When dieting, it’s not unusual to experience a weight loss plateau, and when this happens our resolve may falter.
If you’ve ever stepped on the scale after having dieted all week conscientiously only to find you weigh the same as you did the last time you weighed yourself, you will know how demoralizing this is.
Most people give up on their diet when they hit a weight loss plateau. A few determined souls may persevere for another week or two. If the needle on the dial still hasn’t budged by then, they will usually give up, too.
It’s understandable to feel frustrated at such a time. But before reaching for the cookie jar, stop for a minute and think of all the effort you’ve put in. Is it worth throwing that away when some minor adjustments to your diet and activity level and a shift in mindset may be all that’s needed to get things moving in the right direction again?
It’s really not that hard to get over a weight loss plateau. One, or more, of the following tips, could be just what you need to set calorie burning in motion again and reignite weight loss.
Check out these 3 helpful tips for overcoming a weight loss plateau
6 Best Tips For Getting Over a Weight Loss Plateau
1) Set Specific Weight Loss Goals
Rather than just thinking, “I’d like to lose some weight,” be specific about the number of pounds you want to lose. With this in mind, come up with a plan to make your goal a reality. A positive attitude will help you succeed, but losing weight takes more than positivity.
Don’t set yourself an unrealistic task. Do so, and you could give up on your diet if you’re not meeting your weekly weight loss target. Aim for something doable such as, “I am going to lose one pound every week for the next fourteen weeks, by walking for thirty minutes a day and giving up dessert.”
Don’t just think this; say it out loud! Researchers at the Dominican University of California found that people who share their goals with others have almost twice the chance of achieving them as those who do not, so go ahead and verbalize your intentions to family and friends.
Writing your goal down on a piece of paper and sticking it on the fridge door, computer monitor or anywhere you will see it often will also help keep you focused. Almost everyone who diets will hit a weight loss plateau at some point. Try not to feel discouraged if you don’t lose weight every single week. It’s normal for our weight to fluctuate a little. When you weigh yourself the next time, you may find you’ve lost more than one pound.
Another thing to keep in mind is that muscle weighs more than fat. It’s possible to experience a weight loss plateau, while your body fat percentage is decreasing. In this situation, your weight can remain the same due to muscle build up. This will usually pass after a few weeks, at which point weight loss resumes.
2) Reassess Your Diet
If you are experiencing a weight loss plateau, check that you are eating the right foods in sufficient quantities. Sometimes, to stick to a diet and be able to lose weight, we need to eat more, not less. We may also need to include foods we’ve been excluding from the menu.
When we include lean protein in our diet, we feel satisfied for longer after eating. This is because it takes our bodies longer to break down and digest protein to use as energy. Healthy, diet-conscious proteins include lean red meat, fish and other seafood, skinless chicken and turkey, eggs, lentils, beans, nuts, and seeds.
Another thing to take into account when reassessing your diet is the portion size of your meals. We usually start out on a diet paying careful attention to how much we are eating. Then, as time passes, we can put a little more on the plate without even realizing. That little bit extra at every meal will add up over the course of a week, and it can be the difference between losing weight and staying the same weight. Weighing your food before putting it on your plate, will prevent this from happening.
When trying to lose weight, it’s important to keep a check on the number of calories you are consuming daily. Along with calculating this, give some thought to the time of day you are eating the most food. If you are consuming the majority of your calories late in the day, switch things around, so you are taking in the bulk of them during the first half of the day and eating less at night. Eating this way will give your body more time to burn off calories as you go about your daily activities. It will also mean you’ll have more energy. Therefore you will be able to put more effort into your workouts. As a result, you will burn more calories.
*When calculating your calorie intake, don’t forget to factor in liquid calories.
3) Vary Your Workout
You will be less likely to experience a weight loss plateau when dieting if you vary your workout. When we consistently do the same exercise, our body becomes used to it and does not burn calories as efficiently. To prevent this from happening, vary your workout.
If you usually walk for exercise, try swimming, skipping, or any other aerobic exercise that appeals. By making fitness fun, exercise will be something you look forward to rather than do for the sole purpose of burning calories. If you enjoy your workouts, the odds of you becoming bored and giving up on exercise will be very low.
