Overcoming the Dreaded Plateau

Weight loss is a long journey. There are many happy moments and small victories that remind us it’s all worth it, from losing an extra pound than usual or fitting into our old jeans from 10 years ago. But it can also bring frustration, disappointment, and tears, mainly when that dreaded plateau hits.

Now, instead of rolling down the mountain, you’re just sitting there, unmoving. Everyone around you seems to be on a steady drop, except for you. What happened?

What’s quite possibly the worst thing about plateauing is that it isn’t a one and done. It can be recurring, and then the whole “healthy lifestyle” thing becomes discouraging, maybe even intimidating.

But a plateau doesn’t mean you should give up — it actually means you should keep going.

Plateaus occur as a result of change in your body’s chemistry. When you first begin cutting back, your body gains its energy from glycogen, which is partly made of water. As your body continues to use up its storage of glycogen, the weight easily falls off. That’s why the first few pounds are often referred to as “water weight.”

After a sudden drop, your weight loss will usually regulate, depending on the type of diet and exercise regime you’re following. As you continue losing weight, you may begin to lose muscle along with your body’s fat. Since muscles are what keep up metabolism, your metabolism may gradually stall, leading to a plateau.

Despite the seeming impossibility of overcoming a plateau, there are many ways to break ground and get on with the ride.

First, if you’re not already tracking your nutritional intake, you should be. You may be counting numbers in your head, but it’s easy to forget a snack here and there or get the numbers confused. Download an app on your phone or carry a notebook with you — whatever keeps you on track — and log each meal and snack. Don’t forget to pay attention to your macronutrients, such as calories, fats, carbs.

Also, if you haven’t already, cut the alcohol out of your diet. It may fit into your macros, but it doesn’t provide any nutritional value. Healthline suggests that consuming alcohol can lead to making poor nutritional choices, not to mention that one alcoholic beverage will usually lead to another.

Instead, trade the alcohol for water, which can lead to a feeling of fullness and decrease
food intake. Or, if your metabolism needs a kickstart, coffee and tea are appropriate choices.

While you may need to cut back on certain foods, such as those packed with carbs, as low-carb diets can often lead to great weight loss results, you will need to up your fiber and protein intake. Fiber, especially soluble fiber, can aid water in helping you feel full, while protein can do the same through its hormone production, in addition to getting your metabolic rate going more than other macros.

But food can only go so far. If your body has grown accustomed to your routine, it might be time to switch it up. Healthline suggests resistance training because it “promotes the retention of muscle mass, which is a major factor influencing how many calories you
burn during activity and at rest.”

However, just increasing physical activity in your daily routine can help boost your metabolism as well. You can take the stairs rather than the elevator, but you can also
fidget, change your posture, and practice other non-exercise activity thermogenesis, according to Healthline.

These may seem like small, ineffective steps to take, but they will ultimately affect your body, sparking a change in its functioning. Other important steps include managing your stress levels and getting enough rest. Stress can greatly affect your weight loss rate because it releases a hormone called cortisol, which can increase belly fat storage, more often in women than men. Lack of sleep can also increase fat storage by slowing your metabolic rate.

Although these suggestions can help break your plateau, perhaps the most important thing you can do is not rely on the scale and what it tells you. The number may not
drop, but that doesn’t mean the inches on your waist aren’t. Just keep up the hard work, and you’ll start to notice the nonscale victories you may not have before.

Written by: Leah Morton

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