Why is it suddenly so hard to shift the pounds? Discover what lies behind this roadblock and what can be done to get back on track?
You’ve been following a weight loss plan for a while now and are doing fab! At weekly weigh in’s you’ve seen steady progress. Poor food choices are now a thing of the past, replaced by healthy snacks and sensible portion sizes that form part of a well-balanced diet. Topped up with regular exercise sessions in the gym things are going well. Let’s face it weight loss isn’t easy, but those lifestyle changes really are paying off!
So far so good you tell yourself…then suddenly out of the blue the scales become stuck. You do a quick check; they’re definitely not broken so what’s going on? Welcome to the plateau, that point in a weight loss and exercise routine when all the hard work and consistent effort appears to stops paying off.
This is serious stuff. As any experienced Personal Trainer will verify many committed clients fail at this point. As positivity is replaced with frustration, small slip ups creep in and before you know it the new routine has been abandoned all together.
What Does Plateau Mean?
You plateau when you reach a particular level and find that you’re not losing weight, despite sticking to your diet and exercise routine. You’ll know you’ve hit a plateau when for a number of weeks in a row your weight has stayed the same.
All sorts of theories exist as to why this occurs but the most likely reason (assuming you really are sticking to the regime) is that your body’s metabolism has simply adapted to its food intake and activity levels and views this as the new norm. As frustrating as this is, try to see this as a temporary phase.
Why A Weight Loss Plateau
1 – You’ve made great progress
Okay, it might not feel like a reward, but hitting a plateau is a sign that you’ve made some real progress. As we lose weight our metabolism drops meaning we need fewer calories, not accounting for exercise and normal activity. So, reaching the plateau is a sure signal that you’re doing well.
2 – Muscle loss
Whilst your goal is to lose body fat, chances are you’ve also lost some muscle tissue. This lowers your metabolic rate affecting the rate your burn calories.
3 – Improved fitness
Remember when you started your exercise routine? Breaking a sweat, feeling exhausted at the end of the workout and like you were really challenging yourself. If you’re exercising diligently and have settled into a routine of regular cardio-vascular and strength training where you’re essentially repeating the same workout, then things might have got a little bit too comfy. Your body has adjusted and now views what started off as a challenging workout simply as routine activity which means you’re burning less energy than you used to.
4 – Natural body adjustment
The set point theory is the idea that your body will naturally adjust to try to maintain a certain weight. So the plateau could be a signal that your body is trying to adapt to stick to its new set point weight.
5 – Old habits
Have you really hit a plateau or are old habits creeping in? Most people are super diligent with a new eating regime at the start, when they’re learning about different foods, recipes and quantities. Once you’re in the groove and seeing regular progress it’s all too easy to slip up as a glass of wine, piece of cake at the office, the odd treat here and there all slowly but surely creep back in.
6 – Portion Size
Being a little more relaxed with portion sizes is a common pitfall. Perhaps you weighed or measured your portions and now you feel more confident so you can take an assured guess. If your portion sizes are regularly out of sync this can mount up to a lot of extra calories throughout the day and really stall weight loss.
7 – Water Retention
Retaining water can play havoc with your body weight and undo all your hard work. One of the common causes is consuming foods with a high salt intake such as crisps, savoury snacks, tinned soups, pre-packed sandwiches and ready meals.
8 – Boredom
You’re eating the same meals at the same time every day, following the same workouts on the same day each week…chances are things have got a little stale. When boredom sets in motivation drops and commitment falls away and this halts progress in its tracks.
How To Prevent A Weight Loss Plateau
It’s easier than you might think to jump off the plateau and kick-start your weight loss. Here’s some great ways to give your metabolism a boost and get back on track.
Reassess your goals
Slow and steady wins the race so try and aim for 1 to 2 lbs a week.
Revamp your workout
Try adding in an extra weekly workout and asking a personal trainer to help reassess your nutrition and exercise programme. Strength training is especially important to build muscle mass and ignite your metabolism, helping you become more efficient at burning calories. Once you’ve revamped your workout you’ll be back on track before you know it.
Be your own raving fan
Recognise your progress and be proud of your achievements. Promote positive energy by reminding yourself that you lost a pound and tried a new exercise class this week, for example, rather than being disappointed that you wanted more.
The food journal
Yes, it can be tedious but this simple way of tracking your food intake really does leave nowhere to hide.
Be idly active
Seek out ways to relax in an active way. Whether it’s going for a walk, enjoying some time gardening, joining the local park run or just putting your headphones on and doing some extra household chores, extra activity really does add up.
Know your measurements
Keep well informed by knowing your body measurements as well as what’s on the scales. If you’re toning you may find the scales seem stuck but your measurements have reduced and your clothes are fitting better, a sure sign of progress!
Have a few days where you’re not following your normal eating routine and enjoy them. Maybe there’s a special event in the diary or a short holiday coming up. Then, when you’ve had a few days off flick the re-set switch and you’ll be full of zest to press on towards your next goal.
Carry a water bottle with you to stay well hydrated. It’s dead easy to confuse thirst for hunger so it makes sense to keep your water levels tip top.
Best Way To Get Out Of A Weight Loss Plateau
Now’s the time for small changes to your eating plan and fitness routine. Start with a journal or lifestyle app such as my fitness pal so that you can record what you’re eating and asses your daily activity. Make sure you’re managing stress and are getting sufficient sleep and relaxation, all of which form part of a sustainable healthy lifestyle. Try and view these changes as long term habits that are part of a healthier you, rather than short term fixes.