Getting Past a Weight Loss Plateau

August 18, 2010 at 6:04 pm Leave a comment

You’ve worked hard to lose the weight. You switched to a healthy, low-calorie diet and developed a regular workout routine. Then, your progress hits a wall. Even though your diet hasn’t changed and you’re exercising regularly, the scale doesn’t budge.

Don’t be dismayed. You’ve just hit a weight-loss plateau. Before you revert back to your old habits, you should know that it is normal for weight loss to slow and even stall.

What is a weight-loss plateau?

It’s that point when losing additional weight becomes more difficult. A weight-loss plateau occurs when you no longer lose weight despite continuing with your exercise and healthy-eating habits. It eventually happens to everyone who tries to lose weight.

The progression from initial weight loss to a weight-loss plateau follows a typical pattern. During the first few weeks of losing weight, a rapid drop in pounds is normal. When calories from food are reduced, the body gets needed energy by releasing its stores of glycogen, a type of carbohydrate found in the muscles and liver. Glycogen holds onto water, so when glycogen is burned for energy, it also releases the water, resulting in substantial weight loss that’s mostly water.

A plateau occurs because your metabolism – the process of burning calories for energy – slows as you lose lean tissue (muscle). When you lose weight, you lose both fat and lean tissue. Your weight-loss efforts result in a new equilibrium with your now slower metabolism. Now you must increase activity or decrease the calories you eat to lose more weight. Using the same approach that worked initially will maintain your weight loss, but it won’t lead to more weight loss.

So what can you do to overcome a weight-loss plateau? Try these tips:

  • Reassess your habits. Look back at your food and activity records. Make sure you haven’t relaxed the rules, letting yourself get by with larger portions or less exercise.
  • Cut more calories. Reduce your daily calorie intake by 200 calories – provided this doesn’t put you below 1,200 calories. Fewer than that may be not be enough to keep you from feeling hungry most of the time, which increases your risk of overeating.
  • Rev up your workout. Increase the amount of time you exercise by an additional 15 to 30 minutes. You might also try increasing the intensity of your exercise. Additional exercise will burn more calories.
  • Pack more activity into your day. Think outside the gym. Increase your general physical activity throughout the day by walking more using your car less, or try doing more yard work or vigorous cleaning.

If your efforts to get past a weight-loss plateau don’t work, talk to your doctor or a dietician about other tactics to try. You may also need to reevaluate your weight-loss goals; but whatever you do, don’t go back to your old eating and exercise habits. You may regain the weight you’ve already lost.

Source: The Mayo Clinic

Entry filed under: Exercise, Managing your health.

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