If there’s one thing that’s the most frustrating part about dieting, it’s hitting plateaus. I think everyone can relate to this whether you’ve tried to gain or lose weight. You start a new diet and its been going well for the first couple of weeks or months to where you are losing/gaining the amount of weight that you want, and then BOOM you hit a plateau, and it drives you nuts! You may be gaining or maintaining at your current weight, all the while still adhering to your diet and workout plan. Its frustrating especially if you are sticking to your plan, I get it. I’ve been there multiple times! When you hit a plateau you have two options
- Give up and go back to your previous habits
- Keep pushing and working hard to get to where you want to be
Here is an example of a current situation of mine. I’ve been dieting for a bodybuilding show for 20 weeks now which is pretty long term. Overall there is a downward trend, which is what we want! But loss was apparent up until about the middle of March (I believe this was around week 12-14) where I hit a plateau. Although it was frustrating to see that my weight wasn’t going anywhere with the effort that I was putting in, my coach and I made adjustments by lowering calories a bit (~50 calories) and increasing my step count. THAT’S all I needed to do to get loss moving again. Simple adjustments can go a long way!
More than half choose number 1 because they believe they’ve put in too much effort for not seeing the results they want, and so they go back to their old habits because its easier to go back to eating more and moving less. OR they don’t know the next steps to take to push through the plateau. Yes, it is easier, to choose number 1, but you can’t stop doing something just because it gets hard! Thats why I’m here to help! So, what happened and where do you go from here?
In the case that you are trying to lose weight and you’ve hit a plateau…..Think of our bodies as an energy efficient machine. When you first enter into a caloric deficit (you’re burning more calories than you are consuming) this comes as a “shock” to the body and you will initially lose weight, your body has a higher demand to burn energy (fat and glycogen stores) than it does to store it. But, after a couple of weeks of continued dieting your body will assume that this new calorie deficit is the new “norm” and it puts up a defense mechanism which will slow down your metabolic rate so that you don’t burn as many calories in order to save as much energy as possible….. and insert *plateau*.
How do you break through a plateau?
There are a couple of options you can do in this type of situation:
1. Make sure you are tracking accurately
This includes EVERYTHING you consume throughout the day. Meals, beverages, condiments, gums, supplements, sweeteners, cooking oils, etc. After doing multiple research projects using food logs I’ve found that about 85-90% of people will under report on their calories, either intentionally or unintentionally. Also measuring out your food portions correctly and accurately instead of guessing may help with realizing you’ve been tracking inaccurately. If you’ve every measured out 1 serving of cereal then you know what Im talking about…its depressing how little one serving is. Using a food scale is going to be the most accurate way to track. Is it a pain in the ass? YES. But if you haven’t been measuring accurately it could be the reason you’ve seen a halt in progress. If you’ve never measured your food you can start by just incorporating it in your prepped meals and then one weekend day. Once you start doing it more often it will become much easier and less of a task.
2. Cut out more calories
If you are tracking accurately and still stuck in a weight loss black hole then this is likely your next option. THIS DOESNT HAVE TO BE A DRASTIC CUT. It can be as little as a 50-100 calorie decrease in order to get loss moving again. Start by cutting 50-100 calories and see how your weight responds after a couple of days on the new caloric intake. Take your weights over the past week and average that weeks loss and compare it to the pervious week to see if you are down compared to where you were before. The WORST thing you can do is get stuck on the day to day numbers of the scale. This is why averaging your weigh over the week is important. Look at average loss over the week not day to day numbers.
3. Adding in cardio and increasing NEAT
On top of slightly decreasing calories adding in a little cardio will increase your caloric expenditure throughout the day as well as increasing NEAT (Non exercise activity thermogenesis) which would be your step count throughout the day. Start by adding 1-2 sessions of 10 to 15 minutes of cardio and increasing your steps by 500-1,000 steps/day than you are currently completing. I say 10-15 minutes because you don’t want to start by doing an hour of cardio (since this will be the norm for your body) and then have to keep increasing the amount to overcome loss to the point where it isn’t doable. Thats usually how people burn out quickly. There are different types of cardio that you can do, the key is to do something that you enjoy so it doesn’t become a chore! Anything from walking, biking, jogging, swimming, soccer, and boot camp classes. All of these modalities include high intensity (with intervals) and low intensity (steady state cardio).
4. Dont STRESS!
Stressing about the number on the scale is only going to delay progress and make things more frustrating yourself. Added stress will increase cortisol levels ,which effects sleep, water retention in the body, and we know that this will not help with weight loss. Make simple adjustments and you will see things start to trend downward again!
While these steps may not work initially, the key to long term progress is time and consistency. As many times as you’ve probably heard from your coach or trainer, “Trust in the process”, they are telling the truth! Weight loss isn’t a quick fix and it takes a lot of trial and error to figure out what works best for you. Stick to your goals, make them sustainable, work hard, and you will get there!
I am very passionate about what I do! If you would like to work together you can check out my Online Coaching page and fill out a form and I will be in contact with you ASAP!
One thought on “How To Break Through Weight Loss Plateaus”
Thank you for this! I’ve been struggling with a plateau and going crazy from trying to figure out what I should do.
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