Have you found yourself staring down at the scale, wondering why the numbers haven’t moved, even though you have been eating less and spending more time at the gym?
If you are one of many people stuck at a weight loss plateau, you want to read this.
|Most of us like to think of weight loss as this:||However, weight loss really looks more like this:||And sometimes like this:|
KEY POINT: Weight loss is NOT linear.
Why are things not as smooth sailing as we had hoped? The answer is because we are human! We are not robots. We lose track of things. We also change. Our hormones change. Evolution goes into overdrive and our bodies want to conserve the energy that has been disappearing from our hips, butt, and belly. Our metabolism slows down.
Do you want to know how to jumpstart it again? Let’s look at the 2 major causes for a weight loss plateau…
Weight Loss Plateau Cause #1. Metabolic Adaptation
During the first few weeks of dieting, a rapid drop in weight is normal. This is because when you cut calories, your body initially gets the needed energy by releasing its supply of glycogen, which is a type of carbohydrate that is stored in muscle and liver. Since glycogen is partly made of water, it releases water when it is burned for energy. That’s why the first few weeks of weight loss are said to be mostly “water weight.” It’s not uncommon for people to lose 5 or even 10 pounds during the first week of dieting, which again is mostly water but also some fat. After that, weight loss slows down. This is because of a slowing metabolism.
When you diet to lose fat, you can also lose some muscle as well. Since muscle cells use up more energy than fat cells, the more muscle you lose means the lower your metabolism becomes. This means that your body begins to burn fewer calories. That’s why it’s so important to eat plenty of protein and exercise using weights (or your own bodyweight) when you diet. The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism.
In addition, your body is adaptive. When less calories come in, your body slows down as a way of preserving what energy it has left. This is an evolutionary tactic. Think of this way: A caveman experiences a very cold winter and finding food has been slim to none. His body slows down to preserve his life. The same happens when you cut calories during dieting. Except all we want to do is simply fit into a bathing suit, not survive the winter like a caveman (or cavewoman).
Weight Loss Plateau Cause #2. The Diet Sneak
After days, weeks, months, or even years of dieting, your food diary starts to collect dust. You feel like you are in control well enough to not have to log your meals anymore. You feel sure that you are aware of your portion sizes and have an innate idea of how many calories you are consuming in any given day, without looking at any labels or measuring your food. You feel confident about your food choices. I mean, you’ve been only eating meat, nuts, and veggies, and have been avoiding grains, processed foods, and sugar-laden treats. How can anything possibly go wrong?
Behold, the diet sneak. This is what happens when you are no longer paying attention. You don’t realize that your portion sizes are increasing or you started snacking more often than usual. Or, maybe you thought you only had 3 beers this week but it was really 5? Or, maybe since you figured walnuts are healthy, you started to add a few more to each salad, not realizing that there are 138 calories in just 3 walnuts? Whatever the sneak may be, it starts to catch up.
QUESTION: ARE YOU REALLY STUCK AT A WEIGHT LOSS PLATEAU?
Before you scroll down for tips on how to break through a weight loss plateau, you should ask yourself, “Is my body fat really stuck where it is?”
Looking at one number on a scale can be really deceiving. There are plenty of factors that go into how our body composition changes over time. Body fat, body water, muscle mass…. You really have to take everything into account when trying to figure out if you are losing weight (fat weight, that is).
For example, if you burned 2 pounds of body fat one week, but then you went crazy with salt on your steak 1 or 2 days before your weigh-in, your body is going to retain extra water and hide those 2 pounds you lost. That means body fat in pounds went down, but body water in pounds went up, which will trick you into thinking that you didn’t lose any weight and make you feel like it was all for nothing.
Are you a woman who hasn’t undergone menopause? If you are, you should take into account that you retain water (bloat) around the time of your monthly cycle (your period).
In addition, if you are pumping iron at the gym every day and ramping up that muscle mass, your body weight may not change much because although you are burning body fat, you are gaining muscle (which weighs more than fat).
