Push Past Your Plateau
Written by: Grace Burton, MS, RDN, LDN
Losing weight can be quite a challenge, but it is also a very rewarding achievement. For those of you who have been through a weight loss journey, whether it be your current situation or a thing of the past, you’ve probably heard of or experienced the dreaded weight loss plateau.
It may sound something like this: you’ve been making a lot of positive changes to your lifestyle behaviors. You have cut back on portions and you’re eating more fruit and vegetables. You have limited sugary beverages and fast food, and you’re meeting physical activity recommendations each week. You’ve been seeing progress on the scale. Not to mention, you are feeling better and your clothes are getting a little bit looser. Then suddenly, the scale gets stubborn and you find yourself entering a weight loss plateau before reaching your goal weight. Frustrating, right? Especially if you can’t think of anything you have done to cause your weight loss to hit the pause button.
So, what do you do? Do you get so frustrated and discouraged that you begin to fall back into unhealthy habits because you think “what’s the point?” No! Here’s a better option: look how far you’ve come and how hard you have been working to reach your goals. Think about all the changes you have made to improve your health. Be patient and fight hard to get past this road block, which is easier said than done, I know, but do not let a silly number ruin your progress! You still feel good, right? Without that scale, you might be blissfully unaware that your weight has stalled. Here are some tips to help keep you on track and to overcome your plateau.
Track Your Food
- Tracking what you eat and drink can really help to hold you accountable. It can let you know if you’re eating too much or too little of certain nutrients. Do you find that you are treating yourself a little too much? Are there a few extra drinks or desserts here and there that may be adding up more than you realize? Are you underestimating portion size? Eating too much of anything, even the more nutrient-dense foods, can prevent you from reaching goals. Make sure to keep track of your intake on the weekends too as this is when people are more likely to splurge or get a little bit off track.
- Tempted to begin limiting calories and restricting your intake to try to lose more weight? Think again! If you consume too few calories, you may slow down your metabolism, which doesn’t push you forward. Furthermore, skipping meals or snacks and restricting food could lead to overeating in the end. If you aren’t feeding your body enough, you’ll get really hungry and this could lead to cravings, making it hard to make healthy choices in the moment! Stick with 3 well-balanced meals and plan for snacks in between to make sure you’re not going more than 4-5 hours without eating throughout the day.
Limit Eating Out in Restaurants
- Restaurants are notorious for cooking with extra fat and sodium, even with the healthier options on the menus. Not to mention, the portion sizes are usually much larger than necessary. So even though you may be making better choices while eating out, you still are probably taking in more than you realize. On the other hand, you could make the same foods at home where you can control the portions and the amount of fat and sodium that go into the preparation, and it could save you a lot of calories in the process.
Change Up Your Exercise Regimen
- If you’ve been following the same routine for your physical activity, it’s time to switch it up. If you have only been doing cardio, such as walking, running, or biking, try adding in some strength training exercises, such as pilates, yoga, or using weights. This will help you preserve your muscle mass to help maintain your metabolism.
- The American Heart Association recommends adults aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (walking, jogging, swimming, biking, etc.) each week. This averages out to about 30 minutes at least 5 days per week. They also recommend muscles strengthening activities at least 2 days per week. (1)
Increase Non-Exercise Activity
- Ditch the mindset of “I’ve already worked out today, so now I can go home and lay on the couch for the rest of the day”. Any extra movement throughout the day is only going to help you in the long run. You’ve probably heard the standard tips of taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking farther away in the parking lot, or taking the long way to the bathroom at work. Add yard work, chores around the house, or taking the dog on a walk to that list. Seriously, it all adds up!
Also, setting realistic goals prevents you from getting discouraged. Losing just 5-10% of your body weight helps to improve blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. (2) So if you have already achieved this amount of weight loss, way to go!
Do not give up on your goals. You have put in a lot of time and effort to improve your health, so give yourself some credit and be kind to yourself. Try to focus on the fact that you have made a lot of positive lifestyle changes that will really benefit you, regardless of the number on the scale!
Grace is a registered dietitian working at the Wake Forest location. She enjoys running, and especially likes doing races in other cities because it gives her an excuse to visit new places. She also loves trying new restaurants, spending time with family and friends, and cheering on the NC State Wolfpack at football and basketball games.