On a weight loss plateau? Oftentimes weight tends to come more fairly rapidly at first, but at some point it seems as though your weight won’t budge. This inability to lose weight is known as a weight loss plateau or stall, and it can be frustrating and discouraging. It happens to almost everyone.
When you are at a plateau, it is your body’s way of trying to maintain homeostasis—its inclination to keep things status quo. What you need to do is create change by doing something different. There is some trial and error here, but eventually your body will cooperate and resume weight loss.
When trying to lose weight, hopping on the scale should not be your sole parameter of success. It’s important to realize that the scale reading may not accurately reflect your progress, such as changes in your body composition.
Some reasons the scale may be inaccurate are that you may be retaining water for a number of reasons, including eating a high sodium meal. If you haven’t had a bowel movement in a few days, that may cause the number on the scale to increase. Another culprit is hormonal fluctuations.
Instead of focusing solely on the number on the scale, assess how you feel and how your clothing fits. It’s also a good idea to measure yourself on a regular basis. The pounds that disappeared may show in the body but not on the scale.
Tips for Getting Off a Weight Loss Plateau
Here are some tips to get off a weight loss plateau:
- Make Sure You are Tracking Everything
Studies show that just the act of recording your food intake enhances your weight loss efforts. Be aware that some people have a tendency to underestimate the amount of food they eat. Make sure you’re estimating portion size accurately and that you are recording all food and drink. If you nibble while you’re making dinner or tastes from someone else’s plate, that counts too.
Also make sure you are not getting too few calories because that may slow your metabolism. Don’t go below 1,200 calories per day.
- Increase Your Fiber Intake by Eating Vegetables at Every Meal
Vegetables are the ideal food for weight loss. Most vegetables are low in calories and carbs, high in fiber and loaded with beneficial nutrients. Studies have found that diets that include lots of vegetables tend to produce the greatest weight loss.
Including more fiber in your diet may help you break through a weight loss plateau.
This is especially true for soluble fiber, the type that dissolves in water or liquid. This type of fiber slows down the movement of food through your digestive tract, which can help you feel full and satisfied. Another way that fiber may aid weight loss is by decreasing the number of calories you absorb from other foods.
- Increase Frequency or Intensity of Exercise
Revving up your exercise regimen may help reverse a weight loss plateau. Understand that your metabolic rate slows down as you lose weight. But, amping up exercise a bit can help.
Resistance training promotes the retention of muscle mass, which is a major factor influencing how many calories you burn during activity and at rest. In fact, resistance training seems to be the most effective type of exercise for weight loss.
Other types of physical activity have also been shown to protect against a metabolic slowdown, including aerobic exercise and (HIIT) high-intensity interval training.
If you’re already exercising, working out, try adding an extra day or two of workouts, increase the intensity of your workouts, or add 15 minutes to your routine. If you’ve been doing the same routine for some time, your body gets used to it and burns fewer calories, so switch it up.
- Don’t Skimp on Protein and Spread it Out
If your weight loss has stalled, increasing your protein intake may help. Try cutting back on carbs a bit and eating more protein.
Protein boosts metabolic rate more than either fat or carbs. This has to do with the thermic effect of food (TEF), or increase in metabolism that occurs due to the digestion of food. Protein digestion boosts calorie burning by 20–30%, which is more than twice as much as fat or carbs.
Also, protein stimulates the production of hormones that help reduce appetite and make you feel full and satisfied. Moreover, maintaining a high protein intake can help protect against the loss of muscle mass and a drop in metabolic rate, both of which typically occur during weight loss.
When it comes to protein, it’s not just your total intake for the day that matters. Consuming protein throughout the day provides you with several opportunities to boost your metabolism through the thermic effect of food (TEF).
There’s also mounting research showing that eating protein at every meal is beneficial for weight loss and muscle mass retention. Experts recommend eating 20–30 grams of protein per meal.
- Try Setting an Eating Cut-Off Time
Intermittent fasting has become very popular recently. One variation involves setting an eating window. The practice has been credited with promoting the loss of body fat and weight, in addition to other health benefits.
One review found that this way of eating helped protect against muscle mass loss more than daily calorie restriction. You might find that setting an eating cut-off time will help reduce caloric after dinner snacking.
- Eat More Slowly
If you’re a quick eater, try eating more slowly. Practice mindful eating. Make eating your sole activity and do not multi-task. Put the fork down between bites. Not only will you enjoy the meal more, but your brain will have time to signal to your gut that you are full enough and should stop eating. Aim for each meal to take about 20 minutes.
- Get Plenty of Sleep
Sleep is extremely important for good mental, emotional and physical health. Many studies show that not getting enough sleep can lead to weight gain by lowering your metabolic rate and altering hormone levels to drive appetite and fat storage. In fact, not getting enough sleep is a contributing factor in cases of stalled weight loss. If you’re skimping on sleep, aim for 7–8 hours of sleep per night.
- Manage Stress Better
Stress can often put the brakes on weight loss. In addition to promoting comfort eating and triggering food cravings, it also increases your body’s production of cortisol.
Cortisol is known as the “stress hormone.” While it helps your body respond to stress, it can also increase belly fat storage. What’s more, this effect seems to be stronger in women. Therefore, producing too much cortisol can make weight loss very difficult.
- Avoid Alcohol
Alcohol may be sabotaging your weight loss efforts. Although one alcoholic drink may contain only around 120 calories, it provides no nutritional value and many people have more than one drink at a sitting. What’s more, research has shown that alcohol suppresses fat burning and may lead to belly fat accumulation.
Another problem is that alcohol weakens inhibitions, which may lead you to overeat or make poor food choices. This may be especially problematic for those trying to overcome impulsive food-related behaviors.
- Drink Water, Coffee or Tea
While sugary beverages, including juices, can lead to weight gain, some beverages may help reverse a weight loss stall. Studies have found that drinking 17 oz. of plain water can boost metabolism by 24–30% for 1.5 hours. This may translate into weight loss over time, especially in those who consume water before meals, which may help reduce food intake.
Coffee and green tea may also benefit your weight loss efforts. These beverages typically contain caffeine, which has been shown to increase fat burning and boost metabolic rate by up to 13%. Moreover, research suggests that consuming caffeinated beverages can significantly enhance the metabolism-boosting, fat-burning effects of exercise.
- Be as Active as Possible in Daily Life
Although working out is important, other factors also influence the number of calories you burn each day. It is important to move throughout the day, even if your work out.
This type of activity is known as non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT.
Research has shown that NEAT can have a major impact on your metabolic rate, although the amount varies significantly from person to person. Even fidgeting counts.
Try standing up more and taking short walks frequently throughout the day. If you typically walk 10,000 steps per day, try increasing it to 12,000.
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