If you don’t think these factors apply to you, then read on….
Tips to Break Through the Weight Loss Plateau:
TIP #1. Practice Mindfulness
Eating mindfully, choosing, and savouring food away from the distractions of computers and televisions, can help people lose weight. Mindfulness is paying attention to your surroundings, being in the present moment.
Mindful eating is eating with purpose, eating on purpose, eating with awareness, eating without distraction, when eating only eating, not watching television or playing computer games or having any other distractions, not eating at our desks. By practicing mindfulness, you will be in better control of what you eat, which will help you break through a weight loss plateau.
Want some tips on how to eat mindfully? Click HERE.
TIP #2. Avoid Diet Sneak
Pay attention to your portion sizes, the types of foods you choose, and your snacking. Break out the food journal and jot down what you ate for each meal for a few days and review it. Use a phone app such as MyFitnessPal to keep track of your calories in/out.
TIP #3. Cut More Calories or Decrease Portion Sizes Further
If your body has slowed down and has gotten use to burning less calories, cut the calories even more or cut the portion sizes even smaller. Don’t do this for too long, though. You don’t want to hurt your metabolism in the long run. After a couple weeks of doing this, it’s time to cheat (see next tip).
TIP #4. Consider Cheating (on your diet)
No, not cheating in sports, like Lance Armstrong; or on your significant other. I mean cheating on your diet, and reaping some unexpected benefits.
In fact, when it comes to weight loss plateau, dietary cheaters almost always prosper. That’s because under the right parameters, a biweekly “cheat meal” has been proven to boost your metabolism and ward off feelings of deprivation—improving not only your ability to lose weight, but your ability to stick to your diet plan as well.
One way cheat meals can boost your metabolism is by increasing levels of leptin, the “anti-starvation” hormone responsible for sending hunger messages to the body. When your body senses a calorie deficit, leptin levels drop, prompting the metabolism to slow down and conserve energy. Throwing a calorie-rich cheat meal into the mix tricks your system into thinking food is plentiful and that it’s OK to burn through fat stores. In the context of strict dieting, cheat meals can aid weight loss by temporarily boosting leptin. But if you’ve been lax with your meal plan, the leptin argument is a moot point. In other words, you have to be nice before you can afford to be naughty.
Don’t be afraid of including fat in your diet. Low-fat diets don’t work. Eating fat won’t necessarily make you fat and you can read more about it by clicking HERE.
In addition, animal fats, or saturate fats, aren’t such a bad thing either. You can learn more by clicking HERE.
Remember it’s a cheat meal, not a cheat day. Don’t go overboard and have a whole day of eating a lot of extra calories or eating a lot of junk. Get your nutrients and keep things heart-healthy (i.e. No hydrogenated oils or loads of sugar).
TIP #5. Break the Exercise Routine
As creatures of habit, many of us resort to the same types of exercise. When you hit a weight loss plateau, it’s time to challenge yourself. Instead of doing the same exercise every time, switch gears and do something different. And if you’ve only being exercises that are mainly cardio (walking, jogging, etc.), add in some weight resistance training. Think: Building muscle builds metabolism.
High-intensity interval (HIIT) training is another great workout because you can burn a lot of calories in a short period of time. The basic idea is to get your heart rate up to about 80-95% max and hold it there for seconds or minutes at a time, depending on your comfort level. After you’ve kicked your butt, relax and stabilize your heart rate back down to around 40-50%. Repeat this same pattern for around 15-20 minutes.
TIP #6. Get Some Sleep
Are you getting enough zzzz’s at night? If you are one of the 35% of Americans who aren’t getting the recommended 8 hours of sleep at night, this could be affecting your weight loss efforts.
Not only will a lack of sleep leave you feeling too tired to head to the gym to work out, it will also increase your cortisol (stress hormone) levels, affect the way that your body processes sugar, mess up your hunger hormones (leptin and ghrelin) and make you crave carbs big time.
