Overcoming Plateaus in Weight Loss

Plateaus are frustrating animals in weight loss. It does not matter if you are following a weight management plan such as Weight Watchers, counting your calories, or maintaining a loss after weight loss surgery. You seem to be doing everything right and the weight loss comes to a screeching halt. Plateaus are a certainty on the journey.

Some plateaus can be self-imposed when you vary from your weight loss plan. That doughnut or cheeseburger can have more of an impact that you suspect. Most people severely under estimate the calories, fat and sugars in food. It easy to unconsciously slip into a pattern of thinking just a small bite won’t matter or skipping the workout this morning is OK.  

Other  plateaus are not under our control. As we lose weight, our body is adjusting. The problem is that the body just does not like change. It just needs a constant wake-up call to let it know you are changing and it needs to adapt.  As we lose that extra fat, there is just less fat to lose. Toning the lower fat body takes a longer period of time.

Plateaus have been the hot topic in the discussion forums I participate in and at my local weight loss support group. Everyone wants that magic bullet to break the weight loss plateau. I am sure there is not one single bullet. Here are the ways I approach plateaus. 

  1. Food and Exercise Journaling – The simple formula for weight loss is (calories in – calories out) / 3500 = pounds gained (+) or pounds lost (-). To put yourself on the losing side, increase your exercise and/or decrease your food intake.  Journaling visually exposes those unconscious patterns that sabotage your weight loss.
  2. Eat Healthy – Choosing foods that are high in protein and fiber while low in fat and sugar is a good place to start. Eat natural foods avoiding processed foods. Buy plenty of fruits, vegetables and lean meats. Avoid flour, breads, pasta and processed foods. Keep yourself out of fast food drive-thrus.
  3. Measure your Food – Eating too much is an easy thing to do. Most people overestimate a serving size by 50-100%. Review the serving size in your eating plan and measure, measure, measure.
  4. Charge it up – Adding some intensity to your exercise routine increases the calories you burn. You don’t need to completely change the fitness activities you do. Just throw in an occasional more intense training. Run or swim a little farther and faster. Add some weight onto the machine. Speed walk or job on one of your walks.

Your body is a complex machine. You need to keep it fed and nurtured to be healthy. Take some care in making changes to break your plateau. If you eat too little, your body can go into starvation mode where your body works hard to counteract starvation by holding onto the weight. If you have access to a dietitian or nutritionist, consult them first. Your primary care physician can also give you good advice on living a healthy diet.

It is almost a certainty that you cannot escape plateaus in weight loss. People who are successful with weight loss know this. You just need the resolve to continue pushing through them. Plateaus are also learning opportunities. You get a chance to reevaluate your diet, exercise and progress. It is a time to look at goals and long term results. It is up to you to turn the perception of being a liability into being an asset.

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