No one likes a plateau. Okay, people who live on or near a plateau may think it’s great, but plateaus in progress areas, such as finance, for instance, aren’t well-liked. They tend to mean that, while you were trending upward, that momentum has stalled and leveled off, so that now you’re remaining flat. Even worse than the stagnation is the concern that a decline could be imminent; that you could lose all the progress you’ve made and then some, and wind up in a lower position than when you started. It’s a perilous reality for businesses and industries, but it’s also applicable to weight loss. If you’re actively trying to lose weight, stalling out or hitting a plateau can be discouraging and ultimately can affect your entire motivation for continuing to try.
“Whether you’re trying to lose weight on your own or you’ve had weight loss surgery, weight loss plateaus are an inevitable reality,” said Blount Memorial registered dietitian Heather Pierce. “There’s nothing more frustrating than changing your diet and exercise habits with the goal of losing weight and living healthier, then seeing no changes on the scale. What’s important to remember is that plateaus actually are a natural part of weight loss. As you lose weight, you’re also losing some muscle, which means your metabolic rate is declining, too,” she explained. “There are some things to look into, though, to help manage a weight loss stall and navigate your way through it,” she added.
Pierce says it’s important to first make sure that your weight loss stall is really a stall at all. “Getting on the scale is just one way to measure progress,” Pierce said. “Remember to take measurements, too, because even if you’re not losing pounds, you may still be losing inches around your waistline. A good way to check this is to see if your clothes feel looser than before,” she explained. “The next thing to do is to track your food and beverage intake, which you may be doing already. The idea is that you’ve reached this plateau by successfully reducing your intake of sweets, sodas, snacks and fast foods. Now that you’ve taken care of what you’re not eating, it may be time to reassess what you are eating. Consider using an app to really track the calorie and carbohydrate counts of the foods you’re still eating,” she said. “Also, check yourself to make sure you haven’t been backsliding to old habits, such as sneaking in a snack or soda,” she added.
Next, Pierce says it may be time to alter your workout routines. “If you’ve gotten into the habit of exercising regularly, it’s definitely helped get you where you are,” she said. “However, it may be time to step up your game. Maybe add some new elements to your routine by taking a workout class or adding some hills to your run. If you do the same activity regularly enough, your body becomes more efficient at doing that particular activity, which can cause you to burn fewer calories, despite the fact that you’re doing exactly what you’ve been doing.”
“Finally, if you find yourself hitting a weight loss plateau, it may be time to look at other lifestyle habits, such as sleep, that may be contributing to the stall,” Pierce said. “We all should aim for seven to eight hours of sleep each night, but it’s especially important for people who are trying to lose weight. Lack of sleep can cause our ghrelin to increase, which makes us hungry more often. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, your cravings can become unmanageable and can get out of control,” she explained. “And if you do all this and still find yourself unable to get through the plateau, it may be time to visit your physician to determine if you have any underlying medical issues, such as an insulin resistance or thyroid conditions, that may be hindering your weight loss,” she added.