Anyone trying to lose weight dreads hitting a plateau: that point when your weight loss stalls, even though you’re still following your program. Here’s how to get off the plateau.
1. Be kind to your body and yourself. Remember that what’s happening is normal. Your body will store fat as an energy reserve and it will burn fat to give you energy. However, when you embark upon a fat-loss plan, you will reach a point of having lost enough weight that, although you have reduced your food intake, your body no longer has to burn so many calories to simply power you. Your body has reached a temporary state of equilibrium on your journey to your new weight.
2. Remember how much better you look and feel, and how much happier this makes you. The decision to lose weight is very personal and you’ve already seen the benefits.
3. Really look at yourself, including taking pictures of yourself in a mirror. It can be very difficult to see the changes in your body just by looking down yourself, but comparing before-and-after pictures can show dramatic changes, especially if you are also exercising. Muscle mass is denser and heavier than the same sized fat mass. If your waist or thighs or arms are smaller, or if you can feel improved muscle mass, what’s happening is good, even if the number on the scale stays the same. Stick with your eating and exercise plan and the scale will catch up.
4. If you have hit an actual plateau, be honest with yourself about how much—and what—you’re really eating during the day. A few minutes a day for a few days with the Trim Down Club Diet Journal can pay big dividends. And remember, no one will see this but you! If you realize that you’ve gone back to some of your bad habits, ask yourself why. Maybe you’re eating out of stress or boredom: we’ll discuss ways to deal with those issues a little further down.
5. You should also re-evaluate your portion sizes, as they can creep up in size once you get comfortable with ‘eyeballing’. On the same lines, monitor your salt/sodium intake, as too much can result in water retention that adds weight—and is actually hard on the heart. And most salt is not added by us, but to virtually all processed foods to make them taste better and increase their “craveability.”
If you find yourself falling back into old eating habits, your new eating plan may not be working for you. It’s usually easier to break one or two bad habits at a time, than to suddenly try to “be perfect.” That’s why a flexible eating program is perfect: it allows you to solve on problem at a time.
If you are eating because you’re stressed, try to manage the stress first. Enjoyable exercise—any form of brisk movement you enjoy—is a classic method. If you’re eating out of boredom, try to develop a hobby or a craft you enjoy or perhaps spend time with friends.
6. Ask yourself how much you’re really exercising: how long and how intensely each day and how many times each week—and compare it to what you did before. We’re mammals, so as we get older, we tend to want to conserve energy. It’s natural. However, the more you enjoy a particular way of moving—hiking, gardening, swimming—the more you will do it, the more intensely you will do it and the less you will eat afterward.
7. Also, be sure you’re getting enough sleep. Skimping on sleep can actually slow down your metabolism and even lead to overeating, especially of calorie-dense ‘fattening’ foods.
8. Drink enough water every day—6-10 cups (8 fluid ounces or 240 ml each) or more if you’re sweating a lot. When your muscles are not properly hydrated, your metabolism slows down.
9. Try adding the following foods to your meals: they can help speed up your metabolism
- Green tea
- Warming spices such as cinnamon, chili peppers, and turmeric
- Certain nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, and macadamia nuts
- Olive oil and oils from recommended nuts
- Fermented foods, including vegetables, organic soy, and dairy
- Root vegetables, such as onion, garlic, leek, chicory, sunchoke
- Cruciferous vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli
- Foods high in omega-3 fats, such as fatty fish, kale, almonds
- Berries, particularly blueberries and raspberries
- Brown seaweed, such as wakame
If you have or suspect you have a thyroid condition, see your health care provider about adjusting or starting medication. If you are taking thyroid medication, large amounts of cruciferous vegetables and soy may interfere with its effectiveness.
10. If you find you’re doing ‘everything right’ and still plateauing, changing your exercise routine can jump start your efforts. Your body is very efficient: after you’ve been doing a certain set of exercises for a while, they won’t have the same effect. Different exercises, especially exercises that work large groups of muscles, can help you leave the plateau. So can increasing the intensity, amount, and/or frequency of your current exercises.