TIP #7. Eat More Fiber
One of the best ways to fight fat is by using fiber as the weapon. Focusing on foods that are high in fiber will help you shed the pounds because fiber is so filling. High fiber meals will fill you up while sparing you from lots of calories. Shoot for at least 30 grams a day of fiber. High-fiber foods include fresh vegetables and fruits and whole grains. Leave the peels on your fruits and vegetables as much as possible for added benefit. Making homemade salads are my secret to getting plenty of fiber. Learn how to make any salad at home HERE.
TIP #8. Cleanse Yourself
Research has found that there is a link between weight and toxins in the body, and it is hypothesized that toxins from the environment and the foods we eat are stored in our fat cells. We can also develop a build-up of stool when we are constipated, due to poor diet. By keeping your colon active and having regular bowel movements, you can keep it healthy.
With that being said, don’t fall for the “cleanse or detox hype.” Limiting yourself to lemons and water for 5 days, juicing all your meals, or other silly tactics aren’t any better than just simply drinking plenty of water and eating fresh, nutritious, and mostly plant-based meals that are high in fiber, while avoiding processed foods and alcohol.
Our bodies are designed to remove toxins from our bodies, thanks to our liver and kidneys.
By providing the body with the right blend of nutrients, you will put it in the right conditions to do its job. To make sure you get the right blend of nutrients and fiber, there are some supplements out there to aid you (see tip #8).
TIP #9. Optimize Your Supplements to Beat Your Weight Loss Plateau
If you’ve already been doing all of the above, you may want to look into optimizing your supplements. Besides taking a daily multivitamin, there are some supplements that may help curb appetite or boost metabolism. Here’s a short list:
Note that this is NOT the same as a calcium supplement that you might take for bone health. Calcium pyruvate is different. It is a natural substance naturally made in our bodies that helps with metabolism and the digestion of carbohydrates. The unstable form of this substance, called pyruvic acid, is stabilized by the addition of sodium or calcium. Calcium pyruvate is the compound that starts the Kreb’s Cycle, by which our bodies make adenosine triphophate (ATP) or energy during aerobic respiration. Aerobic respiration is that which occurs in the presence of oxygen, during exercises, such as running and jogging. Since it is the raw material for cellular respiration, supplementing with calcium pyruvate should increase the amount of energy burned, therefore allowing for more fat burning.
Research at the University of Pittsburgh found that calcium pyruvate does have a fat burning effect. Obese women were put on a 1,000-calorie diet for 21 days during this study. The group receiving calcium pyruvate experienced 48 percent higher fat loss, amounting to 3.2 extra pounds.
Chromium is an essential mineral that helps regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels, reduces carb cravings, reduces fat mass, increases lean body mass, and combats insulin resistance. It can also improve brain health.
Although you can usually get enough chromium through diet, there are supplements available. Chromium is stored in soil and rocks, which leak into the foods we eat. However, poor soil due to over-farming may create a chromium deficiency.
A study by the Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University found that taking 1,000 milligrams of chromium supplements per day helped reduce hunger and food cravings, food intake, and body weight.
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a powerful polyunsaturated fatty acid found primarily in high-quality beef and dairy products and may reduce body fat while preserving muscle. In addition, it may help lower cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure.
However, quality counts. Grass-fed beef has 300-500% higher amounts of CLA than grain-fed beef. The best way to get CLA is through diet. Although not as effective, CLA supplements can provide a decent amount.
Cobalamin (B12) is an essential B vitamin that plays a key role in cell metabolism, energy production, DNA synthesis, and red blood cell production. It helps convert fats into energy, so it’s no wonder why it is commonly used as a weight loss supplement.
There are many forms of vitamin B12, but methylcobalamin is known as the “bioavailable” form of B12. This means that your body can use it right away.
Vitamin B12 is naturally found in meat and dairy. With that being said, those following a vegan or vegetarian diet have a difficult time getting enough through diet alone. In addition, many people suffer from malabsorption and aren’t able to absorb enough B12 from foods as they pass through the intestines.
