To lose the prospect Weight seems daunting at first. As you drop those first five pounds, cautiously feel optimistic. Breaking the double-digit mark in lost pounds will make caution fade – your weight loss goal is now in sight and you are eager to see it sooner than later.
Then you hit a wall. You’ve been sticking to your healthy diet and an exercise routine – but your weight isn’t moving stubbornly. Despite your meticulous efforts, you have reached a plateau in weight loss.
This frustrating situation is common among people trying to lose a certain number of pounds in pursuit of a weight loss goal.
“Anyone who loses weight should expect to hit a weight loss plateau at some point,” says Katherine Zeratsky, a registered nutritionist and assistant professor of nutrition at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “The shift on the scale is the result of water, fat, and possibly muscle loss. In other words, you have less mass.”
That means your body has become more efficient, which means you are likely to burn fewer calories than you did when you started your weight loss efforts. In short, your metabolism slows down.
According to Lise Gloede, a dietitian registered in Arlington, Virginia, weight loss plateaus can occur anytime as you strive to lose weight, often when you least expect it.
“When dieters experience plateau weight loss, their bodies often readjust,” says Gloede. “I often have clients who lose weight, then plateau for a couple of weeks, and then lose weight again. They may count (calories) right, but somehow the weight doesn’t move for several weeks. That’s how the body works for some people. It is common and not a reason to panic. “
Fortunately, there are effective ways to continue your weight loss efforts when you seem to be walking in place.
- Stand on the plateau and take a moment to celebrate.
- Keep track of your calories.
- Increase the intensity of your exercise.
- Review your medication plan.
- Weigh yourself only once or twice a week.
- Be aware of your physical hunger and satiety level.
- Stay on track.
- Go to bed on time.
1. Stand on the plateau and take a moment to celebrate. Estimate how far you have come on your weight loss journey. “It means that you have improved your eating and exercise habits,” says Zeratsky. “You are probably a healthier person.”
Even a small amount of weight loss will protect you from chronic conditions such as:
2. Keep track of your calories. As the weeks and months progress, it’s easy to get less strict about counting your calories or measuring your food portions. Consider using an app to keep track of your daily caloric intake, says Lisa Jones, a Philadelphia-based dietitian. For example, the MyFitnessPal and SparkPeople apps are easy to use and help you measure your calorie intake. “You may find that you have eaten more than you thought and the scales are moving back in the right direction.” Says Jones.
3. Increase the intensity of your exercise. You can’t overdo a bad diet. However, increasing your physical activity can help counteract the effects of a slower metabolism, says Jones. “Try adding in resistance training, which is possibly the most effective weight loss exercise,” she says. Research suggests that high-intensity interval training may be more effective than “continuous moderate-intensity training” for weight loss, according to a meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2019. Previous research also suggests that aerobic exercise is useful for weight loss.
4. Review your medication plan. Has your doctor added any new medications since you started losing weight? Steroids and some antidepressants and diabetes drugs can contribute to weight gain, Jones says. Ask your doctor if any of your medications may be preventing you from losing weight.
5. Weigh yourself only once or twice a week. Only step on the scales once or twice a week and not every day. “This can help you focus on the daily patterns, not just the numbers,” says Gloede. Daily changes in your weight mainly reflect fluid changes. The scale “is not your friend or foe, just a number you can check in to.”
6. Note your hunger and satiety levels. Are you snacking because you are bored or stressed? Do you stop eating when you’re full, or do you eat everything on your plate or in your take-out container? We often eat for reasons other than hunger, says Gloede. In particular, many people consume high-calorie snacks when they are not particularly hungry. “Stress eating is a huge culprit during COVID-19, and being closer to the fridge because you work from home doesn’t help.” Take breaks during the day without eating.
7. Stay on track. Don’t give up or revert to your old eating habits or unhealthy coping skills, which may include consuming high calorie fatty or sugary foods that are not good for you. “Maintaining your new weight is just as important as preventing weight gain,” says Zeratsky. Eating healthy and exercising can help you achieve your long-term health goals.
8. Go to bed on time. You may need to set a timer for half an hour before going to the bedroom to get adequate sleep. Use these 30 minutes to put on your pajamas, brush your teeth, and organize your thoughts, says Jones. Getting enough sleep is important when trying to lose weight. “When we are tired, we tend to eat more and exercise less – which is exactly what you want to avoid when trying to lose weight,” says Jones.