This article is going to go through what a weight loss plateau is, what can cause them, and how to get through them. If you have not read my other articles regarding weight loss, I would advise you to start there.
This article is going to dive deep into getting through a plateau and is long, so if you have not read my other articles on weight loss, you might take a few moments to read them to ensure you are really at a plateau.
What is a weight loss plateau?
A weight loss plateau, but more specifically a fat loss plateau is when you have no decrease in body weight for 3 to 4 weeks. You have been losing weight and feeling good about your progress and now your weight loss has completely stopped.
Hitting a plateau is extremely common to anyone losing weight. This can really can stop someone dead in their tracks and make them feel like their hard work in the gym and well planned out diet plan is failing them.
Have you ever heard of someone saying you will “lose water weight?” When you start losing weight, your body will start burning muscle glycogen for energy since you have reduced the amount of food you eat. Muscle glycogen holds onto water so when you start burning glycogen, you will lose water. This is where the term “water weight” comes from.
This is the reason why people who go on a month long diet and drop a bit of weight will gain back their weight if not more when they stop dieting. The increase of food intake causes muscle glycogen to start storing and increases the amount of water being stored.
Common Causes of a Plateau
Creeping calories are the most common problem for people who have hit the dreaded plateau. These are the extra croutons you snacked on while cooking your meal and preparing your salad or the extra dollop of sour cream on your baked potato.
Don’t get me wrong, I love me some sour cream, but adding an extra table spoon is going to add on about 120 calories. Do this three times a week, in a month you have added an extra 1440 calories to your intake. Next time you add an extra pinch of cheese or eat a few extra chips out of the bag while placing them on your plate, just remember to take that into account; you will stop progress if you don’t.
Thoughtless or Emotional Eating
Emotional eating is when you eat when you feel a certain emotion such as depression or stress. If you don’t account for the extra calories you may have consumed one day, you can easily stop progress. If you had a bad day, try to eat less until you balance the calories out.
Thoughtless eating such as eating chips or pretzels at your desk, grabbing a snack throughout the day, or sneaking that delicious Snickers bar will be detrimental to your weight loss goals if you don’t account for it in your diet plan.
Not Drinking Enough Water
When people tell me they drink plenty liquids, they don’t understand just how important plain water is to our bodies. For example; your diet plan has higher carbohydrates and you eat sodium rich foods, if you don’t drink enough water your body actually retains more water.
Regardless of the macro nutrients (Protein, Carbohydrate, Fat) being eaten in your diet plan, the more water you drink, the less your body will retain. Simply put, drink a lot of water, I would suggest a gallon a day.
Once Your Body Starts to Burn Fat, Your Metabolism Will Slow down
After you start losing weight, your body will not have to work as hard to walk that mile and in turn will not burn as many calories doing so. Since your metabolism slows down, exercising will become easier for the body to do and the calorie deficit that you have been maintaining will now be how many calories it takes to maintain that weight.
The Closer You Get to Your ‘Ideal’ Weight, the Harder it Will be to Lose More
If you are 100 pounds overweight, losing the first 60 pounds will be much easier than losing the last 40 pounds. The closer you get to your ‘ideal’ weight, the harder it will be to lose the body fat.
Your body will be able to perform activities easier and have less weight to move around and will require you to follow your diet plan to the last gram of food if you want to lose more weight.
You have been dieting and exercising a few months and all of a sudden you just stop losing weight. You don’t quite feel 100% healthy and have an overall feeling of funk. Your body may be going into a starvation mode.
Believe it or not you have to eat enough calories so your body can support itself, otherwise it will hold onto every bit of food it possibly can for energy later. That’s the difference between eating 1200 calories and being in starvation mode and eating 1800 calories and losing weight.
There are calculators online to help you determine approximately how many calories you should eat. As always, you can go to your doctor and he will be able to help.
Hormones play a huge role in weight loss and one of the most common is thyroid problems. Your thyroid secretes hormones that tell your body to burn fat and speed up your metabolism.
If you have been crash dieting or dieting for a long period of time (about 2 years) and you just can’t seem to figure out what the problem is; it would be worth the time and money to visit the doctor for some help. Having hormonal balance and what hormones control certain functions of the body is beyond the scope of this article.
