Grrrr I don’t think the scales are working
Have you ever reached a stage in your weight loss where every week you go on the scales and it seems as if they are broken, your weight isn’t going up or down is just stuck. Its frustrating right? I remember buying new batteries and going to friends houses and thinking what the hell is going on, I was doing everything properly so why wasn’t I losing weight.
This is known as a weight loss plateau and is mega frustrating.
It happens to runners and endurance athletes, and it happens to dieters, too: You’re working hard to meet your weight-loss goal when suddenly, the needle on the scale refuses to budge. This roadblock often occurs just after your initial weight loss, and again when you can’t seem to lose those last few pounds. It’s very discouraging to keep working hard when you can’t see the fruits of your labour. To make things worse, these weight-loss plateaus can last from several days to months.
If your weight loss has come to an abrupt halt, you must be wondering: Am I doing something wrong?
According to the experts, hitting these plateaus is nothing unusual. As your weight drops and your body composition changes, so do your nutritional needs. There are several reasons why your weight can hit a plateau:
- As your weight goes down, you not only lose fat but also a small amount of muscle. It’s estimated that up to 25% of the body tissue lost during weight loss comes from muscle. Since muscle is critical to keeping your metabolism perking, losing it can reduce your metabolic rate and hinder weight loss. Strength training can help preserve and build muscle to get your metabolism humming again.
- The set point theory alleges that your body naturally tries to maintain a certain weight where it is most comfortable. If you find yourself stuck at the same weight time and again, you may have reached the comfort zone. Reducing much further typically results in regaining weight.
- You may need fewer calories or more physical activity to sustain your lower weight. This is the most likely cause of a weight-loss plateau. Further, it’s almost impossible to lose much weight without exercising. Many scientists agree that whether you exercise is the best way to predict whether you’ll successfully maintain your weight.
- Other factors that can influence weight loss include thyroid or adrenal gland problems, medications you’re taking, pregnancy, breastfeeding, menopause, and quitting smoking.
But more than likely, your weight is at a plateau because your portion sizes have crept up, and/or your workouts have decreased in intensity or frequency. You also may be indulging in high-calorie foods more often.
The truth of the matter is that most people let down their guard a little after their initial weight loss. It’s perfectly natural to get more comfortable with the eating plan, and possibly overlook the prescribed portion sizes or quantities. The result is weight maintenance instead of further weight loss.
One Pound of Fat
Some dieters expect their rate of weight loss to be constant. But most people drop weight more quickly when they first begin a reducing program. This initial loss, unfortunately, is half fluid and does not reflect how much actual fat tissue you’ve burned. It’s only later that each pound lost reflects the burning of real fat, roughly equivalent to 3,500 calories.
So don’t be fooled into thinking that your initial rate of weight loss will continue. It’s hard work to burn off 3,500 calories a week!
So what can we do to get over this weight loss plateau? I see many women ask this question and I’ve been through it.
As you are losing weight, it can be tempting to cut calories too low to shed pounds faster. The down side to this technique: your muscle can be used as energy and this gradually slows your metabolism to spare energy. Whether you find yourself above your body’s natural set-point weight or if you’re hard pressed to lose those vanity pounds, here are 10 ways to overcome a weight-loss plateau.
- Adjust your calorie intake. As you lose weight, your metabolism can drop because your body requires less calories or “energy” to fuel a smaller you. The calorie intake that you initially had when you began your weight-loss journey will need to be adjusted to match your body’s current needs for weight loss. Make sure to revise your calorie goal every 10 pounds or so.
- Focus on quality. Busting through a weight-loss plateau is more than calories in and calories out. Processed foods won’t cut it anymore, thus quality whole foods like vegetables, beans, high-fiber fruits and lean proteins are needed for your engine to burn body fat.
- Rotate your routine. Slugging away on the treadmill for the past four months? It’s time to change up your workouts. The muscles become familiar with the same old workout, making your regular routine less effective. To see a change in body fat, you have to get outside of your fitness comfort zone. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been shown to burn body fat effectively. Try doing speed work at the track, a boot camp class at the gym, or alternate walking and running intervals. Note: Just progress slowly and deliberately when incorporating high-intensity exercise into your routine. Doing too much too fast can leave you too sore, tired or even injured.
- Beware of clean-up duty. An extra bite here, a little nibble there. Those calories DO count, even if they aren’t on your plate. Mindlessly munching on the kids’ (or spouse’s) leftovers during clean up seems harmless, but resist the snack urge because it might be what’s keeping you from seeing results.
- Know your numbers. If you’ve been watching what you eat and exercising more and your weight is not budging, consult with your doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions that could make it difficult for you to lose weight.
- Sleep. A full night’s sleep is vital to losing body fat because it resets your hormones. Even a little sleep deprivation can lead to increased cortisol, a stress hormone. Elevated cortisol levels can lead to body fat accumulation around the midsection.
- Keep a closer eye on your caloric needs. Research has shown that people often overestimate how many calories they burn during exercise, and underestimate how many calories they eat. To better approximate your caloric needs, use the MyFitnessPal basal metabolic rate calculator to learn how many calories you burn a day if you did nothing but rest for 24 hours. Use your basal metabolic rate as a benchmark to subtract the approximate number of calories burned during activity. Keep in mind that the number of calories burned during activity can vary.
- Flush with fluids. Keep your hydration in check since the body will often crave food when you are even mildly dehydrated. Symptoms of dehydration are similar to symptoms of hunger, so it’s easy to confuse the two. Aim to drink 80-100 fluid ounces (2.35 liters) of water per day plus additional fluids lost during activity.
- Increase muscle mass. Want to burn more calories at rest? Lift (heavier) weights and follow a strength-training program to build muscle. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, and the more body fat you’ll shed.
- Eat more protein. Protein has the highest thermic effect of food, meaning eating protein burns more calories during digestion. Protein also contains an amino acid, leucine, that numerous research studies have identified as a potent catalyst for burning body fat.
Put these tried and true tips into action, and soon you’ll be saying, “What weight-loss plateau?”