So you start on a weight loss journey and at the beginning you are making significant progress. But at some point, your progress begins to stall or even come to complete stop. That weight that initially started to fall off now feels like it's holding on for dear life. You feel like you are doing absolutely everything right, and you can’t figure it out.
It can be very discouraging and frustrating, and it can make you want to throw in the towel and give up. But before you do that, let me remind you that plateaus are normal and are very common. When you are consuming fewer calories for an extended period your metabolism will adapt by slowing down to conserve energy, so keep that in mind.
Remember, just because the weight on the scale doesn’t seem to budging, does not mean that you are not making progress. Your waist measurements may be smaller, you may have a tighter tummy and booty, and you make feel better in your clothes. This is why I recommend taking measurements in my program. along with progress photos.
However, if you want to keep the number on the scale moving along a little longer then here are some things that may help you bust through that plateau.
1. Reevaluate your calorie intake
When you have a lot of weight to lose, it may just take a small adjustment such as cutting out sugar or soft drinks. That can be all that you need to do to start seeing the weight come off. But the less weight you have to lose, the more your metabolism will adapt. To continue your progress, you will need to make sure you pay more attention to every detail to ensure you stay in a caloric deficit.
It's important to keep a food log or diary and track your calorie intake for the day with each meal. It may seem tedious at first, but if you don't know what you are consuming then, it can be difficult to make adjustments and break through your plateau.
If you have been consuming the same amount of calories for a period, your metabolism will also adapt as I mentioned earlier. Don't fret about this. It’s ok. Your metabolism is supposed to adapt. You may just need to either reduce calories slightly or increase your training to keep you in a calorie deficit and your weight loss in progress.
Make sure that you don't go YOLO on the calorie cutting. Just a small amount can be all you need to push through a plateau. Ladies, make sure you do not go below 1200 calories per day.
2. Under-reporting calories
Just because you think you are on track with your food intake doesn't mean that you are. Something I see a lot of is under-reporting on food intake. Just because you didn't count the few extra mouthfuls of food you had in your food log, doesn’t mean that your body does not count them as fuel.
Be careful of packaged foods and ensure that you read the labels correctly. Sometimes you may find you want to eat a bag of chips (which is fine if they fit your macros), yet reading the serving size on the label incorrectly means you ate four servings instead of one without realising.
Eating out at restaurants frequently can also hinder your weight loss as even healthy choices may have hidden calories from oils and dressings that are more than you accounted for. So if you want to break through your plateau make sure you know exactly what and how much you are consuming.
3. Calorie cycling
When you have a lot of weight to lose, and you come from being inactive and/or eating whatever you want, then making the smallest adjustment will see you dropping weight quickly. But when you only have a few kilos or pounds left to lose then it can be harder to shift.
The general process is to create a calorie deficit by cutting calories and increasing time in the gym. It will work for a period, but for some people, their metabolism adapts too quickly, which will stall the progress. Their body goes into a starvation mode.
A great way to fix this is by manipulating your daily food intake. Varying your calorie intake from day to day can be a great way to get your body out of starvation mode. For example, having two high-calorie days per week and five lower days, which can look like 2100 calories x 2 and 1700 calories x 5. The high day amount will be relative to the number of calories you are currently consuming.
4. Mix up your workouts
If you have been doing the same type of workouts for a long time, then it’s time to mix it up. When you start running for the first time, and you run 5KM, you will find it hard, your fitness will be struggling, and your legs will probably be on fire. But if you run that same distance regularly over and over again it will start to seem really easy.
This is because your body is great at adapting to anything you throw at it. So if you have been a cardio bunny, it’s time to add in some resistance training. I am a huge fan of strength training. Did you know that you burn more fat when incorporating resistance and strength training than you do in a regular steady cardio session? Your body will continue to burn fat long after your strength training session has finished.
If you have ticked that box of adding in resistance training to your routine, then your body will still begin to adapt after some time. In that case, you need to mix it up by either adding more volume, frequency or weight. For example, if you have been performing a similar rep range and similar weights in the gym such as a few weeks of 10-12 reps at the same weight where it starts to feel easy, then it's time to add more weight or mix it up between low and high rep ranges throughout your week. You need to keep your body guessing and progressing.
5. Sleep more
If you have read some of my other blogs, you will know that I harp on about sleep a lot! But, for good reason. If you are getting little sleep over the course of your week, then it may put your body under a high amount of stress. Sleep is when our bodies repair and recover and allows our hormones to function at an optimal level. If you think you can play sleep catch-up over the weekend and still have good results, then you are wrong!
You need to be aiming for 8 hours of sleep every night of the week to get the benefits. So try having consistent sleep for two weeks and see if that helps your body bust through your weight loss plateau.
If you have followed all of these tips and you are still struggling to see results, then you may have a hormone imbalance. Hormone issues such as a slow thyroid, adrenal fatigue, insulin sensitivity, PCOS could possibly be the reason your body is holding onto stubborn fat.
However, do not assume that is the reason. If you really have tried everything you possibly can then schedule an appointment with a hormone specialist (endocrinologist) and have the appropriate testing done. It can be worth it just to rule out any medical possibilities contributing to your weight loss plateau. If everything turns out fine, then sometimes you may just need to work a little harder ;)