We’ve all heard about it, right? Many people have experienced it and the frustrations that go with it. When you’re trying to lose weight there’s nothing more aggravating than not actually losing weight. The scenario can go one of two ways:
- The first is probably the most common scenario that most of you are thinking about. A person begins a diet and exercise program and begins to lose weight. As they progress the weight loss slows and eventually stops even though they aren’t at their goal weight. I see it routinely in my practice.
- The second scenario is still common but people often do not think of it as a weight loss plateau. In this situation a person begins a diet and exercise program but does not lose any weight at all. While this may not be your traditional plateau of weight loss, it is still a plateau of sorts.
There are many reasons a person my actually stop losing weight, but if you follow the steps below it will help you avoid this pesky problem and keep you on your path to a leaner, healthier body.
Yes, eat more. Many times people begin to experience a plateau because they’ve gone months without actually eating enough. At first, this caloric deficit causes the body to burn extra energy (fat) resulting in weight loss. Over time, however, the body’s metabolism slows down to meet the amount of energy one is consuming. We must remember that the human body is designed as a survival machine. If it believes it is not getting enough food, it will slow down the metabolism to meet the energy supply coming in. When this happens, weight loss stops.
For the person that begins a diet program but simply cannot lose a single pound, eating more might be essential. If someone is having trouble losing any weight, it may be because they have been under eating for many years and their metabolism has slowed to a crawl. Trying to lose weight by cutting calories will only compound the problem. Focus on eating healthy proteins, fruits and vegetables and DO NOT SKIP MEALS. Eat every three hours and your calories will go up and weight loss will resume/begin.
Change Up Your Exercise
Our bodies get used to things. Thank goodness they do or even simple tasks like walking might prove very difficult! But this also means that our bodies get used to our exercise routines and become very efficient at them. The benefit you received initially from your workout program is no longer as high. It’s the classic story of diminishing returns. As you continue to do the same exercise routine, your body finds a way to use less and less energy to do it. This means you get less and less benefit.
An ideal exercise program includes resistance training (i.e. weights) and cardiovascular work. There are ways to incorporate both very easily, but it must be changed on a monthly basis. The change is essential for continuing to make progress.
Didn’t I just tell you to change? Yes, I did. But you must also be consistent with several things. Your diet must be consistent. You must consistently change your workout program and you must remember that weight loss is most permanent when it is done over a long period of time. If you’re overweight, you did not get there in 6 weeks. Similarly, you’re likely not going to reach your goals in 6 weeks.
Consistency in the early stages of a diet are perhaps even more vital. There is little room for error early in a diet plan. This does not mean you have to be perfect. No one is perfect. You should try and be as consistent as possible, however. In the first phase of a new lifestyle your metabolism is resistant to change. It likes the old way of doing things. It may take weeks (or months!) for it to adapt to the new demands you are placing on it. Frequent indiscretions in diet or lack of exercise will prolong the process of shifting your metabolism. And guess what you’re going to do as soon as your metabolism adapts? Change your exercise program!!
The process is actually very simple, but because there’s a lot of misinformation out there regarding diet and exercise many people tend to get confused, frustrated and eventually give up. If you can remember the above steps and keep them in your head at all times, weight loss should be a relatively easy process.