Your exercise regimen is going according to plan. You wake up early every day energized looking forward to working out, knowing full-well you’re bound to be getting results. And you have been consistently seeing the evidence on the scales for the past couple of months. Your diet is now mostly clean and you love to indulge in healthy meals aware of their contribution to your steady weight loss.
A few more weeks pass and you hurry excitedly to get back on those no-longer dreaded scales and FREEZE. Uh-oh. You haven’t lost a single ounce, let alone a few pounds! What just happened?
Congratulations, you have now reached the most dreaded state of any weight loss program – the weight loss plateau.
Why did I just congratulate you, you probably wonder? Am I just an evil witch taking pleasure in other people’s stalling progress? Heck, no!
A weight loss plateau is simply your body letting you know it needs you to shake things up a bit. You’re feeding it the same healthy foods and the same old exercise routine it’s grown tired of.
In the first year of my running routine, I was a bit like a robot. Wake up at 6:15 three times a week and go for a run for exactly 30 minutes because that’s what my schedule allowed at the time. Sure, I gained muscle and felt leaner but after time, not only it became way too predictable and hence, not as enjoyable, but also stalled my progress.
So how do you overcome a weight loss plateau?
Here are a few tips to help get you back on track.
- Increase the length of your workout
If you only exercised for half an hour a day four times a week, increase the length a couple of times a week to a full hour. Or increase the number of days you stay active, from four to six. And build your endurance from there.
- Increase the intensity of your workout
Have you heard of HIIT? This scary abbreviation stands for high-intensity interval training. In reality, there’s nothing scary about it. You do an exercise very intensely ranging from a minute to five or ten and then back to slow or a complete rest. A good example would be sprint runners: they stretch right before gathering speed, run really fast for a couple of minutes and then halt. HIIT workouts have gathered a lot of fans lately because of the effectiveness of the workout for a shorter period of time. My personal favourite HIIT training is located on my Yoga Burn Booty DVD, month 1 – the bonus video lovingly titled “Cut the Fat…Keep the Curves”. That’s about 17 minutes of pure torture but the results are outstanding.
- Increase your food consumption
Have you also started a diet at the same time as starting your exercise regimen? Have you been absolutely rigid with it only consuming a certain number of calories a day and much less than what your energy expenditure is? If the answer is yes to both or either, that may to blame for your weight loss plateau. In the desire to lose weight, we often sabotage ourselves by being too strict. Our bodies need energy to function. Zap this energy by a quarter or a half and your body panics. It starts holding on to the few calories you feed it. Hence, no weight loss occurs.There are many ways you can solve this. You can either generally up your calorie intake by adding some nuts, fruits or other healthy snacks to your daily diet or have alternate days of eating more than usual, portions and all, and others when you stick to your health regimen. Or if you only eat three times a day, lessen the portions and spread it evenly in six times daily. Anything to get your metabolism moving.
- Up your water intake
If you’re not drinking enough water as it is, don’t expect a weight loss miracle to begin with. If you’re drinking a liter and a half but you’re also sweating a lot when working out, you’re not drinking enough. Double your water intake for a week and feel the difference. There’s nothing more miraculous than water when flushing out toxins from the body.Not a big fan of water? No problem. Try cold or warm herbal teas, preferably unsweetened; add lemon or another citrus to a standard glass of water for more zest and flavor…the options are endless.
- Increase your fiber intake
Upping your fruit and vegetable intake is the easiest way to achieve this but simple replacements in your food will do the trick. Adding oats instead of flour, sprinkling seeds on salads or meals, etc.
- Get enough sleep
Getting enough shuteye has multiple benefits and not least because it helps your body recover, regenerate and flush out all your toxins you’ve accumulated in your day. Some studies say sleeping enough helps you lose weight. What’s for certain is that not sleeping enough raises your cortisol levels and that may prevent you from losing weight. If you’ve stopped losing weight and are doing everything else right, maybe look at the number of hours you get to sleep each night.
- Increase your protein intake
Protein and weight loss go hand in hand. The more protein you consume, the more fat you burn. Some studies go as far as to suggest cutting out carbs and eating mainly protein but I’m not a fan of cutting out any food group. You should consume a good amount of carbs with every meal but don’t forget about protein. If you’re vegan, increase your intake of nuts and pulses for a faster effect.
With all that said, another piece of good advice is to avoid the scales like the plague.
Most of us rely on the scale to measure our progress but it may not be that accurate all the time.
On any given day, your weight can fluctuate with a few pounds. There are days you retain water, days your hormone levels are upside down and many others. A better way to monitor progress will be by trying on a pair of jeans, for example. If they were tight on you a few months ago and now they fit perfectly, chances are you have and are still losing weight.
Our Bodies Can Disagree
And sometimes no matter what the weight goal is, our bodies may have a number they feel best at – that number may be slightly higher than the one we had in mind. And that’s OK, too. Just be your best, healthy, fit self and results are bound to show in your appearance, not the scale.
Good luck on your journey!