Worried about getting too much? Any extra floating around in your body will just be peed out.
Vitamin D isn’t just for bones and teeth. It can actually help you lose weight!
We have known for a long time that vitamin D deficiency is associated with obesity, but recent research has found that taking vitamin D supplements can aid in weight loss. A study of 400 overweight or obese patients found that those who took a vitamin D supplement lost more weight than those taking a placebo.
7-keto DHEA has clinically been shown to increase metabolism and contribute to healthy weight loss. One way that 7-keto contributes to weight loss is by increasing the activity of thermogenic enzymes responsible for fatty acid oxidation.
Studies show that 7-keto supplementation increases acyl CoA-oxidase by 128 percent, malic enzyme by 860 percent, and glycerol-3-phosphate dehydrogenase by 138 percent. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study on 30 overweight adults showed a 6.3-lb. decrease in body fat, compared to 2.1 pounds placebo. More of the weight lost was body fat in the 7-keto group. Thyroid hormone was elevated, but no other side effects were reported. Paired with diet and exercise, 7-keto has been shown to accelerate fat loss threefold without any stimulant effect on the body.
5-HTP for weight loss is often used to control appetite and limit caloric intake. Many diet pills work by boosting the metabolism through stimulant mechanisms of action. This may cause only short term, unsustainable weight loss with potentially long term side effects. Using 5-HTP for weight loss works in a different way though.
5-HTP is not a stimulant, but rather helps to curb hunger cravings. It does this by naturally raising levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is directly tied to the sensation of hunger. Some studies have shown that increasing serotonin levels artificially by taking serotonin-boosting supplements like 5-HTP can make the body think that there is food in the stomach. This may make it easier to eat less food and consequently lose weight.
If you’re familiar with the French paradox — the belief that French people can eat and drink what they want but still remain slim — you may be familiar with resveratrol, an antioxidant derived from red wine. There is ongoing research that suggests you should incorporate this powerful supplement into your daily routine. Resveratrol functions as an appetite suppressant, which can help you eat less and lose weight.
The community of microorganisms that live in your digestive track, better known as “gut flora,” play an important role in all aspects of your health, including weight loss. In fact, a healthy gut is the hidden key to weight loss!
An imbalance of gut flora can cause the body to absorb more calories, affect your sweet tooth, and contribute to insulin resistance. This may have been an advantage thousands of years ago, but in these modern times, our guts don’t need to be as efficient when food is so readily available. And although the species of flora in our gut have been around for quite some time, the balance between species changes according to diet. This is because some bacteria will dominate while others diminish when their incoming nutrients are altered.
In addition to a healthy diet low in sugars, taking probiotics can help balance gut flora. You can get probiotics from fermented foods such as yogurt and pickles, or you can take a supplement.
Check out my great recipe to make water kefir, a fizzy probiotic drink.
However, you should be careful when choosing a probiotic. Not all probiotic supplements are created equal. In fact, 85% of probiotics on store shelves have been found to be ineffective, primarily due to poor storage techniques.
The best probiotics should contain at least these three most important strains:
- acidophilus: supports nutrient absorption and helps with digestion of dairy foods.
- Longum: helps maintain the integrity of the gut wall and is a scavenger of toxins.
- bifidum: critical for digestion of dairy products and breaks down complex carbohydrates, fat, and protein into small components that the body can use more efficiently.
And these if available:
- rhamnosus: known as the “travel probiotic,” can help prevent occasional traveler’s diarrhea.
- fermentum: helps neutralize some of the byproducts of digestion and promote a healthy level of gut bacteria.
For additional supplement recommendations, you can read more HERE.
Tip #10. Get Your Hormones Checked (it helps with weight loss plateau)
If all else fails and the scale still doesn’t budge, you might want to consider getting your hormones checked. There are many hormones involved in metabolism that may affect your weight. Thyroid, cortisol, insulin, and sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, etc.) can throw you out of whack and contribute to weight loss resistance.
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