So, you think you’ve hit a “plateau”? I’ll come back to that word, but first of all, do not get discouraged. Having a stretch where your weight loss slows to nothing is a natural phenomenon. You’re consuming fewer calories than you used to, so your metabolism has slowed down to conserve them. Keep in mind that, as long as you stick with your workouts and healthy eating, you’ll typically start losing weight again after about three weeks. It’s also important to remember that while you may not be losing weight, you should be experiencing positive changes to your body like a smaller waist, more toned stomach, stronger arms and more. If you don’t want to wait for the plateau to end on its own, there are things you need to ask yourself if you want to jump start your losing streak.
Question #1: Are You Keeping Track of Your Daily Calories?
Truth be told, I mostly think of plateaus as a myth. My philosophy on weight-loss plateaus is that someone claiming to have hit one isn’t paying enough attention to detail. When you first start a diet and fitness program, you make drastic changes — maybe you gave up soda, started counting points, whatever — your body responded to that and you lost weight fast. To continue to lose weight, you’ll need to create a consistent calorie deficit, which means you’ll need to start paying attention to what really matters — how many calories you’re consuming and how many you’re burning. The only way to track this accurately is to count calories at every single meal. I know that it can be time-consuming and tedious, but this has been proven again and again by researchers. A study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine showed that the more regularly a dieter kept a food log, the more weight they lost. That’s another reason why I don’t want to hear that you’ve plateaued if you aren’t keeping detailed logs. Try using a BodyMedia Armband or another kind of personal body monitors that can help you track how many calories you’re burning in a day — plus some of these monitors have apps that will help you log and track all of the calories you’re consuming in a day. It will help you realize how many calories you burn on a day-to-day basis.
Question #2: Are You Trying to Lose Vanity Pounds?
If you’re only trying to lose five, 10, or 15 pounds, you’re in a different place than someone who wants to drop triple digits. You’re not obese, you just want to look better — and this is what I refer to as vanity pounds. The human body doesn’t want to be carrying around excess weight, so it will respond to diet and exercise. When you have a smaller amount of weight to lose, your body is already healthy, which makes it tougher to lose weight. What people in this situation often do is cut more calories or increase their time at the gym, but this method will not work. All that does is slow your metabolism down and send your body into starvation mode. The best quick fix is to give your body a little more food so it feels secure. Varying your calorie intake is my best advice for keeping your body from plateauing. For the next three days, vary your calorie intake between 1,800 and 2,400 calories. I know this may sound crazy, but trust me — I know what I’m doing. After three days, drop back down to your usual calorie allowance. Remember, never allow your daily calorie allowance to fall below 1,200 if you are a woman and 1,500 if you are a man. Falling below these daily allowances can do real damage to your metabolism and result in excessive loss of lean muscle tissue.
Question #3: Do You Need to Change Up Your Workout?
If you’re overweight (not trying to lose vanity pounds), tracking calories in and out every day, and still not shedding any weight, here’s what you need to do: Switch up your workout. You might not realize this, but your body will adapt to any type of exercise. The first time you go run a mile, it is probably going to be rough. But by the 40th time you run a mile, it’s a lot easier, right? As you get used to a type of exercise, it becomes less challenging and, as a result, less effective. That’s why it’s so important to mix it up. Alternate the amount of weight you lift — go heavy one week with fewer reps and lighter the next with more reps. Change the type of exercise you do for each muscle. One week, do push-ups, then chest flies, then chest presses. They all work the same part of your body, but in very different ways.
Question #4: Do You Have a Hormone Imbalance?
If you’ve followed my advice up until now and nothing still has worked, there’s one last thing that might be causing your plateau: a hormone imbalance. A thyroid disorder, insulin resistance, polycystic ovary syndrome — they could all be making your body hold onto pounds. Don’t immediately assume this is the problem, but if you have truly tried everything else, it might be worth going to an endocrinologist and exploring this issue with a medical professional who can evaluate you personally.