6 Ways to Break the Weight Loss Plateau
Congratulations, you’ve reached your weight loss goal — almost. If you’ve toiled and suffered for months to try and lose that last five or 10 pounds, take heart. You’re not alone, and no matter how impossible it may feel, you can break that plateau and shrink to your ideal size, whatever that may be.
A weight loss plateau happens when that same diet and exercise program that made the pounds fly off a few weeks ago is no longer working. That’t because the smaller you get, the slower your metabolism gets. It simply takes more energy to sustain a larger size. If you’ve lost muscle tissue, you’ll feel the slow-down even more because your body uses more calories to maintain muscle than fat.
When the numbers on the scale won’t budge despite your best efforts, the most important thing to do is not get so frustrated that you revert to the unhealthy habits of your past. Put the cheesecake down, and try these tips instead:
- Start journaling. You may be slipping without even being aware of your missteps. Don’t let a morsel of food pass your lips without writing down the food and serving size. At the end of the day, tally up the numbers. You could be surprised to find you’ve been mindlessly chomping down an extra few hundred calories.
- Change your calorie goals. Since your body needs fewer calories now, you must adjust your diet accordingly. The Mayo Clinic recommends cutting 200 calories when you reach a plateau, provided you don’t dip below 1,200 calories a day. Of course, skipping calories doesn’t mean skipping nutrients; get your recommended RDA of all vitamins and minerals, and only cut back on sugars and fats.
- Pump more iron. Strength training increases lean muscle mass, boosting your resting metabolic rate. Don’t worry about getting too bulky if you’re female. Women can’t usually build beefy muscles like men because we lack the hormones. You can lift weights and still maintain your feminine physique.
- Cut out stress. Research shows that chronic stress contributes to fat in two ways. First, it stimulates cortisol production. Cortisol is a hormone that tells your body to store more fat, especially around your belly. Second, stress makes you more likely to overeat in an effort to self-medicate.
- Change up your workout. If you’ve been jogging every day for three months, you’re burning fewer calories than you did when you started. That’s because your muscles have gotten more efficient with practice, so you’re not exerting as much energy. Try biking or hiking uphill instead, or do something completely different, like salsa dancing.
- Don’t miss a single exercise opportunity. Countless times throughout the day, you’re faced with a choice between the easy way and the healthier way. Forget about the elevator, and head for the stairs. Stop procrastinating, and mow that lawn already. Need to pick up a prescription from the drug store a mile away? Walk right past the car sitting in the drive way and all the way up to the pharmacy counter.