Busting Through Weight Loss Plateaus: Strategies for Renewed Progress
Weight loss plateaus are a frustrating, but common part of one’s weight loss journey. Understanding why they occur can help us move past one and get that scale moving again.
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Why does a weight loss plateau occur?
Weight loss plateaus can occur due to the body adapting to a lower weight. Some scientists believe that our bodies actually “prefer” to be at a certain weight, usually a higher one than we’d like. This is called the “set-point theory.” Plateaus may also be explained by the fact that as weight loss occurs and the body decreases in size, the body needs less calories to keep basic metabolic processes going, which means it will take fewer and fewer calories a higher calorie deficit or even lower calorie intake to maintain the same rate of weight loss.
How to overcome a weight loss plateau?
Well first, let’s talk about how we DON’T overcome a plateau:
1. Starvation diets or “crash diets”
This will only lower your basal metabolic rate (BMR) temporarily until you eat sufficient calories. It is also not sustainable for long-term weight loss and may result in gradual weight gain over time.
2. Excessive exercise
While exercise is important, working out for 4-5 hours per day is simply not feasible or safe for most people.
3. Giving up
Here is how we DO address weight loss plateaus:
Eating enough Protein:
1. Why is protein so important? Well, as we lose weight, our body tends to lose some of its muscle mass (Think: Muscle = strength!) as well, but if we eat protein, we can help to preserve that muscle and lose mostly fat instead.
2. Protein also keeps us full by suppressing hunger hormones, helping us to meet a lower calorie requirement.
Strength training helps to increase muscle mass. While increasing muscle mass may decrease your rate of weight loss in the short term, it increases your metabolic rate, meaning you burn more calories just by existing.
Exercise of this sort also does burn a small amount of calories, and as a bonus, it may assist with improving blood sugar.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) or Moderate Continuous Training (MCT)
Sometimes varying up your cardio routine can help overcome a weight loss plateau.
While HIIT and MCT (Think: Running sprints vs. a 5K jog) have both been shown to help with weight loss, on an individual basis, one may be more effective than the other.
If you’re doing well on your 30 minute moderate walk on the treadmill, try turning up the speed or incline for two minutes at a time to increase the intensity. Or if you love intense spin classes, try seeing just how long you can maintain a moderate speed.
Keep in mind that patience and persistence are key, and with the right approach, you’ll soon break through that stubborn weight loss plateau and reach your desired goals. Stay motivated, stay committed, and most importantly, stay kind to yourself throughout this process. And if you are still struggling then reach out to your healthcare team for support on possible next steps. You’ve got this!