’re going to be really hungry and make less healthy choices. This happens when you ‘diet’ and you feel like you’ve done great until around 3:00 then you’re starving, eat everything in sight, and don’t understand why you can’t control your appetite. Your body needs real food on a regular basis. Eat breakfast, lunch, and healthy snacks when needed and don’t wait until you’re too hungry to have something to eat.
Bonus Tip: Water! Be sure you’re drinking plenty of water every day – approximately half your weight in ounces. Don’t wait until you are thirsty. Water helps with digestion and elimination. Water intake is an important element of our overall health as well as for weight loss.
If you’re feeling a little discouraged, focus on the positive and how you’re making better choices. Do the best you can for your health each day and you WILL see and feel changes. Be patient and keep moving forward, one healthy choice at a time. Slow and steady is the way to go for long-term success. Keep it up and you will break through your weight loss plateau.
There may be other underlying conditions including hormonal imbalances that can hinder weight loss. Thus, it’s a good idea to seek a health care practitioner who deals with this.
Promise yourself you are not going to give up…you are in this for the long haul and you’re worth it!