There can be few things more frustrating when you’re on a diet than stepping on the scales only to discover you haven’t lost any weight. When you’ve spent all week long eating salad and exercising regularly, discovering that it’s all been for nothing is enough to make many people give up altogether.
But before you too throw in the towel take a few minutes to understand why weight loss plateaus can occur – and hence the simple solutions that will once again kick-start your weight loss.
Reasons for Weight Loss Plateaus
Losing weight takes effort; we need to create enough of a calorie deficit to stimulate our body to start burning excess fat as an energy source. Often this involves a combination of dietary control and exercise; two activities which require significant discipline. In other words very few people manage to lose weight without effort – we need to push our bodies in order to achieve our goals.
Most commonly weight loss plateaus occur simply because our bodies are no longer being pushed enough. Some of the most common reasons can include:
– A slowing metabolic rate thanks to a calorie-controlled diet which then burns off calories slower
– The body becoming attuned to our exercise regime so that it is no longer as challenging as it once was
The key to breaking through weight loss plateaus is therefore to refresh the amount that we are pushing our bodies. Doing so will once again start burning the fat and will allow us to continue seeing weekly improvements.
How to Break Through Plateaus
Let’s look at some of the proven techniques that many dieters like you have used in the past for effectively kick-starting their weight loss once again after an unfortunate plateau. Appreciate that each of these has helped others in the past, though there is no guarantee that any will work for your specific situation. Therefore, the more of these steps that you can combine, the more effective the end result will likely be.
Check Your Diet for “Leaks”
At the very start of a weight loss program there is a degree of excitement around the change to your lifestyle. While it is uncomfortable at first getting used to new foods (and ignoring some of those foods you love!) it is also easy to feel very positive about the action you’re taking.
However this initial burst of enthusiasm only lasts so long. If you’re like most people then within a matter of weeks this motivation will be waning. All too often we can at this point start to take the pressure off our diet, slowly, bit by bit, introducing “unauthorized” foods.
A bite of pizza here, a tube of Pringles there. A single beer on a Friday night. Before you know it these additions to your diet have pushed you from calorie deficit to calorie excess.
Understandably even spending most of your week eating salad it is therefore possible to exceed your ideal number of calories.
Therefore if you’ve reached a weight loss plateau it is important to be honest with yourself about what you’re really eating. Try doing a full audit of your diet to see just what else has snuck in that needs to be remedied.
Take Time Off
Eating a consistently calorie-controlled diet can have a negative effect on your metabolic rate, slowing it down and making it ever harder for you to shift excess weight. One of the best ways to reverse this process is to increase your food intake for a short while.
This is one reason why many diets recommend a “cheat meal” or even a “free day” each week – this increase in calorific intake can help to “spike” the metabolic rate for the rest of the week, actually having a positive impact on your body’s ability to burn fat.
Depending on the eating regime you have chosen, if you have reached a weight loss plateau on a diet that doesn’t offer the odd cheat meal then often taking some time away from your healthy diet can be a positive step. Try taking a weekend off and eat whatever foods you fancy. Have your fill of all the foods you’ve been trying to ignore and then start afresh on your diet the following week. Often this can be enough to break through a weight loss plateau with ease.
Change Your Exercise Regime
The other way to break through weight loss plateaus is to change your exercise regime. In essence when any of us starts to exercise for the first time in months – or even years – it’s hard work. It takes considerable effort the first few times you go jogging or pick up a barbell. This we know. But also, if you stick at it long enough, your body starts to adjust. You get stronger. You get fitter. And the exercises get easier.
The problem is that in many cases as your fitness levels increase, the exercise you’re doing becomes less and less effective from a weight loss perspective. In essence the best exercises for weight loss are hard work. The more you sweat and pant and push the more weight you’re likely to lose when it comes to exercise.
Here are some ideas to help you achieve just this:
Use Resistance Training
When it comes to weight loss, many dieters focus primarily on aerobic activity – jogging, cycling, swimming and the like. What you might not realize is that resistance training – lifting weights in other words – can also be very beneficial for weight loss. There are numerous reasons for this, though the largest is that weight training can help to boost your metabolism and so increase the number of calories you burn each day.
Therefore if you’ve reached a weight loss plateau yet have focused all your time on aerobic exercise, this may be a good time to pick up some weights for the first time. On a calorie-controlled diet you’re highly unlikely to “bulk up” so if you’re a lady don’t fret; ask a fitness coach at your local gym to take you through some simple exercises and watch how quickly you break through your plateau.
Experiment with Different Exercises
A second way to mix up your exercise regime is to change the exercises you’re doing. If you’ve been jogging then try switching to swimming. If you’ve been doing resistance training and focusing on squats then try deadlifts for a while. Or do the same exercises but in a different order. Remember: when it comes to breaking through a weight loss plateau variety is the spice of life.
Increase Exercise Speed and/or Intensity
The last option to keep your body guessing and maximize the amount of fat that you lose is to increase either the speed or intensity of the exercise you’ve been doing. For example if you’ve been jogging, try to jog slightly further each day to keep your body adjusting.
Alternatively choose a “finish point”, start your stopwatch and aim to reach this point in less time than the previous session. While beating your time will likely be easy at first, over time it will become tougher and tougher, requiring ever more effort from your body.
Don’t let a weight loss plateau be the undoing of all your hard work. I know just how frustrating it can be, to feel that you’ve put in so much effort and been rewarded with no results. However this situation really is only temporary if you follow the steps outlined above.
By changing up your weight loss routine to keep your body guessing you’ll quickly break through your weight loss plateau and when you’re lying on the beach this summer admiring your figure you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about. You’ll also thank you lucky stars that you didn’t give up when faced with a plateau. Remember: progress not perfection.