Dreaded, feared and unfortunately, pretty much inevitable: the weight loss plateau. You know the story; you’re doing great, losing weight, feeling fantastic and then…bam! You’re stuck. No matter what you do, the scale does not move. Weight loss plateaus, they are the worst! But what exactly is a weight loss plateau, why do they happen? And more importantly, what can we do to get past them?
As if losing weight wasn’t hard enough, success often leads to a plateau: a frustrating, and unfortunately common, time period where weight loss comes to a complete stand still. A plateau can last days, weeks or even longer. The problem is, our bodies are designed to keep us in balance. That means it does what it can to adjust to the reduced caloric intake we undertake to lose weight. So after an initial weight loss, your body will fight the change and your progress will slow down and eventually stop even though your activity level and food intake is consistent. What was working before won’t work anymore.
The good news is, despite our bodies’ best efforts at making weight loss difficult, it’s not impossible. A weight loss plateau does not have to be the end of the road; it’s merely a slight detour on the path to weight loss success.
Visualize success. Athletes do it all the time: they use their minds to see themselves running faster, jumping higher and winning more. And studies have proven that there is real value to using the power of our minds. You can do it too. Just imagine yourself getting past your plateau and reaching your goal weight. Imagine the scene as detailed as possible. Visualize how you will look, what you’ll be wearing, how you’ll feel, and what kinds of activities you will be doing when you are at your goal weight. Now hold that mental image. Do this every day. And for an added bonus, combine your visualization exercises with some positive affirmations. The affirmations should be short (easier to remember) and realistic (easier to say and believe); such as “I am healthy,” “I will reach my goal” or “I will be successful.”
Keep a Journal. At Diet-to-Go, we’re big fans of keeping a journal. Journaling is one of the most effective weight loss tools out there. By writing down everything you eat (and we mean everything!) you keep yourself accountable. It’s a lot harder to scarf down an entire box of cookies when you know you’re going to have to write down “35 Oreo cookies” later. To make the journal even more effective, include not only what you ate but how you felt when you ate. By including your emotional and/or physical state can help you unlock any particular binge triggers or foods/situations that cause you to overeat. Understanding your eating patterns can go a long way towards helping you overcome and your weight loss plateau.
Up your exercise. If you’re not exercising, start moving! Even just 30 minutes a day will make a big difference in your weight loss efforts. And if you have been exercising, that’s great, but now you need to increase your intensity. A weight loss plateau may be your body’s way of saying it needs more. If you've been walking, try increasing your speed, or the length of your walk. Adding on just a few more minutes each day will make a difference. Also, be sure your workout routine includes strength-training exercises to build muscle mass. The more muscle mass you have, the higher your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is. The higher your BMR, the more calories your body is burning at rest. And the more calories you’re burning, the quicker you’ll get past that plateau.
Reassess and recharge. There’s nothing more draining on your motivation than a weight loss plateau. It quashes all that original enthusiasm and excitement for losing weight. Don’t let it! Take the power away from the plateau and reassess. Write down all the reasons you originally wanted, and still want, to lose weight. Let friends and family know what you’re up to, and ask for their support. Maybe you might want to make a board on Pinterest with photos and words visualizing your successful body transformation. Put it somewhere prominent and look at it/read it very day.
Weight loss plateaus happen, they just do. But a plateau doesn’t have to be the end of the weight loss road for you; you can push through and be successful. Anything worth having is worth fighting for!