Dr. Megan Johnson McCullough -Staying motivated when working towards accomplishing a goal is a key determinant of our behavior to keep committed to what we are doing. Feeling like we have reached a plateau, which is a state of feeling like there is no change or little progress, can be discouraging and make us feel like there’s no point in continuing. Reaching a weight loss plateau is certainly a difficult halt in the road of one’s healthy lifestyle change journey. How can we avoid or fix reaching a weight loss plateau is one of the favorite questions I am frequently asked.
Initially when a person starts a diet and weight loss plan, they begin to lose weight at a steady rate and see results fairly quickly. Even the general fitness goer knows the science of weight loss requires burning more calories than what you consume. This means the output exceeds the input. Adjusting to eating the right foods in the right amounts and exercising more is challenging but rewarding when you see results. It’s when you don’t see the results you expected whether realistic or not, that can make a person question their strategy and efforts. There isn’t a remote control for metabolism, so sometimes it is trial and error as to how your body will respond to your routine. The reality is that many factors can play into the causality of the plateau to include environment, hormones, and dietary health.
Most plateaus occur about 6 months after starting a low calorie diet due to a few possible reasons:
- Metabolism has slowed down after quick weight loss.
- The body adjusted to weight loss and now has put up its defense against losing anymore.
- People are not as diligent in their diet and exercise as they once were.
There may be some changes you can make to counteract the plateau and encourage progress to be made.
- Increase your exercise frequency and/or intensity. Over time because you have been exercising, your fitness level will improve. Therefore, the same speed or resistance isn’t as challenging to the body as it initially was. This means you may need to up the intensity of your workout. This could be by increasing duration, speed, or weight selection. Making small increments of increased change will allow for progress to continue to be made.
- Keeping a food journal can be a great tool to truly know how much you are consuming. Most people underreport what they are eating. You can use a food tracker/app that allows you to log what you are having and shows the nutritional components. This can be eye opening to many people. Often, we think we are having healthy fats or healthy carbohydrates, but when we total up the day’s amount, we have had much more than should be allotted.
- Reducing stress is important because it affects our energy, effort, and can slow weight loss. Emotional eating is a common stress related problem because increased cortisol levels can make the body crave foods to suppress such feelings.
- Eating more fiber can be a small change that helps gut health and digestion. Low carbohydrate diets don’t always have a lot of fiber in them due to food selections. Vegetables are great for this because they can be both high in fiber and water content. Plus, you are giving your body more vitamins and nutrients it needs for better performance.
- Getting plenty of sleep is necessary for the body to recover and replenish itself. This means better quality of sleep and aiming for 7 to 9 hours.
These are all variables we can control. If other medical and health issues exist, consulting with a doctor is necessary to pinpoint causality. Keep in mind that ageing slows metabolism, how much less active you may be now compared to the past, the time you are putting towards your health goal, and all of life’s demands. The journey is never easy, but it is worth it one hundred percent. A longer, better quality of life sounds good to us all. Self-care requires what you put into your body and the activity you provide for you muscle and bone health. A plateau isn’t the all-ending cross road of trying to lose weight, rather, pivoting and adjusting with a positive mindset while doing so, is the approach to take.