How to Manage a Weight Plateau
By Pam Davis, RN CBN
You’re working hard, following the recommendations of a registered dietitian, exercising 3 plus times per week, getting seven to eight hours of sleep per night, drinking a minimum of 64 ounces of non-caloric fluids per day and the scale IS NOT MOVING. So if your weight has been holding steady at the same number for weeks, maybe you’ve hit a weight-loss plateau.
What is a plateau? While there is not an officially accepted definition of a plateau, we recommend that you think of it this way: When you have gone four full weeks without a decrease in weight or inches, you are at a weight-loss plateau.
You are probably wondering why your body would turn on you in such a way when you’re doing everything right. To be honest, weight plateaus occur because as your weight changes, your body adapts. When you are 100 pounds overweight, you use up a lot of calories just going about your day-to-day activities, so weight comes off quickly initially. As your weight drops, however, it takes less energy to move, you burn fewer calories, and your weight loss grinds to a halt unless you increase your activity level and decrease your food consumption.
Now that you know what it is and why it occurs, what can you do to bust through a plateau? Evaluate everything you are currently doing to insure you are 100% following the recommendations you’ve been given.
Plateau Creator. Are you continuing to measure your food portions or are you simply “eyeballing” the proper portions? For example, you may be the only that sees a heaping tablespoon of peanut butter instead of your normal level tablespoon, however, your body realizes the difference! Have you become prone to calorie-creep? The calorie creep can come from mindless eating, eating out at restaurants that serve huge portions, or simply condiments like dressings, spreads, and sauces. Maybe you don’t realize that small 100 calorie bag of “healthy” chips is really 400 calories because there are 4 servings in each bag. Alcohol also goes on the calorie creep list.
Plateau Buster. Solid record keeping! Use checklists! Use a diary! Use your iPhone! Choose one and stick to it. Apps such as MyFitnessPal and LoseIt are free and easy.
Plateau Creator. Doing the same method of exercise over and over. Do you walk every day on the treadmill like a hamster on a wheel? Swim the same number of laps at the same pace on the same days every week? When you do the same workout repeatedly, your muscles adapt and you burn fewer calories. The University of California recommends changing the type, duration and intensity of cardiovascular activity to break through a plateau.
Plateau Buster. If you usually walk for half an hour, try pushing yourself on the elliptical for 45 minutes. To vary your strength training routine, change the mode, type and resistance level of your exercises. Instead of using dumbbells, try resistance bands. Alternatively, replace preacher curls with bicep curls and up your repetitions.
Plateau Creator. Not enough sleep! According to research conducted a few years ago by physicians at the University of Chicago General Clinical Resource Center, dieters who get less than 6 hours of sleep a night lose significantly less fat than those who get the gold standard 8. Plus, they feel hungrier all day long.
Get seven to eight hours of quality sleep nightly. Stop eating three to four hours prior to bedtime. Don’t consume caffeine within 8 hours prior to bedtime. Don’t drink alcohol immediately prior to bedtime. Shut down the laptop, iPad, or phone for at least an hour prior to bedtime.
Finally, hang in there. Keep yourself on track and the weight plateau will break.