It seems to happen to every dieter at some point: The scale refuses to budge, despite your weight-loss regime. Don't despair. Losing weight is a process that relies on many factors, including exercise, diet, personal habits and stress levels. A halt in weight loss can be discouraging and lead to giving up, so it's essential to identify the common culprits.
You may stop losing weight -- or even gain a few pounds -- if you overcompensate for the calories you burn during workouts. For example, you might feel famished after a strenuous workout and overeat. Or you might reward yourself for exercising with an unhealthy treat. You also might be less active for the rest of the day after a workout. To combat these stumbling blocks, keep an accurate count of how many calories you consume each day. A good rule of thumb: To lose a pound, you must cut at least 3,500 calories a week. An efficient way to do this is to burn 300 calories with exercise daily and reduce your caloric intake by 200 calories a day.
Skimping on Workouts
Racing through a workout or doing strength-training repetitions too quickly can result in stagnant weight loss. Working out too fast doesn't properly challenge your muscles, which can mean less calorie burn and poorer muscle tone. A seemingly simple thing such as skipping a warmup trims at least five minutes from your total exercise time; if you fall into the habit of doing this, the time adds up. It also prevents your body from using energy and oxygen efficiently. Do at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise five days a week. You can break this up into 10-minute increments if that seems more manageable. Do each strength-training repetition slowly to get the greatest benefit for your muscles. Warm up with a light, five-minute aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking or jogging.
Be Realistic and Knowledgeable
Setting unreasonable goals can sabotage weight-loss efforts. For example, eating an extremely low number of calories -- such as 1,400 calories or less a day -- can cause your body to go into starvation mode. When that happens, your body holds onto fat rather than burning it. Alternatively, don't underestimate the number of calories you take in. For example, you might read the label and know how many calories were in the breakfast sandwich you ate but be unaware of the 200 calories in the latte you drank with it.
Get Plenty of the Good Stuff
Not drinking enough fluid can hinder weight loss. When dehydrated, your body stores more fat instead of burning it. To prevent this, try drinking half of your body weight in ounces each day. Stress also can put weight loss on the skids. Under stress, your body releases the hormone cortisone, which over time can slow metabolism and cause your body to store fat. To reduce stress, exercise regularly and practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation.