It’s true. A weight loss plateau is your body conspiring against you, despite your best efforts. Here’s why it happens, when it happens and how to break through it.
Congratulations on hitting your weight loss plateau! Hitting a weight loss plateau typically signals you’re following a successful weight loss plan, so give your self a big hug and don’t get discouraged. This frustrating pause in your weight loss journey is quite common. Your body is trying to communicate to you and it’s up to you and your health care professional to decide if your body is saying you’ve lost enough weight or signaling you to make changes to your diet and exercise routine so you can lose more.
When Does It Strike?
The answer to when you usually hit a weight loss plateau may depend on the percentage of body weight you lose. In a study from Laval University, published in the journal Depression and Anxiety, participants typically hit their weight loss plateau when they lost 11 percent of their initial body weight and it took between 5.5 and 9.3 months to get there.
Does it feel like your body is working against you even though you’re sticking to your diet? You might be right. The same Laval University study found losing that 11 percent triggers a three, seemingly conspiratorial, reactions that make losing weight more difficult (be prepared to have an “Ah-ha! Moment”). When you lose enough weight to hit the plateau you experience “a significant decrease in resting metabolic rate,” which means your body now burns fewer calories when you’re resting (btw now that you’ve lost weight, you also burn fewer calories while exercising, too). Second, you also experience a significant increase in appetite. Finally, and this is really a “sucker-punch,” weight-loss induced chemical changes in your body “changes are shown to be highly linked with the increase in depression.”
Break Through With Exercise
If exercise played a part in your successful weight loss plan, we can assume you’ve improved your overall level of fitness. To break through your weight loss plateau, make some changes your exercise routine and that reflect the new you. Cross-training is a simple way to vary your workout, such as adding swimming to your workout, take up a new sport (racquetball burns mad calories!) or alternate cardio machines. You can also up the intensity of your workout simply by increasing duration, resistance or pace. For example, switch from beginner yoga to an intermediate class, step-up the treadmill’s incline or boost resistance.
Watch What You Eat
To successfully overcome your weight loss plateau, keep a tighter control over what you eat, when you eat it and your portion sizes by writing in a food journal – which has been shown to promote weight loss. Consider giving up artificially sweetened diet beverages because there’s a link between drinking diet soda and weight gain. The Bay Area Hospital suggests cutting your calories by 200 per day to get through your weight loss plateau — as long as you don’t dip below 1,200 calories per day.