Something people struggle with when trying losing weight is how to overcome a weight loss plateau.
It can be one of the most frustrating things. You feel like you’re doing everything right – you’re eating well, you’re exercising, and yet you seem to be hitting a brick wall week in, week out!
A weight loss plateau is when you’ve been exercising and cutting calories for several weeks, then suddenly your progress comes to a standstill. You’re not necessarily moving backwards, but you don’t seem to be making any gains either.
Weight loss plateaus are however a common occurrence, and something you simply have to sit out until it passes!
If this happens to you, the most important thing to do is keep going with your efforts, and continue to focus on your long-term goals – this is a time when many people choose to give up.
So, if you can stick with it, and get through this difficult part, you will achieve weight loss success where others have failed.
7 questions to help overcome your weight loss plateau
#1 How many calories are you consuming?
As you lose weight over time you’ll need to adjust the amount of calories you’re consuming. This is because the lighter you are, the less energy you need each day to move around.
Try to keep your calories slightly below what you require, so that your energy and metabolism remain high.
Check out this handy calorie requirement calculator to get an estimate of your daily calorie requirements according to your activity level.
If you keep a food diary, you can then estimate your calorie intake for one day, and compare this with your calorie requirements using the calculator mentioned above. This will give you a good indication of how well you’re doing.
Remember, cutting too many calories from your diet will not result in faster weight loss.
You should never consume less than 1,200 calories per day. Eating less than this (or too little in general) forces your body into starvation mode. Your body then holds onto every calorie, slowing your metabolism down.
#2 What foods are you snacking on?
Often our appetite increases when we exercise more. This is completely normal, but do make sure you’re reaching for the right kind of foods.
The best snacks are light and easy on the stomach, with around 100-200 calories in total. Here are a few examples:
- Raw vegetables
- Fresh fruit
- Small handful of nuts or seeds
- Plain popcorn
- Small cup of homemade vegetable soup
- Small cup of low fat natural yoghurt
When you make a record in your food diary, also take a look at your portion sizes, and ask yourself if they are too large.
#3 Is your diet varied?
Your body can only do so much with the tools that it has, so this is why eating well is so important.
It can be tempting to cut whole food groups from your diet in an attempt to lose weight, but it’s better to get the balance right by choosing a little from each of the food groups, and controlling your portion size.
Aim for a wide variety of foods from each of the basic food groups, rather than eating the same old foods day in and day out.
Try new fruits and vegetables regularly, eat a wide range of lean proteins, including non-meat sources, such as tofu and legumes, small amounts of wholegrain carbs, low fat dairy foods, and unsaturated sources of fats.
This will ensure you’re getting all the nutrients you require for a healthy body.
#4 Are you drinking enough water?
Good hydration is very important for muscle building. Also, if you’re exercising regularly, you may require more than the standard 8 cups per day.
Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water before, during, and after your workouts, and throughout the day also.
#5 What measurements are you using?
Rather than relying on the scales to give an indication of how you’re doing, try putting your tape measure to good use instead!
Once each week make a record of your measurements – such as waist, hip, and upper arm.
This will give you a better indication of the areas of your body which are getting leaner, rather than worrying about the figures on the weighing scales which don’t take into consideration the fact that you’re getting stronger.
#6 Is your workout challenging?
When you first begin exercising it’s easier to lose weight because your body uses up lots of energy to meet the new physical demands.
However, after a while you begin to adapt to your regimen, and your body becomes better equipped to handle the physical challenges you’re throwing at it with the result that you may begin to plateau a little.
Because of this, it’s a good idea to switch your exercise routine around a little. This will help you use different muscles groups, and prevent your body from becoming lazy.
Here are a few tips to help you vary your workout:
- Do the same programme for 3-6 weeks
- If you begin to notice a plateau in your fitness or weight loss it’s time to change your programme
- One way to do this is to simply change the order you exercise in. For example, if you usually do exercises A, B, C, D in that order, next time (and for the next 3-6 weeks) do them D, C, B, A
- If you are exercising 2-3 times per week, increase this to 4-5 times per week
- You could also try alternating between long and short workouts of higher intensity cardio
- Try to add strength training to your routine to help build more muscle. This can take the form of resistance bands, hand weights, machine weights, or using your own body weight
- Or, try something completely different, such as Pilates, swimming, or cycling
- Ultimately, do what works for you and gives results in the end
#7 Are you getting enough rest?
One of the best things you can do to get over a weight loss plateau is make sure you’re getting enough sleep.
The right amount of sleep will allow your muscles to recover adequately for the next exercise session.
Most people need around 6-8 hours per night to function well, but this varies from person to person.
And lastly, don’t give up!
Maintain your current healthy eating and exercise routine, adding in some of the extra tips mentioned above, and try not to get stressed out about it!
Your body will break through the plateau when it’s ready.
Do you have any further tips to add? I’d love to hear your thoughts on breaking through the weight loss plateau!