You work hard to meet your important weight-loss goal when all of a sudden, the needle on your scale refuses to budge.
Note that this roadblock occurs just after the initial weight loss, and once again when you cannot seem to shed those last few pounds. It happens to endurance athletes and runners, and it also happens to dieters.
There is no denying that it is very discouraging and difficult to keep working hard when you cannot see the deserved fruits of your labor. In addition, to make things worse, often these weight-loss plateaus last from several days to even months.
What is a Weight-loss Plateau?
It is worth mentioning that being stuck at a weight-loss plateau can eventually happen to anyone trying to lose weight. Even so, a majority of people are quite surprised and frustrated when it happens to them as they are still exercising regularly and eating carefully.
That being said, the frustrating and disappointing reality is that even careful and well-planned weight-loss efforts could stall.
Your brain may also be the culprit for your weight-loss plateaus. Keep in mind that your body has a specific ‘set point’ for weight, and this is why you may notice that regardless of what you try, you’re always within 5 to 10 pounds of a baseline weight.
So, when you try to lose weight, your body tries to defend this set point, through the brain and keeps you in a certain range. This can be very frustrating. But you do not have to worry about it too much as we have you covered.
Here are five signs that you might be experiencing a weight loss plateau and need to switch it up.
1. You’re Snacking Frequently
This is true either late at night or after a workout session. If you go to a snack bar at your gym as soon as you have gotten off the elliptical or treadmill, you may actually not shed weight. You may gain weight as you are consuming more calories than you have burned.
Keep in mind that it is common for most people to assume they are doing well with their exercise regime and for many old habits such as snacking to start to creep their way back in; this may halt—or even reverse—all your weight loss progress.
And keep in mind that this also goes for healthy snacks. Although they can be an excellent weight loss tool, remember that guacamole may backfire if you eat the whole bowl. And there is another example: although almonds are full of healthy fats and satiating, if you double your serving size, you will down about 328 calories instead of just 166.
How to break it
To avoid falling prey to frequent snacking, do not eliminate certain “trigger foods” such as ice cream or potato chips from your diet.
Rather, focus more on portion control and try to eat them within a healthy amount. Allowing these foods is also a great idea – you can have one cup of ice cream per week or two small bags of potato chips on a weekly basis. This way, you will avoid eating them mindlessly while satisfying your cravings.
There is another vital thing that you should keep in mind. It is perfectly OK to experience periods of hunger, such as before going to bed. That being said, remember that a healthy and natural level of hunger differs greatly from starvation.
Many people almost starve themselves to shed weight and at this point, one has to examine and decide what to do differently. A registered dietitian or doctor can help guide you in the right direction.
2. You are Irritable
If you have reached that point in the weight-loss journey where almost everybody is pissing you off, then it may be time to re-evaluate your food intake and exercise output to keep dropping weight without losing your mind.
As per a study in the famous journal Psychosomatic Medicine, women who closely followed a 1,200-calorie-per-day diet, generated more cortisol, the key stress hormone, and reported much higher levels of stress.
Another study in the journal Obesity revealed that extended exposure to cortisol (usually several months) may lead to weight gain. If diet and exercise aren’t working, you can try CoolSculpting to get rid of stubborn pockets of fat in certain parts of your body.
How to break it
So in case you are stressed out, it may be the right time to use stress-management tools and techniques—and even up your daily calorie intake while balancing it out with more exercise.
Be conscious and not let other people, like your friends, determine what you eat. Also, not use food as a substitute to deal with hard things in your life.
There are a lot of reasons we eat other than just for health and fuel. However, when the reasons are tied to emotions and become numerous, it is difficult, if not impossible, to shed weight.
3. You’re Bored
Just like all other aspects of life, if you are eating nearly the same 3 meals every day or performing the same workout or exercise routine every morning, it is likely that you will get bored. And keep in mind that when you are bored, you are more inclined to spice things up a bit by, say, having a big pile of ice cream right after your healthy lunch or dinner.
Also, if you do not love your workout routine, you will probably end up exercising less overall. This means you will burn fewer calories than you take in, and that can cause the number on your scale to hit a halt.
How to break it
Give yourself the liberty to treat yourself and stay open to trying new and exciting things—but always in healthy portions. At times you need to mix it up by altering the pattern or giving yourself the luxury to eat a restaurant meal or change the food you are eating.
On the other hand, if it is exercise boredom that is hanging you up, you can incorporate new exercise styles into the workout plan. For example, if you are often a treadmill bunny, incorporate strength training in your routine.
4. You Focus on Cardio
It is often easy to assume that endless cardio is one of the quickest ways to weight loss. That being said, do not skimp on your strength training.
Although cardio would result in weight loss, you will also lose lean body mass. And keep in mind that losing lean body mass would lower your metabolic rate, which can easily precipitate a weight loss plateau.
How to break it
It is important to make sure that you are strength training 2 days a week (at least). This is because muscle is relatively more metabolically active compared to fat, which means that the more lean body mass a person has, the more calories they burn at rest.
5. You are Retaining Water
It is worth mentioning that this weight loss plateau is especially relevant for many pre-menopausal women. This is because they retain more fluid pre-menstruation.
Also, salt—and in particular salty foods—could be a big contributor to fluid retention.
You can eat one tablespoon of salt, and it has zero calories, but the problem is that you would hold on to that fluid, and you will gain one pound of weight one hour later when you have had something to drink.
In addition, other things such as running in hot or warm weather or standing for too long in the same position could also make you retain fluid. Hence, if you observe that your weight loss “plateau” is only a fluctuation of a few pounds, it is nothing to sweat over.
Many people know about their averages. So, if you know you are gaining two or three pounds, hopefully, you will ignore that and not think that it is because your diet is not working.
How to break it
There are expert-backed ways that can help you lose water weight. Some of them include reducing your carb and salt intake, drinking plenty of water to prevent dehydration, and getting enough potassium.
The Bottom Line
Weight loss plateaus can be both demoralizing and frustrating. That being said, they are a usual part of your weight loss process. Actually, nearly everybody experiences a stall at one point or another on their weight loss journey. The good news is that there are many strategies you can use to lose weight once again and safely and achieve your ideal weight.
Whatever you do, do not give up or revert to your old exercise and eating habits. That might cause you to put on the weight you have lost. It is important to celebrate your success while continuing your efforts and hard work to maintain your weight loss.