You may hit a diet plateau when you have been on a reduced-calorie diet for a few weeks, and it may reoccur from time to time thereafter.
During a diet plateau, weight reduction stops completely or slows down to almost nothing. If you are monitoring what you eat AND exercising regularly but still can’t seem to lose any weight, you have most probably ‘plateaued’. The most important thing to remember is that this is a completely normal experience for many dieters. The key to success is not allowing yourself to become discouraged! Take a long-term view. Giving up now means slipping back to where you started – which is such a shame given all the hard work you’ve done to get this far. There are solutions and steps you can take to kick start your weight loss again and ensure you reach your goal.
Why do I hit a diet plateau?
- Your body simply wants a ‘rest’ to cope with your calorie-reduction
- Your calorie-intake equals your calorie expenditure – in other words you are not creating a sufficient calorie deficit to lose weight
- You have reduced your calorie-intake too low. If you are not eating enough calories, your body thinks there is a ‘famine’ and slows down your metabolism (how fast you burn calories) in order to conserve calories.
Most people lose weight quickly in the beginning of their diet, and then weight loss tends to stabilize at around 1 – 2 lbs per week. Unfortunately weight loss doesn’t always follow a smooth downwards curve, but is rather a series of stops and starts. Expect this to be the case. The closer you get to your goal weight, the slower the weight tends to come off. This is partly due to the fact that your body has less fat to lose – it now has more lean tissue. Also, as you exercise more, you are increasing the proportion of muscle mass in your body, and muscle weighs more than fat. Then, there are weeks when you simply retain fluids and weigh a pound or two more than you did the week before.
1. Avoid weighing yourself too frequently – once a week is enough. The timing of your ‘weigh-in’ is also important, as having gone without something to eat or drink for a few hours could make several pounds difference and give a low reading; whereas the opposite scenario could imply a higher than actual weight. In fact the difference between the two results could be as much as half a stone! So make sure you weigh yourself once a week, at the same time, after the same routine, and on the same scales. That way, your weight is more comparable to the previous week. Sometimes a better way to judge whether you are slimming down and changing body shape is just by monitoring how your clothes feel.
2. Ensure you have set a realistic goal weight for your body type and age. The most important thing is to reach a healthy weight – it is not about trying to get back to the size 8 body you had at 18, now you’re 35 and have had 3 kids! Start your goals one by one. When you hit your first goal, then it’s time to set your next goal.
3. Go back to keeping your food diary religiously. By tracking what you eat, you may discover that you’re actually consuming a good deal more calories than you’d imagined. You can become complacent and think you know the measurements and calories in foods but its only when you go back to adding into the diary you realise you were way off!
4. Check serving sizes by weighing food. It is very easy for portions to start to creep up over time. Measuring and weighing food may seem tedious, but this is a common reason for weight loss slowing down or stopping. (And also have an honesty check with yourself that you haven’t started picking at food which ‘doesn’t count’ because you didn’t eat the whole thing!)
5. Step up your exercise level. As you are already exercising regularly with your personal fitness plan, you may need to give your metabolism a little boost by increasing the amount or intensity of your workout. Your personal fitness plan from Hannah is reassessed every six weeks to make sure your body doesn’t become accustomed to the routines, you are getting the most of your weight loss plan and also help prevent you from plateauing.
6. Drink plenty of water! Water helps speed up the metabolism.
7. Don’t starve yourself – this will have the opposite effect! If you eat too few calories, your body will try to protect itself by slowing down your metabolism and hanging onto its fat for survival. Also avoid going for too long without food as this can trigger the same effect. Ideally eat something such as a piece of fruit every 3 hours (women) or about every 5 hours (men). This reassures your body that food is plentiful and facilitates calorie burning.
8. Be determined! Focus on your successes to date and remember the fact that weight loss is simply about creating an energy deficit – do this and you will lose weight. Stick with it, continue to exercise regularly and enter your food into the diary. The last few pounds may be stubborn, but they WILL come off in the end! Just don’t give up!
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