By Debra Soufleris, B.S., DTR
You’ve been working hard at losing weight—and it was paying off for a while. You cut back on calories, added more activity to your daily routine, and the scale and the fit of your clothes showed signs of improvement. And then suddenly, it all stopped. The number on your scale stopped moving, and you stopped seeing results. What gives? Looks like you may have hit your first weight loss plateau. As frustrating as this can be, it just means your body has gotten used to your routine and is in desperate need of a change. Our bodies are very good at adapting, so when you’ve plateaued in weight loss, the best thing to do is to change things up. It’s time to look deep into your current habits and see if anything needs tweaking.
Your plateau could be the result of simply consuming too many calories. A good way to evaluate this is by tracking your intake for at least three days (two days during the week and 1 day on the weekend). Most people underestimate their actual food intake by as much as 500 calories a day! All those tastes, licks, and little bites count toward your daily tally and add up quickly. Drink calories count as well. Sometimes we forget that our cup of coffee has sugar and cream, and by day’s end we’ll down three cups and an extra 300 calories. You can see quickly an inaccurate understanding of your consumption might be the cause of your stalled weight loss.
That 30-minute morning walk might’ve been helpful in shedding the pounds early on in your weight loss journey, but your body will get used to it as you progress. With your new lighter self, you may not be burning as many calories as you used to when you were heavier. Therefore, it’s time to reevaluate your fitness routine. Try adding in some short sprints here and there to switch things up. You can also stop every five minutes and do some bodyweight exercises like squats, push-ups, or lunges. Not only will you be pumping up your heart rate, but you’ll also add some beneficial strength training.
Strength training is known to help burn calories even after the exercise is finished. Muscle tissue burns more calories at rest than fat. According to Christpher Wharton, PhD and certified personal trainer and researcher with the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, “10 pounds of muscle would burn 50 calories in a day spent at rest, while 10 pounds of fat would burn 20 calories”. With that big of a difference, it’s worth adding in some strength training to get the scale moving again.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a magic pill that can make weight disappear. Consequently, it can be confusing to try and figure out why you’re not losing weight. However, there are certain foods that can help you lose weight by keeping you fuller and satisfied for a longer period of time.
Fiber found in many whole grains, nuts, legumes, and produce helps slow digestion and keeps you feeling full for longer. When you feel satisfied, you won’t be craving sweets or other foods. Adding more fiber throughout the day will also keep blood sugar stable, which is good for avoiding type 2 diabetes and that 3pm crash. Be sure to also drink plenty of water when adding additional fiber to your diet to avoid constipation.
Like fiber, increasing your protein intake throughout the day will help keep you fuller longer, because it takes more time to digest and break down. Consuming about 30 grams of good quality protein at each meal, like lean meat, fish, or Greek yogurt can also increase your metabolic rate, as it takes more energy to break down and digest. If you’re adding strength training to your routine or are healing from an injury, protein is even more important for growth and repair.
Repeat after me: Eating fat does not make you fat. Period. Fats are very important for helping your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins, and for providing long-lasting energy. They are also super satisfying and will help stave off hunger for a long time. When you start feeling that rumble in your stomach in between meals, grab a small handful of nuts or some celery stuffed with guacamole to help curb your hunger. Just watch your portion sizes, as fats are high in calories. However, you might be saving yourself a lot of calories in the long run by choosing something high in fat, to begin with.
Try these tips, and see if you can break through that pesky weight-loss plateau. Just be sure to understand the best time to weigh yourself, so that you can measure results consistently.