Body Weight vs Body Fat
There are many common causes for plateaus to strike. This is why they are very common and I almost guarantee to happen to everyone. A large amount of people don’t understand the different between body weight and body fat. Body weight is how much you weigh; your bones, organs, muscles, and body fat. When you want to lose weight you mean you want to lose body fat.
When you lose weight some muscle might get burned for energy if your diet is not up to par or you do extremely high intensity cardio for extended periods of time. This means that,while you can lose weight, you can still appear the same. When you refer to weight loss, know that there are many different factors to your body weight and know that using the scale is NOT always an indicator that you have hit a plateau.
How to Get Through the Plateau
First of all, congratulations on the weight loss, here is how to keep it going:
Don’t Give Up!
This is an important step. You have come very far in your weight loss. Hitting this plateau might have shook you to the core and you might be asking yourself “why should I keep trying if nothing works.” The key here is to keep going, you’re about to start losing the weight again. Be patient and have faith.
Reassess Your Habits
If you loosen the rules on your diet plan, this is the time to cut that out. In my example above you added 1440 calories to a month just from 1 extra table spoon of sour cream 3 times a week. Add in the extra croutons you ate, the extra salad dressing you had, or that lovely milkshake that you had the night before and you can see you easily added 3500 calories to your diet extra in a month. Guess what? It takes burning 3500 calories to lose a pound, but it also takes eating 3500 calories to gain a pound.
This is where your dedication telling yourself why you started this in the first place will come into play. If you really want your dream body, you must be more precise and strict on your meal plan; there is no way around it.
Monday Morning Weigh-Ins
Lets face it, Mondays suck. If you were to weigh yourself multiple times throughout the day, you will see that you don’t weigh the same. Your scale isn’t broken; your weight fluctuates throughout the day. How much food you have in your stomach, how much water is being held at that point in the day, and needing to go to the restroom are all reasons why your body weight fluctuates during the day.
I would suggest weighing in every Monday morning at the same time to get the most accurate results in weight loss. If Mondays usually suck, how awesome would it be to wake up and realize you’ve lost another 2 pounds? Kind of makes the rest of the week more enjoyable, right?
Cut More Calories From Your Diet Plan
If you have been eating a healthy amount of calories and losing weight slow, you will end up hitting a point where the amount of calories you have been eating to lose weight, will now be the amount of calories to maintain your weight.
If you have been at this same weight for three weeks and you have been doing everything exactly the same then cut another 200 calories off of your diet plan. This should get the weight coming off again. Remember: slow and steady wins.
Burn More Calories
Diet and exercise go hand in hand; you eat less calories and you burn more calories to lose weight. If you eat 3000 calories a day and want to lose weight you can either cut 1000 calories (1/3 of your food for the day) or you can cut 500 calories and burn 500 calories.
Upping the intensity and length of time to your exercising is going to allow you to burn more calories. If you choose to cut 200 calories from your diet plan, don’t change the amount of exercise you have been doing. If you like the amount of food you are eating, burning 200 more calories exercising will give you the same results as if you were eating 200 calories less.
Add More Activity Into Your Day
Another tip for burning extra calories is to add more activity into your day. Simple things such as parking in the back of the parking lot when going to the store, walking a few extra laps around the store while you shop, or dancing and singing to a song that you know you want to so bad, can give you substantial boost of extra calories burnt. This makes exercising less hum drum on a machine.
This is a simple way to be able to burn extra calories so you can eat the same amount of food. I suggest purchasing a pedometer or other electronics that can monitor your heart rate and estimate how many calories you have burned. This is a sound investment and the return on investment is having the body of your dreams.
Final Thoughts and Words of Wisdom
I started my weight loss journey weighing in at 370 pounds. I was unable to enjoy life and I felt like a prisoner in my own body. A year later after completely changing my lifestyle, I lost 115 pounds and weighed 255 pounds. I hit a plateau and was stuck there for over a month. I did not understand what happened and I finally gave up.
I started eating whatever, losing control of what I ate and ended up gaining 50 pounds back in a year. I have been on track and use these tactics on a daily to monthly basis. These methods are tried and true and will work to help you get back on track with your weight loss. The best advice I can give you is don’t give up. If you are having that bad day, think about how you felt when you started losing weight and the first person asked you “Wow! Have you lost weight?” and being able to smile and say “yes.”
Keep going, you will get through this plateau.
If you have any comments or questions, feel free to leave a message below!