Alicia Phillips, Patient Educator, Baptist Health Weight Loss Program
Nothing is worse than stepping on the scale after another week of eating healthy and exercising only to see the same number as the week before. This may last for days or weeks and your weight may not budge, which can make all your hard work seem like a waste of time. This is known as a weight-loss plateau.
You should know this – weight loss plateaus are very, very normal and you’re not alone. They happen to everyone and can actually be thought of as a good thing, because it means your body is done changing and is now adapting to your new behaviors.
What causes it?
Water weight loss returns. A substantial loss is pretty standard during the first few weeks of a new weight-loss regiment, but most of this decrease comes from water lost. Your body will replenish this fluid which can result in a plateau in the beginning of your journey.
When losing weight, your body doesn’t just lose fat, it breaks down muscle too. And unlike fat, muscles burn calories, so losing muscle will slow the rate at which you use up energy from food.
Most people, when they get to this point, either: a) Quit and go back to unhealthy behaviors ruining all the progress they have made so far, b) beat themselves up and become obsessive over everything little thing they do or eat, or c) adjust their habits, work hard and push through.
At the Baptist Health Weight Loss Program we are committed to help you push through your plateau and towards your goal.
Here are some tips to help you do that:
Be realistic with your goals. One to three pounds per week is what you should be shooting for. Any more than that is unhealthy and not sustainable.
Get Accurate. If you are currently keeping a journal of your food, make sure that you are doing so accurately. Be sure to record every little bite here or there. They add up! Break out the measuring cups and spoons to make sure you are entering proper portions. Simply reducing portion sizes is often enough to prompt weight loss for many people.
Research has shown that people often overestimate how many calories they burn during exercise, and underestimate how many calories they eat.
Pump Iron! The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, resulting in more body fat you’’ ll shed. If you are already strength training, try these tips:
Change Your Repetitions. If you were doing sets of eight reps, try doing sets of 10 or 12 reps. You may even need to decrease the weight slightly as you do this, but that’s fine. The increased rep range is going to provide a new challenge for the body and something it needs to adapt to.
Move More. While changes in diet may be enough in the beginning, if you hope to continue losing weight, you’’ re going to have to increase the amount of exercise you get each day.
Try a New Piece of Equipment. Sometimes what your workout really needs is a new form of training. If you always use weight machines, for instance, try using kettle bells or dumb bells next time you’re in the gym. As long as you’re still stressing the muscle and providing an overloading stimulus, you’ll see results.
Rotate Your Routine. Have you been walking on the treadmill for the past four months? To see a change in body fat, you have to get outside of your fitness comfort zone. The muscles become familiar with the same old workout, making your regular routine less effective. Try an aerobics class, swim laps, get on a recumbent bike, spend some time on an elliptical. Do something new and challenging.
Sleep! Sleep deprivation releases the stress hormone cortisol. And stress can lead to overeating. A full night’s sleep is vital to losing body fat because it resets your hormones. Even a little sleep deprivation can lead to increased cortisol, a stress hormone. And elevated cortisol levels can lead to body fat accumulation around the midsection.
Plan Ahead. People who are really successful with weight loss have a plan when they go to the grocery store. They have a general idea about what they will eat for lunch and dinner for the week and the healthy snacks they’ll have at work.
Tweaks to your diet:
Get your fiber in! Fiber helps to prevent surges in blood glucose because it slows the absorption of sugar. Foods high in fiber are denser to eat and it takes a while to chew and break down. This gives your body more time to feel satisfied and keep you feeling full longer.
Protein Up! Get your protein in during the day, all day. It takes eating about 25-35 grams of protein every 4-5 hours to get enough leucine, an amino acid that helps shed fat, to see a positive effect. So don’t skip those high protein snacks!
Hydrate. Hydrate. HYDRATE! Water helps to fill you up, so try drinking a full glass or two of water while you are getting ready for dinner and before you sit down to eat your meals. Carry a water bottle around with you to keep fluids on the top of mind. Even better – add a protein power mix to your water and drink it all day.
Indulge. But not too much. Having a glass of wine a night or a chocolate treat during the day is fine for weight maintenance, but if you’re stuck in a plateau, it’s time to cut it out for a while. Count up all those cocktails, late-night snacks, chocolate from the office candy jar and fancy coffee drinks. For a week or two, really cut back on the number of sweets you have to kick start your weight loss.
It takes time to see results. There is no quick weight loss fix; what you want is a FOREVER fix. When you focus on the journey instead of the destination, the plateaus come and go.
Remember: Healthy thoughts lead to healthy actions, Healthy actions lead to healthy behaviors. And healthy behaviors lead to a healthy lifestyle.
Put these tips into action and in no time you will push through your plateau and be well on your way to your weight loss goals.