By Brandy D.
You altered your diet and stepped-up your exercise regimen. Soon enough, fat started melting off. Months later, you still have weight to lose but can’t seem to shed those few last pounds. What’s the deal?
A weight loss plateau is typically defined as no change in body weight for three consecutive weeks. Even though you may be eating the same foods and performing the same exercises, your weight loss has come to a screeching halt.
This plateau is generally caused by a change in metabolic rate. As you lose weight, your metabolism declines, causing you to burn fewer calories than before. When the calories you burn equal the number of calories you consume, you’ve reach a plateau.
Most people tend to hit a plateau around 6 months, according to the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. While it’s not always possible to prevent a weight loss plateau, you can push past one. These tips can help you restart your weight loss.
Adjust Your Calorie Deficit
A calorie deficit is not just about eating less, but eating less than the number of calories your body needs daily. When you first began your weight loss journey, you may or may not have counted your calorie intake. Whether or not you’ve determined your ideal daily calorie intake, you now need to adjust your deficit to account for your new weight loss.
Most people set a deficit by determining how many pounds of fat per week they want to lose. Each pound of fat is equivalent to 3,500 calories. Therefore, if you want to lose one pound per week, you need to determine how many fewer calories you need to eat to create a deficit.
When setting your calorie intake, there are several factors you should consider, such as your body weight, how often you exercise, the intensity of your workouts, and if your day job is active or sedentary in nature. If you’re having trouble working out the math in your head, use a calorie calculator to estimate the number of daily calories your body needs.
If you want to continue to lose weight, you need to create a consistent calorie deficit. Adjust this deficit after every 10 pounds you lose.
Increase Your Cardio
According to guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults require approximately 150 minutes of moderately-intense aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorously-intense aerobic activity weekly.
Cardio is often the go-to type of exercise for individuals trying to lose weight, and it’s quite effective in shedding those excess pounds. However, the amount of cardio you’re currently doing may not be enough to keep your weight loss chugging alone at an acceptable rate. If you’ve hit a plateau, try increasing your cardiovascular exercise time.
Depending on how much you exercise now, add 15 to 30 minutes. So if you exercise each day for 30 minutes, try exercising for 45 or 60 minutes. To avoid burn out, do not do more than 90 minutes of cardio a day.
Don’t think you can do a full 60 minutes of cardio? No worries. Just break up the sessions into manageable blocks. Several intense 15 minute sessions spaced out throughout the day are better than a full 60 minutes of lackluster performance.
Change Up Your Routine
Love using your treadmill? Do you watch the same workout DVD again and again? While engaging in any type of exercise is great, repeating the same workouts over and over may be slowing down your weight loss progress.
If you’re reached a plateau, it’s time to challenge your body by switching up your day-to-day workouts. While it’s easy to fall into a routine, changing the activities you do and the exercises you perform can have a big payoff. If you walk a lot, try jogging, cycling or swimming. If you usually workout to an instructional DVD, try attending a class instead, such as Zumba, Pilates or Yoga.
Consider alternatives to your standard exercises too. Go for a hike, join a volleyball team, or run around the playground with the kids instead of sitting on the sidelines.
If you have yet to do so, add strength training to the mix. While cardio helps to melt fat, strength training works the muscles to strengthen bone tissue, increase lean mass and boost the metabolism. Getting started with strength training is easy. Follow a bodyweight program, get a personal trainer, or buy some dumbbells to use at home.
Eat More Meals a Day
Eating more meals a day may seem counterproductive, but the results speak for themselves. According to a recent study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, people who ate six small meals per day had lower BMIs and ate more nutritious foods than people who ate fewer than four times per day.
While controversy regarding this method exists, it is believed that eating frequent meals helps to burn fat via the thermic effect. The thermic effect of food (TEF) is the increase in metabolic rate that occurs after ingestion of a meal. If you go by this theory, each time you eat a meal, you’re triggering the metabolic process and dispersing energy to digest, absorb and transport the nutrients from the food you ate to the body’s cells.
Of course, not all foods are made equal. Some foods are considered highly thermogenic, allowing you to increase energy expenditure. Some of the top thermogenic foods include spices like red hot pepper and black pepper, green tea, coconut oil, and protein sources like eggs, nuts, poultry, and lean cuts of red meat.
Assess Your Stress Levels
Stress has an immediate impact on your health, causing both physical and emotional side effects. While some stress is a normal part of life, excess and long-lasting periods of stress can be dangerous.
Up to 43 percent of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress, according to a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA). If you’ve been dealing with bouts of stress lately, your current emotional state could be to blame for your plateau. If not managed properly, stress can even cause you to gain weight.
While some individuals experience an initial decrease in appetite when dealing with stressful situations, many experience the opposite. An increase in appetite can result in stress-induced weight gain, typically caused by a change in stress hormones.
Fortunately, there are many ways you can help reduce and manage your stress levels so that you can continue on with your weight loss plan. Start by taking action in regards to the sources of your stress. Maintain a positive attitude, knowing that you’re in charge of how you respond to a stressful situation.
Learn and practice relaxation techniques to work through your stress. In addition to basic deep breathing exercises, prayer, meditation yoga, and tai chi have also been found effective in reducing stress levels.
During stressful periods in your life, it’s important to maintain your health. Continue eating healthy, avoiding excess sugars and focusing on fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Steer clear of unhealthy “comfort foods.” Make time for your interests and hobbies, and be sure to get enough sleep at night.
Get Motivated Again
Think back to when you first began your weight loss journey. You were excited about this new change in life, and highly motivated to get started. As the weeks and months went by, your motivation likely started to dwindle as you became used to the same routine day-in and day-out. With a loss of motivation often comes a slack in diet and exercise regimens, resulting in weight gain or a plateau.
When the newness wears off, how do you regain motivation and drive to lose weight?
Begin by writing down all of the reasons that you wanted to (and still want to) shed those unsightly pounds. Hang this list in a place where you’ll see it every day, like on the front of your refrigerator. Another idea is to write down a reward for when you’ve lost those last few pounds. Perhaps a daytrip to a local salon and spa for a little R&R.
If you’re bored with your some old routine, switch things up. Ask a friend or family member to start working out with you. When you exercise with someone else, you’ll be much more likely to give it your all and not miss a session.
Another way to restart your motivation? Go through your closet and get rid of all of the clothes that no longer fit the new you. Head to your favorite boutique or retail store and pick out a brand new wardrobe that better reflects your thinner physique. With a closet full of new clothes, you’ll be much more likely to manage your weight so that you can wear your new ensembles with the utmost confidence.
The Bottom Line
Weight loss plateaus are frustrating and typically occur when you least expect. When you feel like you’ve hit a wall, don’t give up. While you may have obstacles in your way, it is possible to push past a weight loss plateau and continue on your journey to become a healthier you. It’s important to remember that the leaner you become, the slower you’ll lose weight. Stay strong, patient and motivated even when the scale refuses to budge.