You’ve been working hard to get healthy. You’ve been eating right and exercising regularly. You’re also on track to reach your weight loss goals — but suddenly the pounds stop coming off and the numbers on the scale won’t budge.
When you first begin your journey toward weight loss, it may seem like the fat just melts away. However, the closer you come to reaching your goal, the more difficult it can be to shed each pound. And sometimes, for no apparent reason, progress flatlines, and it can feel like no amount of diet or exercise will help.
Few things are more frustrating than hitting a weight loss plateau. The good news is that you’re not alone. Eventually, anyone trying to lose weight experiences the same thing. For some, the stall lasts only a few days. For others, the struggle drags on for weeks or even months before progress resumes.
A weight loss plateau occurs when your metabolism (the rate at which your body burns fat) slows down. When that happens, your body begins burning calories slower than it once did. Ultimately, your metabolic rate reaches a state in which the number of calories you burn equals the number of calories you consume. This is true even if you’re still eating the same amount of calories that first helped you lose weight.
What can you do to start losing weight again? If you’ve reached a weight loss plateau, here are a few tips to kickstart you forward.
Evaluate what you’ve achieved and what more you want to accomplish.
A weight loss plateau may be a sign that you’ve lost all the weight you can on your current diet and exercise plan. Or it may be that your body has reached its ideal weight. Talk to your doctor or dietitian to evaluate your weight loss goals and determine if you should continue working to lose weight, or if now’s the time to make the switch to maintenance mode.
Reconsider your diet and exercise habits.
Have you made any changes to what you eat, what type of exercise you do, or how much you exercise on any given day? What are your primary sources of calories? Are any “hidden” or liquid calories sneaking their way into your diet? Keeping a daily food and exercise journal can help you see exactly what you’re consuming, how much physical activity you’re getting and where you can make any necessary changes.
Get more protein.
Simply increasing your protein intake can give your metabolism a boost. Protein helps the body burn fat, so the more protein you consume, the more successful you’ll be at losing weight. Talk to a dietitian to see how many grams of protein you should eat every day and be sure you incorporate low-fat protein options in your diet whenever possible.
Rev up your fitness routine.
Are you doing the same workouts day to day or week to week? To continue losing weight, you need to continuously change up the type, duration and intensity of your workouts. Without variety in your fitness routine, your body will adapt to the exercises you do, becoming more efficient — in other words, requiring less energy and burning fewer calories while doing the same exercises. Change things up frequently and be sure to include both strength training and aerobic (cardio) exercise in your workout plan. Strength training is important because building muscle burns more calories. The more muscle represents a percentage of your body mass, the higher your metabolism will be.
Check your stress level.
If you’re feeling stressed, your body may react by storing fat. Evaluate the stressors in your daily life to see what (if anything) can be eliminated to reduce your stress level. Incorporate regular stress-reducing activity, such as yoga, meditation, prayer, gardening or any other activity you find relaxing, into your daily routine.
Hitting a weight loss plateau is no doubt frustrating, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t get back on track and begin seeing positive results again. If you feel like your weight loss is on pause, get it started again by consulting with your doctor, dietitian or certified fitness trainer. They’ll help you evaluate your habits and goals and work with you to figure a new and improved weight loss plan.