You follow your diet carefully, but your weight loss stoped. You have reached the frustrating phenomenon known as a weight-loss plateau, and it occurs when your weight-loss stalls out despite the fact that you have not begun eating more. Do not give up your diet; you can take steps to overcome the plateau and keep dropping pounds. However, check with your health care provider before you make any alterations to your weight-loss regimen.
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Causes of Plateau
When you start dieting, the more weight you have to lose, the qreater your initial weight loss during the first few weeks. When you deprive your body of calories, it uses a stored carbohydrate known as glycogen for energy. This usage also results in a loss of stored water, which means the majority of your initial weight loss comes from water weight. As you continue with your diet, you begin to lose weight from muscle and fat tissue, and this loss leads to a slowing of your metabolism. Once your metabolism slows to the point that it reaches an equilibrium with the calories you consume, you will need to cut out even more from your diet to continue dropping pounds.
Examine Your Diet
Before you make any changes to your eating habits, take a closer look at your diet. A cookie here and an extra slice of cheese there might not seem like a big deal, but those calories can add up. You might consider keeping a food journal for a week, which will enable you to pinpoint where you have gone awry, then take steps to get back on track.
You need fewer calories to maintain a lower body weight. Just cutting 200 more calories from your daily diet could push you past you plateau. Try replacing your nighttime cookie with a small bowl of fruit, or swapping that fancy coffee drink with a latte made with skim milk. However, do not make dietary changes that put you below the minimum of 1,200 daily calories for women or 1,500 calories per day for men. Anything less than this -- unless your doctor directly monitors your diet -- might not give you adequate nutrition.
Types of Food
Besides changing the number of calories consumed, altering the types of food eaten can push you past a plateau, according to Lisa Schilling, R.N., at North Central Missouri College. If you diet includes some processed foods, switch them out for whole foods, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat meats, poultry, fish and health fats like flaxseed oil and canola oil. Whole foods not only increase nutrient consumption, they reduce hunger and fat storage by slowing insulin production.
The Exercise Factor
Exercise increases your metabolism and fat burning by building lean muscle mass. However, your muscles eventually get used to your workout routine. When your exercise no longer challenges your muscles, they burn fewer calories and slow or stop weight loss. To break your plateau, increase strength training exercises by adding additional weight or using different exercises to work the muscle groups throughout your body. Not only does this kickstart your calorie burning, it adds lean muscle, increases muscle strength and bone density and the calorie-burning continues when your workout session ends, according to Kaplan University. You should aim for 2.5 hours a week of aerobic activity and two weekly sessions of strength training, as well as exercises for stretching and flexibility.