You’ve followed your meal plan perfectly, spent hours at the gym, forced down litres of water on a daily basis, and you are ready for your weekly weight in. You step onto the scales, ready to record another kilo or two drops off, when…. the number hasn’t changed. Not even by a single gram. You’ve hit a weight loss plateau.
Is this a signal that what you are doing is no longer working for you? Are you destined to never be able to lose weight? Should you just throw it all out the window? Not so fast.
A weight loss plateau- where you do the exact same things that got you good weight loss in weeks prior, and yet your weight doesn’t change- is actually an expected part of long term weight loss. At least it should be.
Read on to find out how to get through those tough weeks where it seems like everything you are doing is for nothing, and get in the right mindset to achieve your long term goals to lose weight and get fit.
Understand the reasons for a weight loss plateau
Fluid retention, especially around that time of the month for females, can result in your body holding onto more water. Weighing yourself at a different time of day when your hydration levels can be different. Having a meal that was slightly higher in carbohydrates can also cause water retention temporarily. The effects of different medications. All of these factors can result in a short term weight loss plateau.
There are also times when, for some inexplicable reason, your weight just doesn’t shift. Then the next week you are back on track again. Wait a couple of weeks at least before you decide to make any drastic changes to your current plan.
One of the very best reasons for a weight loss plateau could actually be your weight loss itself. Image you compare walking around all day with a 5-10kg backpack on, vs. without one. It makes sense that you will burn off more energy carrying around the heavier weight. The same goes with when you lose weight- you are burning off less energy through the day, and so a slight tweak to your diet or exercise plan might be required.
Be honest with yourself
If you have hit a weight loss plateau, the first thing to do is to honestly evaluate your eating and exercise patterns in that week. Yes, there are a number of reasons for a plateau that have nothing to do with how well you stuck to your plan, but it’s also possible that you’ve let things slip a little bit here or there without really noticing it.
Have you started adding that little bit of mayo to your sandwich at lunch, or exercising 3 days a week instead of 4-5? Have you allowed yourself a treat here or there as a reward for being so good through the rest of the week? Slipped up and forgotten to pack lunch a couple of times and bought lunch instead? Gotten busy and skipped any meals? Decided a little but of full cream milk won’t make that much difference in the scheme of things?
While one of these things is rarely the end of the world, if enough little unhealthy choices happen, they can be the difference between losing weight or staying the same. Instead of beating yourself up over little slips, decide whether you are making these choices because you really love these little extras.
If a piece or two of chocolate every night brings you immense joy, then have it! Just make some adjustments so that you are sure your overall diet plan will still get you the results you want.
Don’t measure success by the scales
Weight on the scales is actually one of the least reliable measures of body fat loss. Instead, why not measure cm around your stomach, thighs, glutes, arms, chest. You could also use a set of BIA scales, that will show you body fat %, water weight, and muscle %.
If too much measuring does your head in, simply focus on you healthy behaviours, and then take notice of your clothes getting looser. Measuring weight loss monthly instead of weekly can also be more encouraging that being too focused on weekly weigh in results.
Remember why you are doing this
Do you want to feel healthier? Be less out of breath? Get fit? Feel more confident? Reduce your risk of health problems? Life a longer life for your family? As long as you are taking steps to become healthier, you are probably making great progress in achieving your real goals. Remember that a healthy weight long term comes from lifestyle changes, and that every step you take towards your goal weight is making you healthier.