Breaking Through Weight Loss Plateaus
Here is a common weight loss experience. Weight drops easily in the beginning then it becomes harder and harder to lose until finally it levels out. It seems like nothing will shake the body from this plateau, which can last for weeks, months, or even years.
This is what people mean when they say, ‘’I’m still trying to lose the last ten pounds’’. Scientists suspect that it could be tied into a survival mechanism.
The body seems to gravitate towards a weight that it deems ‘’natural’’ and will do everything in its power to stay there. You would think that all you would have to do would be to eat even less and exercise even more than you are already doing, but weight loss is not always that simple.
If you currently find yourself stuck in a weight loss plateau, there are several strategies you can try. But first, you have to ask yourself whether you are striving for a weight that is realistic for you.
Many people want to be thinner than is practically possible. If you have to diet and exercise excessively to maintain a certain weight or size, it is not realistic or healthy for you.
Now, assuming that you really need to lose those last five or ten pounds, one of the following reasons could be the explanation why you can’t get out of your weight loss rut.
When you first attempt to lose weight, you are usually very careful with how much and what kind of food you eat. As the pounds fall away, you may then become a little overconfident and, without realizing it, eat more than you should or rationalize eating the wrong thing. A cookie before dinner, half a chocolate bar, a few extra tablespoons of rice -- many of these little things add up over a period.
You may be having larger than normal portions or second servings of healthy food. Keep a food diary and write down every single nibble or snack that enters your mouth. Do this for a week or two. You may be surprised at what you find out.
The food diary may also reveal the exact opposite – too little food. In this case, the body thinks there is a famine going on, and through some very complicated chemical maneuvers involving enzymes lowers your metabolism to prevent you from ‘’dying’’.
If this is what is happening to you, increasing your food intake slowly by 50 - 100 calories a day (till you get to the desirable level) may get you out of your weight loss plateau.
Excessive exercise, just like too few calories, will also keep you ‘’imprisoned’’ in the plateau for two reasons – the survival mechanism concept and the “exercise more/eat more” theory.
Current research indicates that women are stimulated to eat more when they do too much exercise or too vigorous exercise.
On the other hand, you may no longer be as consistent with your exercise sessions as you were in the beginning of your weight loss campaign.
Keeping a record of how often you actually exercise may disclose whether your memory of your exercise frequency is realistic or not.
Doing the same exercise routine over and over again lulls the body into a ‘’comfort zone’’ where it no longer burns the same amount of calories it did when you first started. Researchers have found that you may burn 25% less calories by doing the same old thing day in and day out.
Jolt your body out of its doldrums by changing the intensity, frequency, duration or type of exercise. For example, if you are used to walking three times a week, change one of the sessions to cycling. Or you could alternate walking days with weight training days.
You could also increase the intensity of your walking sessions by doing intervals of jogging and walking. You could add another fifteen minutes to your existing walking time. You could also walk an extra day a week.
Whatever you decide to do, make additional changes every six weeks so the body doesn’t get used to it. You may find that changing your exercise routine is just the ‘’shot in the arm’’ you need both physically and psychologically. To prevent injuries, remember to make these changes gradually.
People try all kinds of crazy crash diets in the hopes of losing those last ten pounds. They usually succeed – temporarily. Then, the pounds are back in a flash. This cycle sometimes continues for years. It’s called ‘’yo-yo dieting’’.
It isn’t as bad for your metabolism as was once believed but it will get you nowhere in getting rid of those last stubborn pounds for good. Why? Because you can’t keep it up. Crash diets are unrealistic and unhealthy. They don’t teach you anything about making real food choices in a real world where you have to eat with your family and friends and are surrounded by temptation.
For so long as you are not fighting nature by trying to be thinner than you really should be, patience and a serious commitment to healthy eating and exercise habits will eventually help you break through your weight loss plateau. Keep in mind, though, that to maintain that triumph you will have to be committed for the rest of your life.
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