It happens to almost everyone. You’re cruising along, losing weight week after week, and then, out of nowhere… the scale stops moving. And it stays stuck no matter how little you eat or how hard you exercise.
This dreaded plateau is not only frustrating, but oftentimes leads you to fall off the wagon altogether. As such, this article will go over the key strategies you must use to diagnose the problem and get back on track to losing weight.
Now, there are several reasons why fat loss stalls. But for the most part, it comes down to energy balance. Specifically, it’s your body’s way of preserving energy. You see, it doesn’t care that you want to get a flat stomach and look good. The most important thing is keeping you alive. And a loss of weight (i.e. energy) is deemed a threat to your survival. So, the harder you try to shed the pounds, the more it will fight you to keep them on.
Knowing this, you can do a few things to “trick” it into burning more fat.
For starters, take inventory of your eating patterns since you stopped losing weight. Have you decreased calories too much? Are you eating more than you should? Obviously, you’ll have to strike a balance. If you’re not eating enough your progress will stall. On the same token, too much food will have a similar effect.
Now, provided you’re on point with your meals (i.e. you haven’t made drastic changes to account for the scale not moving) you may need a re-feed or weekend binge. Taking a 24 or even 48-hour “break” from you diet to eat anything your heart desires is just one way to kick-start your metabolism once more.
The reason this works is because weight loss alters hormone levels in your body (e.g. leptin, thyroid hormone). Specifically, when the latter get low enough, survival mode kicks in and you stop burning fat. However, a short binge will give them a boost and get you on a slimming path once more.
With that said, lets have a look at the other component: exercise. As you know, working out burns calories. And the more active you are, the more calories you’ll burn. But here’s a bit of a paradox that many dieters fall victim too: working out too hard will oftentimes stall fat loss.
When you go overboard with your workout, you burn more calories. But remember what we discussed above about energy balance? Well, your body compensates for your “enthusiasm” by making you tired. As a result, you move less throughout the day. The net effect is that you burn fewer calories overall.
And even if you don’t burn fewer calories, it seems that being active over the course of the full day is much more beneficial in terms of fat loss than doing it all at once, then parking your butt on the couch for hours and hours. In short, the key to exercise is striking a balance. Too much and it will have the opposite effect.
Now, here’s a tip you can take to the bank: keep track of how many steps you’re making throughout the day by carrying a pedometer. However, do not wear it while you exercise. Write these numbers down for a week and analyze the results. If you’re taking much fewer steps on the days you work out, you’re likely exercising too hard.
Remember, you want to move throughout the day – not just during a 30 or 60 minute period when you decide to work out. Constant movement is a good sign your metabolism is working optimally and you’re eating the right foods. That, and healthy energy levels. If you’re constantly tired, something is wrong. You’re either eating too little, working out too much, or not getting enough rest.
So, now that you know what to look for, correcting the problem is easy. To recap, alter your food intake (or even go on a short binge) and take it easy on the exercise if you have to. These simple changes almost always go on to correct the problem.
With that said, there’s one more factor to take into account. If you’re very close to your goal weight (i.e. within 10-15 pounds) it’s logical for the scale to stop moving or move at a snail’s pace. That doesn’t mean your diet stopped working. It’s just working slower which is completely natural.
Therefore, at this point it’s better if you pay attention to actual body measurements such as waist and hip size rather than the scale. That, and how your clothes fit overall. By doing this, you’ll notice the changes the scale won’t show and continue to stay on track with your plan.