Classic case of woman meets diet: she begins a new regimen, sees some instant results, then all of a sudden BAM. Those results stop, leaving her feeling like she’s done something wrong, it’s “just not working,” frustrated, and before she knows it, she’s given up on her new lifestyle and moving onto another fad diet (related: learn why diet hopping can actually make you gain weight).
May feel like a stereotype but I can honestly say it because I have been that woman. Too many times to count. And it’s that cycle of inconsistency that caused me to be unsuccessful. But on the bright side, constant failure actually helped me BE successful because it taught me what I didn’t know.
So before you throw your hands in the air and give up. It may be time to re-evaluate your current exercise and diet program and establish some new rules.
What is a Weight Loss Plateau
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To identify whether or not you’ve hit a true weight loss plateau, it’s important to understand what a plateau really is, so you can identify factors that may warrant change.
A weight loss plateau is a period of time where your weight loss (or even weight gain) “stalls.” This can be shown by seeing little to no movement on the scale or in measurements, or a move in the opposite direction from what you are working toward.
It’s important to keep in mind that healthy weight loss is a journey. While most people think that’s linear, true body composition changes are more jagged in nature. It’s normal to see a drop, then go back up. Then see a drop, then go back up. Then see a drop, and go back up.
And before you know it, you’ve got this weird jagged graph vs. a straight line down. And that’s normal. It’s all part of the process. Because as we lose weight, our body will shift water around. It’ll shift it from our skin to our muscles, and as fat leaves our cells, they’ll fill up with water, too. So it’s not uncommon to have a week where it feels confusing because you did everything you were supposed to and that scale went up. Knowing this is part of trusting the process and staying consistent vs. jumping ship.
HOW TO BREAK THE WEIGHT LOSS PLATEAU
Most of the time when we think we’ve hit a plateau, the solution is really quite simple, and often lies in something small we are overlooking. (But remember, those small things can add up to be big things, so they’re worth paying attention to).
To truly hit a plateau, I would monitor both your weight and your measurements for a period of four weeks. If there has been zero movement in either number for four weeks, or if there has been movement in the opposite direction consistently over the four weeks, it could be classified as a plateau.
Here are some things you would want to double check before altering your daily calories or macros:
Take consistent weight measurements
Make sure that you weight yourself at the same time of day. The most ideal time would be first thing in the morning, after going to the bathroom, before eating or drinking, and without clothes on. This will give you the most realistic idea of what your true body weight is.
In addition, take body measurements. This will give you another means of measurement that you can compare week over week, or month over month. I would recommend taking a measurement of your:
- Upper biceps (both arms)
- Upper thighs (both legs)
- Waist at/just above belly button
- Hips (around the booty)
Make sure that you’re measuring in the same spots each time so you’re getting the most accurate measurement.
Monitor Cooking Methods
Yes, using olive oil is a healthy fat to add to your home-cooked meals. But that olive oil comes with a lot of calories and fat macros if you’re not paying attention to how much you’re using. If you’re not accounting for the oil or butter you’re cooking your meals in, you can be adding hundreds of calories to your day without even realizing it. Instead, try methods such as:
- Cooking spray
- Steaming your food
- Grilling your proteins
Weigh and Measure Your Portions
Using a food scale is one of the best things you can do to a) make sure you’re being consistent, and b) really learn what a serving size looks like. (This is the food scale I use and love! Super affordable on Amazon Prime).
Eyeballing serving sizes can be a dangerous game if you’re currently in a state of tracking macros or calories. It’s important to be honest with yourself about how you’ve been eating. Have you been grabbing a handful of snacks and not counting them? Adding spoonfuls of peanut butter and just calling it a tablespoon? All of that can add up to hundreds of calories in your day, and can definitely half weight loss or body composition goals if you’re doing that consistently.
Water intake is often overlooked but it’s something that plays a huge role in what our bodies will do with our weight. The goal should be to drink half of your body weight in ounces of water each day, adding in another 8 ounces for every 30 minutes of intense exercise.
Most often, if we’re dehydrated, our body will actually retain water, causing the scale to go up. Something else to keep in mind, as we lose weight, the amount of water we hold in our body will shift; moving into and out of cells, into and out of our muscles, so on and so forth. Most of the time when you see those daily fluctuations on the scale, it is because of water.
Move Your Body
Exercise and proper nutrition work hand in hand. Adopting to and sticking to a regular workout regimen will help your body transform; it will aide in burning more calories, building muscle, and burning fat. Exercise will also help speed up your metabolism. Keep in mind that the activity we do outside of our workouts matter, too! How many steps do you get per day? How often are you getting up and moving/stretching throughout the day? All of those things matter.
Lights Out! (Get Plenty of Sleep)
Not getting enough sleep is one of the easiest ways to sabotage your weight loss goals. Shoot for 7-8 hours of actual sleep each night consistently. Yes, this may mean powering off your phone or turning off Netflix earlier, but the end result will be so worth it.
Getting enough sleep has been linked to more stable and lower cortisol levels, higher energy throughout the day, and a faster metabolism.
Avoid Alcohol, at least temporarily
Drinking alcohol of any kind has been shown to reduce our body’s ability to burn fat for up to 48 hours. Which can mean some serious hinderance if you’re someone who likes to indulge in a nightly glass of wine or bottle of beer.
Eat More Often
Want a faster metabolism? You have to feed your body. Try getting into the habit of eating breakfast within an hour of waking, and then sticking to a schedule where you are eating about every 3 hours or so throughout the day. Don’t get stressed if sometimes the three hours becomes four, or sometimes it’s two. Just getting into the practice of eating every few hours can make the biggest difference.
If after checking and adjusting all of these things you are still not seeing any results; nada, zilch, nothing – no changes on the scale along with no changes in measurements – and you’ve been consistent with everything mentioned above for a period of about four weeks, then it may be time to consider it a plateau. At that point, making an adjustment to your macros/calories, adding in a cheat meal, or switching up your style of tracking (going from a balanced plan to a carb cycling or vice versa) may be warranted. (Learn more about carb cycling for weight loss here).
But all of this starts with being honest with yourself, and patient. Taking an uncomfortable look at what you’ve been doing and being honest if you’ve done all the things you’re supposed to be doing consistently, or if it’s time to reign it in a bit.
Ready to get serious about your weight loss goals?