Getting into shape and losing weight is tough, it’s a total commitment of the mind, body (and mouth!) What’s even tougher you ask? Feeling like your fully committed to the weight loss game and still not seeing the number on the scale go down, especially if you’d previously been losing weight. Often called a Weight Loss Plateau – it’s a common frustration and I’m sorry to say, it’s normal. Whilst it can be disheartening, it’s important to not be deflated and throw in the towel. Here are five key reasons you may be plateauing, and what you can do about it.
When we are in periods of prolonged stress, our body increases the production of the hormone cortisol. Continuously high cortisol levels can have a pretty big impact on body fat levels, muscle mass and metabolic rate. When cortisol is elevated for too long, your body interprets this as food is scarce and must slow down your metabolic rate, building fat stores for the future and begin to breakdown muscle mass for fuel (this is one mechanism that can create cellulite, as fat is deposited where you once had muscle.)
What to do: make sure your diet is mainly wholefoods and high in anti-oxidants (found in dark coloured veg) to help prevent oxidative stress. Consider meditation or deep breathing to help lower your stress levels, herbal green teas have also been shown to have a positive effect.
2. Your exercise needs a change up
It’s important to mix your exercise routine up so your muscles don’t get overly used to the same movements. You might find that a repetitive exercise routine mightn’t be pushing your body hard enough to see change. For a significant weight loss, focus on both your diet and exercise. Try to use different muscles on different training days and incorporate a mixture of strength training, cardio focused training and interval work. This combination of different exercises all has different effects on the body, your heart rate and recovery.
What to do: make sure you give enough time each week to your resistance training, despite popular belief that cardio burns all the calories – strength training helps to build lean muscle mass, and the more muscle (and less fat) you have, the more calories your body burns.
3. You’re eating too little
I know it sounds crazy, but not eating enough can actually hinder you weight loss. Whilst a low-calorie intake might cause weight loss initially, your body can only run on low fuel for a short amount of time. If you’re not receiving enough of the energy (food) your body requires, your body interprets this as the need to conserve for the future and responds by slowing down your metabolic rate. As a result, the food you eat is more likely to be stored for the future, having a negative impact on your weight loss journey. So, funnily enough, sometimes eating a little more will have a positive impact on your metabolic rate and future weight loss.
What to do: re-calculate your BMR and daily energy requirements and reassess your diet; eat a diet high in wholefoods, plenty of vegetables lean protein and healthy fats. Limit your intake of processed foods, alcohol and refined sugars.
4. You’re skimping on sleep
When we aren’t getting enough sleep and sweet dreams on a recurring basis, our metabolism slows down to conserve energy. As a result, our body triggers the release of cortisol, which we learnt above, increases our appetite. Increased cortisol production interferes with our body’s ability to recognise Leptin, our satiety signalling hormone, causing you to eat more despite being full. Cortisol also intensifies the act of Grehlin, our ‘hunger hormone’ which increases appetite and signals hunger to the
What to do: to help improve your hormone balance, try to implement a routine, with regular sleep and wake times, or as regular as you can. Other factors which can really make an impact on your sleep include; avoiding all iPhones/iPads/Tech before bed and not eating an hour or so before bed.
5. Your body is happy
Don’t hate me for saying this, but sometimes weight can plateau because you’ve reached your ideal weight. Our body’s favour stability and as a coping mechanism, may try to maintain weight. Whilst losing excess body fat is favourable, weight loss is perceived as a threat and our bodies can sometimes respond to conserve energy and fat stores.
What to do: It’s important not to get too focused on the numbers on the scale. Remember that rapid weight loss isn’t necessarily a good thing and often is a result of water and muscle loss rather than fat. Since muscle is more effective at burning energy than fat, we want to try and build up our muscle stores, so aiming for a slower weight loss whilst not as numerically satisfying week to week is more stable and favourable.
Avid Foodie & Dietitian
Determined to be a dietitian, from the early age of 15, once graduating high school Rachel completed a Bachelor of Nutrition & Dietetics. Since then, she has worked as a Nutrition Advisor for a large multi-national food manufacturer, performed nutrition consultancy work for small and medium business and also dabbled in marketing. The food industry is her true passion, the ability to change and optimise the nutritional profile of an item before it even hits the shelf is a true fascination of Rachels.