You've put in the hard work. You've overhauled your diet. You've put in countless hours at the gym, sticking to those grueling workouts time and time again. You've been rewarded with continuously-dropping numbers on the scale. And then it happens: you hit a weight-loss plateau. Hitting a plateau can be more than just frustrating, it can be downright dispiriting. But you're not alone--this eventually happens to nearly everybody who has tried to lose weight, and it's perfectly normal for your weight loss to gradually slow down and even come to a complete halt. Don't let this discourage you to the point that you revert back to old habits.
Reasons for Weight-Loss Plateaus
The main reason people experience weight-loss plateaus is that their new, svelte bodies require fewer calories to maintain their weight when compared to their previous calorie needs at a heavier weight. When you initially reduce your caloric intake, through a reduced-calorie diet, exercise or both, you drop weight quickly.
Another reason people experience plateaus is that they are losing muscle, which we know torches calories. This is especially true if they lose a lot of weight in a very short amount of time. The more muscle you lose, the more your metabolism slows down. This translates to fewer calories burned performing the same activities you had at a heavier weight.
With continued weight loss, you need to exercise more or consume less in order to continue to create a calorie deficit that will lead to further weight loss.
Tips for Overcoming Weight-Loss Roadblocks
- Step up the exercise. Even adding an extra 15 minutes to your exercise regimen can produce huge results. Consider adding an extra mile to your walk/jog or extending your warm-up routine and cool down routine.
- Cut calories with small tweaks to your diet. Consider cutting a reasonable, small amount of calories from your daily intake. Cutting just 150-200 calories per day, the typical amount in a snack, can result in a couple pounds lost per month.
- Track your food intake and exercise. Make sure you're not becoming more lax by increasing portions or slacking off at the gym.
- Switch up your exercise routine. Unfortunately, as you become more physically fit, your body becomes accustomed to the same old gym routine. Your body actually becomes more efficient at performing the same activities. Take up a completely new type of exercise to keep challenging your muscles.Add resistance training to your workout. Start lifting--weights, that is. Weight-lifting adds calorie-incinerating muscle to your downsized frame, which helps you burn more calories all day long, even while your body is at rest.
Try not to lose sight of what is important when it comes to weight loss: your health. Studies have shown that people whose motivating factor for weight loss is improved health, rather than achieving a certain body size or shape, have more success with losing weight and maintaining that weight loss over a long period of time.
Kari Hartel, RD, LD is a Registered Dietitian and freelance writer based out of St. Louis, MO. Kari is passionate about nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease through a healthy diet and active lifestyle. Kari holds a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Southeast Missouri State University and is committed to helping people lead healthy lives. She completed a yearlong dietetic internship at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, IL, where she worked with a multitude of clients and patients with complicated diagnoses. She planned, marketed, and implemented nutrition education programs and cooking demonstrations for the general public as well as for special populations, including patients with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, obesity, and school-aged children. Contact Kari at KariHartelRD@gmail.com.