Busting Through Your Weight Loss Plateau

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Healthy, lasting weight loss takes time. There really are no quick fixes or shortcuts. But sometimes, your patience reaches its limits, as you hit a plateau -- and not an ounce is coming off.  When you come to a plateau, you need to know the right moves to make to keep your motivation high to get back on track with healthy weight loss. 

The term “weight loss plateau” has been discussed for years.  Biologically and emotionally, a weight-loss plateau occurs when you haven't changed your diet and exercise plan, but you haven’t lost weight for at least three weeks.

You may fluctuate up and down a few pounds, but you find that you just can't seem to get below a certain number.

Recent studies are increasing our knowledge of weight loss, metabolism, genetics, and weight gain.  As our understanding increases, so do the chances of you reaching—and maintaining— your target weight and getting past the dreaded plateau!

Why Are You at a “Plateau?”

Sooner or later, if you are successfully dieting, your weight loss will slow down, or possibly even stall for a while. Here are just a few of the reasons for these slow-downs -- or plateaus -- in your weight loss program:

  • Impatience:  Instant gratification does not happen with long-term weight loss.  It takes time to lose, and then to slowly align your habits, and emotions with a “new you.” 
  • Body mechanics:  Your body is designed to move you through life, store and dispense energy, and get you where are going.  When you suddenly start eating less, your body—fearing famine—conserves energy, and dials down your metabolismResearch suggests the more weight you carry, the greater the chemical signaling in your body to retain the extra weight. 
  • Mind over matter:  For those who want to lose weight, the mind is a big part of the weight loss game. Carefully looking at, and addressing, eating habits is hard work.  Food, drinks, snacks all contribute – sometimes too much – to how we feel emotionally. Changing old habits, acquiring new knowledge, and choosing different foods, requires compassion and patience with yourself—and your body.
  • Physiology:  Gaining weight, or failing to lose weight over a reasonable period of time is a good reason to check with your doctor.  You could have an underactive thyroid.  If you are already a thyroid patient, you may need to optimize your thyroid treatment.

Getting Back on the Path to Weight Loss

While it looks like a plateau, it may just be a point in the road to check your map. Consider these tips for keeping the pace toward your target weight:

  • Exercise:  Basic fact—weight loss occurs when energy expended is more than energy taken in.  That means eating fewer calories and increasing exercise. If you are at a point where your regular workout is not producing results, consider changing up your exercise habits.  Know your goals—are you trying to reach a healthy weight, or get buff?  Reaching and keeping a healthy weight does not require three hours in a gym per day—but it may require one hour of rigorous activity most days of the week, with a focus on building muscle.
  • Watch what you eat—or chew:  Counting calories, or even counting bites of food is a proven way to focus awareness of what, and how much, you are eating.  We are literally “what we eat.”  Gain a better understanding of how to eat in a healthy way—while leaving room for cookies and cake on occasion. Boost intake of fruits and vegetables, and consider what supplements could be right for you. A satisfying meal plan is a super way to keep moving toward your weight goals.
  • Sleep!  Studies show people that sleep less, often weight more. Restful sleep is essential for health—and weight loss.  When you are fatigued, you exercise less, and are more likely to reach for a bag of chips, or soda. When you suffer chronic sleep fatigue, expect interference with weight loss, immune function and stress management—which in turn stimulates your hunger.

Diet Hacks to Defeat the Plateau

A few other things you can try if you are dealing with a weight loss plateau:

  • Change your diet composition. For example, increase or decrease the percentage of protein, fat or carbohydrates temporarily to see if it has an impact on your plateau.
  • Change your calorie intake. If you are eating very low calorie, a slight increase in calories may actually help with your weight loss efforts because too much calorie restriction can encourage the body to conserve fat.
  • Change your fitness routine. Add more muscle-building, aerobics, or more time.
  • Get your motivation in the right place. The right attitude is just as crucial as diet and exercise.

Remember—every step you take moves you further from the “plateau,” and back on your own path toward health!

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