Hit a plateau in your weight loss?
How many times has this happened to you? You are chugging along just fine, hitting your weight loss goals every week, when out of the blue your weight stops dropping. Maybe it’s after your first burst of weight loss, maybe it’s those last few kilo’s at the end that won’t budge, or maybe it’s somewhere in the middle. It can be super frustrating, and make us want to throw in the towel. But before you do, here’s what you should know.
1: Plateaus can happen…because you’ve lost weight.
Ever gone hiking with a 10kg backpack (or toddler) on your back? I’m sure you can imagine that you would burn off more energy carrying that heavy load than you would without it.
What a lot of people seem to forget is that when they lose weight, they are carrying around less weight! Which means their muscles don’t need to use as much energy to move from place to place, get up out of chairs, stand, function in general. If your calorie intake has stayed the same and you’ve hit a plateau, it means it’s either time to increase your energy out (exercise) or reduce your energy in (food), and it doesn’t have to be much at all- see what happens when you bring down your energy intake by just 100 calories a day and add in an extra 15 minutes to your walk. Adjust things from here as you go.
2: Plateaus can happen… because you haven’t had enough water
If you’ve had salty foods, or not enough water, or both (or if you’ve given into a carb craving) you may be retaining fluid. Salt requires water to flush it out of your system through urine, and if you haven’t had extra, salt in your bloodstream and tissues will bind to water, so your water volume (and therefore weight) will be higher. You may have lost body fat that week, but the scales are saying you haven’t. Drink extra water for a few days, avoid the salty stuff, and then weight yourself again.
3: Plateaus can happen…because you’ve stopped keeping track
When you first start a weight loss plan you might be really excited and double check you do everything right, after a while old eating habits can start to creep back in- maybe you have gone back to full cream milk, maybe you are guestimating portions whereas at first you weighed everything, perhaps you aren’t noticing how often the little extras are creeping in. Keeping a food/exercise diary for a week will help reveal what little shortcuts are occurring, so you can see how to get back on track.
4: Plateaus can happen…because of hormones
Women nearing that time of the month can easily plateau or even gain weight due to hormones causing fluid retention or inflammation. Wait a week and re-weight yourself. If you know you tend to binge on high sugar/fat/calorie extras nearing your period try and make sure you have better versions of these in the house- a reduced calorie hot chocolate might satisfy a chocolate craving rather than trying to control yourself with a family sized block of Cadbury’s in the fridge. Thyroid problems can also prevent or slow weight loss, as can menopause.
5: Plateaus can happen… because you’ve gained muscle
If you are including resistance exercises in your week, you may be building muscle which weighs more than body fat does. It’s possible to weigh yourself week after week and be the same weight, and yet find that your clothes are getting looser and looser. This is why body circumference measurements can be so helpful- if you waist, hips, thighs are losing centimetres but your weight isn’t changing- rejoice! You are getting leaner and losing body fat and your metabolism will be higher since muscle requires extra energy to be maintained.