If you’ve been eating healthy and exercising for a lengthy period of time, you’re likely well aware of the weight loss plateau. Everyone who has tried to lose weight dreads the plateau because it can be incredibly discouraging. For the first few months, you’re on a roll, losing weight with each passing week. You’re feeling good, eating better and exercising daily. Your goals are within reach and you’re determined to get there. Next thing you know, your scale won’t budge. You only have 15 pounds left to lose, but they’re not going anywhere.
Unfortunately, this frustration often leads people astray. Because the pounds are no longer coming off, they get discouraged and in some cases, are led back into a life of unhealthy eating habits and not enough exercise. However, there is hope. If you’ve hit a weight loss plateau, it can actually be a great thing. All it means is that you need to switch up your routine and “shock” your body into dropping those last few pounds. It allows you to double up your efforts and make a clear strategy on how to continue.
Use the following suggestions to recommit yourself to your program and reignite the fuel that has kept you on this weight loss journey for so long. It’s time to challenge your body again.
Create a new, clear strategy for weight loss.
Consider the following questions.
Is your weight-loss goal realistic?
Is your expected rate of weight loss reasonable?
Are you getting enough nutrients?
Are you exercising enough? Too much?
If you’re on a health-enhancing, nutritionally rich weight loss program, you can expect to lose one to two pounds a week. Anything more and you’re pushing your body too hard. Each body has its own ideal weight and size. Don’t compare your body to the body of others. Instead, listen to your body and start to recognize what feels right for you. As your body changes, so does what it needs. A simple way to approximate your ideal weight is by referring to a Body Mass Index chart. Keep in mind, however, that these are just a guideline. Many people have a high body mass index but it’s due to their muscle mass, not the amount of fat they carry.
Switch to a high protein, low carb diet. In other words, go paleo.
If you’re eating enough protein to maintain your lean muscle mass, then you may not need to switch your diet up much. However, if you’re not getting enough protein, then you’ve likely lost weight from fat and muscle. Women need to consume approximately 100 grams of protein per day and men need at least 150 grams of protein. Eating enough protein preserves your muscle tissue during a weight loss program. If you’ve lost muscle during your program, you will need to focus on protein so you can build muscle. Muscle requires more calories to sustain, which will in turn kick-start your weight loss again as it boosts your metabolism. Needless to say, any weight loss program that you choose should be one that preserves your body’s muscle. Many people make the mistake of eating less meat to avoid the calories. When they start losing weight, they think they’re losing fat but in reality, they’re losing muscle mass.
Start strength training.
Another way to boost your metabolism is by incorporating aerobic exercise. Thirty minutes per day of walking or swimming is a great place to start. If you’re just getting started exercising, you might want to begin with 15 minutes and then work your way up to longer periods of exercise. In addition, adding weight training with free weights or machines allows you to increase muscle mass, which burns more calories and faster. Studies show that weight training can increase metabolism overnight by five to ten percent. Working out can increase your metabolism for up to 21 hours after an intense workout.
Don’t worry about bulking up, either. Low weights and high repetitions will do more to tone than to actually bulk up your muscles. Body builders follow extremely strict diets and exercise regimens to build their muscular physiques. As long as you’re also doing cardio, stretching, and implementing weights two to three times a week, you won’t add too much bulk to your body.
Watch your carbs.
If your weight loss slows down even after implementing the above tips, watch out for carbohydrates. Sugar can be found in some highly unexpected places including condiments. Cornstarch, sugar, and milk solids can be found in processed foods like gravy, sauce, or even frozen vegetables. Low-fat foods also have high amounts of sugar and other carbohydrates so pay very close attention to what you’re putting in your body. A diet journal is critical in knowing exactly what you eat and drink, including protein, fat, and carb counts. It’s also wise to add in sugars and sodium levels to get an idea of how much you’re consuming. You may quickly discover that hidden carbs and sugars are keeping your weight loss progress stuck in the middle.
Eliminate refined sugars and grains.
If you’re not already eating clean, start by eliminating refined sugar and refined grains. This includes white bread, white rice, pastries, pasta, white flour crackers, sugar-coated breakfast cereals, cookies, and cake. This step can make an incredible different in your weight loss and can help you jump that plateau faster than you can say “sugar.” It will also leave you feeling healthier, less fatigued, and more energized in the process.
Don’t starve yourself.
Once you hit that plateau, the worst thing that you could do is cut back on your eating. Cutting back your calories can have a negative impact on your diet, especially if you’re exercising more. Many studies show that small, frequent meals are more satisfying and produce better weight-loss results than the same number of calories consumed in three large meals.
Healthy snacking is also important. Raw vegetables like celery, peppers, cucumbers, and pickles are great snacks for when you’re hungry but don’t want to add more calories to your day.
Drink enough water.
Water is essential to life. It is vitally important to replenish your fluids, especially before and after exercise. Drinking plenty of water on your weight loss program is critical for weight loss and energy levels, not to mention, for optimal functioning of your body’s organs. An inadequate supply of water can slow down weight loss.
No matter where you are, you should always carry water with you or have access to it. For additional weight loss management, high quality aloe concentrates in your water can help keep your digestive system moving properly. Also, a probiotic supplement can maintain your intestinal flora. Staying well hydrated not only helps burn fat efficiently, but it also helps control hunger.
Remember when you first started to lose weight? Each time you jumped on the scale or measured inches lost, you were probably overjoyed. This progress led you to feel more motivated about continuing. As time goes on, especially if you’ve reached a plateau, that feeling of excitement dwindles. If possible, go back to whatever your motivation was and see if it still works for you. Maybe you wanted to lose weight so that you could wear that bikini you purchased last year. Maybe it was so that you could spend more time running with your children without getting winded. If the motivation still has juice for you, use it to your advantage. If not, pick a new one! Keep a picture of yourself looking great on your refrigerator—alternatively, you could use a picture of your body at its worst. This will remind you of where you came from and where you’re headed.
Just because you’ve hit the dreaded plateau, it doesn’t mean that you have to give up on yourself. There are several different ways to move past the plateau and continue to drop those extra pounds. Just stay motivated, and overall, love yourself throughout the process. You are on your way to becoming the best you that you can be.