Losing weight requires persistence and patience. It's perfectly natural to lose weight one week and lose nothing the next week. Usually, if you stick with your program for a few more days — or even weeks, in some cases — your weight loss will resume. You may just need some minor adjustments to get the scale moving in the right direction again. Here are some tips to help you push past this plateau.
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Keep a food journal. Write down everything you eat. Every bite -- even those French fries you snuck off your friend's plate or the four bites you "tasted" of your kid's macaroni and cheese. You may be surprised at what and how much you are actually eating.
Cut your net carbs. Decrease your daily intake of net carbs (total carbs minus fiber) by 10 grams. You may have exceeded your tolerance for carbs while losing weight and inadvertently stumbled upon your tolerance for maintaining your new weight. Once weight loss resumes, move up in five-gram increments.
Watch out for sneaky sources of sugar and starches. Read labels carefully: Sauces, beverages and packaged foods all may contain more sugar or starches than your body can handle. If the total grams of sugar on the Nutrition Facts Panel is more than five grams, steer clear.
Increase your fluid intake. Drink a minimum of eight eight-ounce glasses of water (or other noncaloric fluids) daily.
Bye-bye booze. If you've been consuming alcohol, back off or abstain for now.
Increase your activity level. This works for some (but not all) people. If you've already been exercising, change up the kind of exercise you do. If you've been running on a treadmill, try a cycling class. If you lift weights, change up the type of weight-training exercises you do.
Look beyond your scale. Although the number on your scale may not be budging, you may be losing inches, your clothes may be fitting better and you may have more energy. It's important to recognize all these other great weight-loss benefits instead of focusing on the number on a scale.
Beat your stress. When you're stressed out, your body produces a hormone called cortisol, which may lead to increased fat storage. Stress may also lead you to reach for packaged and processed comfort foods. Try to decrease your stress by getting up and going for a walk, treating yourself to a massage, reading a book, meditating or spending time with a friend.
Get your Zs. People who sleep less than seven hours a night may be more prone to weight gain.
Focus on the big picture. Most likely, it didn't take a month or so to gain the weight you're trying to lose. Slow and steady wins the weight-loss race.
If these tips don't make the scale budge for a month, you're truly on a plateau. Frustrating as it is, the only way to outsmart it is to wait it out. Continue to eat right and follow the tips above and your body (and your scale) will eventually get with the program.
To be a genuine plateau, the pause in weight loss must meet the following criteria:
- You've experienced no weight loss or loss of inches for at least four weeks.
- You haven't altered your exercise regimen or made any other significant lifestyle changes.
- You're not taking any new medications (including hormone therapy) that may be interfering with weight loss.
- You can honestly say you've adhered to all aspects of your program.
How to Handle a Plateau
First, stay calm. Don't give up and return to your old ways. Remember: Your body is not like anyone else's. It has its own system, its own agenda and its own timetable.
In the long run, your body nearly always responds to consistency and patience. But in the near term, your body may decide to go its own way for its own reasons that we may not be able to understand. Be patient. You can afford to wait it out. Eat right, stay active and you will almost certainly see results before long.
-Written by Collette Heimowitz