Don’t despair when you reach a weight-loss plateau, says Anne-Marie Lategan. It’s a sign you’re on the right track and, what’s more, there’s lots you can do about it…
Congratulations – you’ve reach a weight-loss plateau!
A weight-loss plateau is the level at which your body ‘gets stuck’ at a certain weight. You might feel that your diet is very good and you exercise regularly, but the scales are not budging. Experiencing a plateau is normal and is your body’s way of telling you it needs something new.
When you start to lose weight, it should come off very easily, because you will be cutting down on calories and increased your walking. But as the weeks go by, your body will have less fat to get rid of, which will slow your weight loss down as it gets more reluctant to lose weight. Your lower bodyweight will also mean the regular 30-minute walk will now burn fewer calories, because you weigh less and your body has become a lot more effective at walking.
So, congratulate yourself when you reach a plateau and see it as a positive, not a negative, because you’ve done it! You’ve lost some weight, which is the first milestone. Now you need to reassess your goals (how much weight do you still want to lose and by when?) before looking at how to structure your new programme. Don’t despair – simply see this plateau as a new challenge for the next few months!
Five new challenges to break through your weight-loss plateau
1. Quit trying, start experimenting!
The more obsessed you get with losing weight, the less likely it is to happen. This is because the more you stress about it, the more stress hormone (cortisol) your body releases. And cortisol makes your body hold on to fat (especially around your middle). So this is the time relax and experiment with new routines. Change your walking style, maybe try jogging for a few minutes during your walk, or go for a bike ride.
2. The fun factor
If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing and it doesn’t make you feel ‘happy’, then stop and change. Reassess your programme – maybe you should change your route, try walking on the treadmill if it’s the dark, rainy weather that gets you down, or join your local walking club. Putting the fun back into walking might be what you need to drop those final few pounds.
3. Get out of your comfort zone
You might think you’re working hard enough, but if your body doesn’t change then you are not creating a negative energy balance (burning more calories than you consume). If you’re still following the same routine as when you started, then you’re stuck in your comfort zone. The route that used to take you half an hour should take less than 20 minutes now, so increase your speed, add those hills you’ve been avoiding and increase your walking time over weekends.
4. Spring clean your diet
When you increase your exercise intensity, you body’s metabolic rate increases, too. This means your body will burn more calories, but it also means you will feel hungrier and might be indulging in a few treats. Treats are definitely not forbidden, but you want to lose a few more pounds, you might need to cut them out for a few weeks.
5. Don’t lie, you’ll only cheat yourself
We are creatures of habit and don’t like change, but in order to break out of a weight-loss plateau you have to be honest with yourself. Cutting your walk short by a few minutes here and there, not walking to your full potential and always avoiding hills will only keep you in the plateau. If you find this is a problem, the best way is to find a walking partner or group, as no one likes to let someone else down and working in a group will make you feel more committed.
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