It happens to the best of us. You’re making great progress with your weight loss, doing everything right and seeing results, when all of a sudden those scales refuse to budge.
This road barrier often happens just after you’ve lost your first significant amount of weight, and then again when you’re reaching your target weight with only a few pounds left to lose. And there’s nothing more discouraging than working hard and seeing no results.
If you’re currently stuck in a weight loss plateau, then read on to find out what you can do to smash through that road barrier and reach the finish line!
What Causes A Weight Loss Plateau?
Experts reassure us that hitting a plateau with your weight loss is nothing out of the ordinary. As our weight drops and the composition of our bodies changes, our nutritional needs do too. Some of the main reasons why weight loss can hit a plateau include:
A loss of muscle. As your weight decreases, you’re not only losing fat but also a small amount of muscle tissue. In fact it’s estimated that around 25% of body tissue lost during weight loss comes from muscle. Muscle is important in keeping your metabolism at higher levels so, typically, the more muscle you lose the slower your metabolic rate (the rate at which your body burns calories for fuel). It’s therefore always advisable to incorporate strength training into your exercise routine when dieting to build and/or preserve muscle mass.
You’ve hit your optimum weight. Your body has a sweet spot when it comes to weight and will naturally try to maintain the weight where it is most comfortable. If you’re struggling to shift further pounds it may be you are already at this comfort zone and any further reduction could see you regaining that weight when you come off your diet.
Increase your exercise. To sustain a lower weight you may need to undertake more exercise or physical activity or consume fewer calories, and this could be the most likely cause of your weight plateau. If you’re not exercising in addition to eating fewer calories you may want to try ramping up your physical activity.
Underlying conditions. There are also some medical factors that can impact your weight loss including the menopause, thyroid or adrenal gland issues, pregnancy, breastfeeding, certain medications, and if you’re in the middle of quitting smoking.
How To Get Back On Track!
So how can you jump off that plateau and get back on track? Put quite simply, persistence. Here are some top tips to break through the barrier and set those scales on a downward trend once more.
1. Start strength training: If you’re not incorporating strength training into your exercise routine then it’s time to start. As mentioned above, muscle tissue helps to keep your metabolism revving and will help to burn more calories across the day. Whether it’s weights, resistance bands or medicine balls, start challenging your muscles with a bit of resistance to help preserve and grow muscle mass.
2. Exercise: Possibly the most important catalyst in helping you to lose weight is adding in exercise to your daily routine. It helps to build muscle and boost your metabolism. Don’t think you have to fit in unrealistically long workouts either. If you struggle to find the time, try looking for ways to up your daily activity such as walking or cycling instead of taking the car, climbing the stairs instead of using the elevator, or try adding some HIIT (high intensity interval training) into your routine.
3. Keep an eye on your portion sizes. You want to ensure you’re eating fewer calories than your body needs so it starts burning excess fat to make up the difference. If you’re eating more than your daily requirement then those calories will be stored as fat and you’ll tip the scales the wrong way. Get out the scales and measuring cups and don’t underestimate portion size. If you’re losing weight then the amount of calories your body needs will gradually reduce along with your bodyweight so you’ll need to keep adjusting your calorie consumption downwards to continue to stay in a deficit. There’s more information on how to calculate a calorie deficit and achieve sustainable weight loss in this article.
4. Weigh yourself once a week. Your weight typically fluctuates up and down on a daily basis due to a number of different factors including what you eat, how much you exercise, your quality of sleep, and so on. Try not to weigh yourself more than once a week to take into account these daily inconsistencies and to give yourself a clearer, more accurate picture of your progress. Make sure you weigh yourself on the same day, at the same time (preferably first thing in the morning before breakfast) and without clothes. Keep a record of your weight and use it to track your progress each week.
5. Shake up your diet: If you’re continually eating the same foods then this can get stale and boring. Try new recipes to ensure you have variety. A key reason why people can’t stay the course when dieting is because they’re bored with the food they’re eating.
6. Switch to different forms of exercise. Your body can very quickly get used to doing the same things day after day and is built to adapt. To spark more progress, try switching to a different form of exercise which may focus the emphasis on a different muscle group, and start challenging your body in a new way. Variety can be key.
Plateaus Are Normal. Use Them To Spur Greater Progress!
Whoever you are, whatever your goal, plateaus are completely normal and shouldn’t be seen as barriers to progress. Instead, use them as opportunities to re-evaluate what you’re doing and make some tweaks to your diet and exercise regime, and also your mindset.
Don’t feel guilty if you aren’t seeing the scales shift, just re-solidify your commitment to your goals and double down on your determination to reach them. What was your original motivation when you started your journey? Put that at the forefront of your mind, call upon your reserves and go again with renewed vigour – and a few tweaks to your regime – you’ve come this far!
Are you suffering with a plateau in your weight loss or training? Have you found a way to overcome it, or are you still struggling? Hopefully this article will give you some ideas to gain momentum again, but feel free to drop me a line and let’s see how we can get you moving towards your finish line once again. Hang in there, it will be worth it!