Incorporating light weights into your exercise routine on a regular basis will also help increase weight loss. The reason for this is that when we work out with weights, we build muscle mass. This extra muscle increases our metabolic rate.
When you are reasonably fit, try adding interval training to your workout regime. A good way to start is to walk for three minutes, then run for fifteen seconds. Repeat this sequence for the duration of your workout. As your fitness level improves, you will be able to spend more time running and less time walking.
If cycling is more your thing, try cycling at a gentle, steady pace for two minutes, then increase your speed for fifteen seconds, alternating this for twenty minutes. When you become fitter, increase your speed and the length of time you cycle at the faster pace. Try working for two minutes at a moderate pace for two minutes, followed by two minutes at a fast pace. Over time, increase the duration of your workout. This type of training burns more fat than a regular workout done at a moderate pace.
* To reduce the risk of injury, always warm up before exercising and cool down afterward.
** When undertaking interval training start out slowly, then build speed.
4) Get Motivated
If the weight loss goal you’ve set yourself is impossible to achieve and the weight isn’t falling off as quickly as you’d anticipated, it’s natural that your motivation to lose weight will begin to falter. Setting too hard a task is setting yourself up to fail before you even begin.
Formulate an exercise plan that is achievable. As the number on the scale lowers and your love handles shrink, your motivation to keep at it and try even harder should increase. If you hit a weight loss plateau, but your clothes are becoming looser, and your muscles appear to be more toned, this is an excellent indication that you are still losing body fat. So don’t obsess about that number on the scale.
One of the best ways to boost motivation is to think about the reason you want to lose weight. Having a specific event and time frame to work towards will help motivate you to continue, even on those days when a 3-mile walk feels like 30 miles. Maybe you want to lose weight to look good for a high school reunion or an upcoming wedding, or maybe you want to lose weight to be able to run around with your kids or grandkids. Whatever the reason, keeping your eye on the prize will help you stay focused and on track.
5) Manage Stress
A study by the American Journal of Epidemiology showed that people who suffer constant stress have difficulty losing weight.
People who are juggling a busy work schedule with family commitments, often find themselves struggling to drop excess pounds. When we are busy, tired or short on time, it’s easier to grab a fast food meal on the run than to make a fresh, healthy low-calorie dinner from scratch. The best way around this is to prepare some healthy, diet-conscious meals in advance and freeze them. Do this, and the temptation to eat anything, just so long as it’s quick and easy, will be less.
Another problem for time-poor people is that they may find themselves forgoing workouts to fit in their responsibilities. When this happens, a weight loss plateau can occur.
Those who regularly exercise will find it much easier to lose weight. They will be less likely to experience a long-term weight loss plateau. And, they will find that regular exercise greatly reduces their stress level. And let’s not forget the health, fitness and muscle toning benefits of exercise!
With all of that going for it, don’t you think you owe it to yourself to find a way to fit regular exercise into your routine? Even twenty minutes, five days a week, will be of great benefit.
6) Get Sufficient Sleep
According to researchers at the University of Chicago, insufficient sleep can compromise the effects of a low-calorie diet. When we are feeling sluggish, we can’t put as much effort into our workouts. We may even skip them altogether. We may also give in to temptation and eat foods with a high sugar and fat content, to get an energy boost.
Furthermore, researchers at Stanford University found that a lack of sleep is linked to a reduced level of leptin and an elevated level of ghrelin, two hormones that regulate appetite. This change in hormone levels is believed to increase appetite, with people who experience sleepless nights having greater difficulty sticking to a diet.
Try to bring balance into your life. Aim for eight hours sleep a night, and if possible go to bed at approximately the same time each night and set your clock’s alarm to go off at the same time every morning.
Remember, a weight loss plateau is merely a stumbling block, not a reason to abandon your diet and exercise plan. With a few minor changes, such as those outlined above, you will be able to overcome your weight loss plateau and start losing weight again.
For more tips on avoiding a weight loss plateau, read Dieting, But Not Losing Weight? – Find out why Here!