By Ana Snyder, M.S., Exercise Physiology; CPT, FNS
Weight loss is a tough journey! Usually, it doesn’t happen as quickly as we’d like. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because you have to lose weight at a slower pace if you want to do it in a healthy way. There are habits you can implement to make sure you keep losing weight at a steady rate.
Often, at the beginning of a new diet or exercise program, the pounds fly off. Then, after a bit of time, you hit the dreaded plateau and stop seeing changes. This article will examine five of the most common reasons why weight loss slows, and what you can do to get back on track.
Sometimes it just appears that you’ve hit a plateau. You step on the scale, and that number doesn’t budge for days or even weeks. Just because your overall weight isn’t changing, however, doesn’t mean you aren’t losing fat.
If you recently started to workout, you may be gaining muscle, which could make your overall weight seem stagnant. This is actually good because it means you are losing fat while putting on muscle.
Bodyweight is also highly dictated by hormones and the foods you’re eating. If you’re eating foods high in salt, you may be holding onto extra water weight. The same is true for hormones, especially women’s hormones, which often cause water retention.
To see if you are actually losing weight even though the scale isn’t budging, it’s a great idea to measure your progress using other means. Getting your body fat percentage tested once a month is one of the best ways to track your muscle mass to body fat ratio.
Resistance training is a great tool for weight loss. Lifting weights will help you maintain and build muscle that is often burned off during cardio. If you regularly lift weights, you can keep losing fat without losing your muscle. Resistance training also keeps your metabolism running at a higher rate.
If you notice that you’re not losing belly fat (visceral fat), you may not be doing enough cardiovascular exercise. If you’re not losing visceral fat you’re at the highest risk for disease. It’s the most dangerous type of fat and is located deep inside your body, wrapping around your organs. Cardio raises your heart rate, and besides a proper diet, is the most effective method for burning visceral fat.
What if you are doing both resistance exercise and cardio and still not losing? At this point, you have to dig a little deeper and consider two different factors. First, your diet may need some examination. Are you eating healthy, lower-calorie meals? Remember: just because you’re eating healthy food doesn’t mean you’re eating the right portions. The second possible factor is that you may have been doing the same exercises for too long. Are you lifting the same weights for the same number of reps, or doing the same amount of cardio? If so, switching up the muscles you work out, increasing your weights, and raising or lowering your reps could be the shock your body needs. In terms of cardiovascular training, you may want to switch up the type of cardio you’re doing or increase the time.
Sleep is vital for weight loss. People who struggle with insomnia regularly are more tempted to grab junk food when they feel tired. Junk food tends to give you a quick boost of energy, but makes you crash just as fast. If you fall into the pattern of choosing bad snack choices, you are in danger of packing on pounds quickly.
The hormones that regulate your eating also get out of balance when you don’t get enough sleep.
Ghrelin, the hormone that makes you hungry, increases—and leptin, the hormone that makes you feel satiated, decreases. More ghrelin plus less leptin is a dangerous combo. Your metabolism slows and you eat more.
Ketogenic diets can be great for weight loss, but it’s still possible to stop losing weight while you’re on them. The most common reason for this phenomenon is that you are not counting your calories. People will have you believe that you can eat however much bacon you want while you’re on the keto diet—but that unfortunately, isn’t true. Calories always matter.
If you’re eating more than you’re burning, you will gain weight. On the other hand, if you eat less than you burn, you will lose weight. This is universal for all diets, including keto diets.
Thankfully, it’s way easier to stay in a calorie deficit on keto, because it reduces the production of ghrelin. Without this hormone, you will feel less hungry and be able to eat less over a longer period of time. Of course, in order to experience these benefits, you must also actually be in ketosis. Just be sure to understand any keto diet side effects.
Not reducing your alcohol intake can also lead to a weight loss plateau. Alcohol has 7 calories per gram—which is extremely high. If you don’t want to cut alcohol out completely, it’s helpful to limit your intake to certain days of the week. For example, if you find that you end each night with a glass of wine, try drinking wine for only two nights a week instead.
Switching up your choice of alcohol may also be beneficial. Tequila and vodka have fewer calories than beer, wine, or sugary cocktails. If you mix them with a beverage, stick to zero-calorie options. Making these simple changes will save you a lot of calories.
You might think you’re doing everything you can to lose weight, but there might be a few pesky missteps in the way. Losing weight is hard, but if you can make these five changes, you should be well on your way to breaking through that plateau and reaching your goals.