How to overcome the weight plateau
Author: Elle Juliette
We’ve all been there. You’ve decided that this time, you’re going to do it. You’ve ramped up your exercise, you’ve purged your fridge of junk, you’ve done your research, and you’re finally going to lose the weight. And you are. Until suddenly; you’re not. And you have no idea why.
Nothing is more frustrating than working your ass off figuratively while literally there’s no decrease in it’s size. But it’s all too common to find yourself at a loss after a few weeks of working out and eating healthy. Before falling into a thyroid induced panic you should know that there a few common reasons that you might have hit a wall – so here’s where you could be going wrong and how to fix it:
You’re doing the wrong kind of training
If you’re someone who cringes at the sight of weights and instead opts for the comforting hour on the elliptical, you’re not alone. But you’re also not doing your progress any favours.
When we’re fairly new to fitness, most of us tend to lean towards long cardio sessions and away from any heavy lifting. Which might work for a while, but will soon lead to a plateau, and an undefined figure. Building muscle through weight lifting and resistance training will give you that toned physique and not, despite your fears, turn you into the hulk. When you do long form cardio, you burn calories, but once you stop, the calorie reduction pretty much does too, as opposed to weight based workouts. You might feel like the workout is lower in intensity, but the more muscle you build the more fat you burn during resting hours.
HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is a cardio method where you switch between a burst of super intense speed and a recovery period at a moderate speed. This type of workout is the most effective for burning fat because it helps to expend more energy and you’re body burns more calories afterwards to recover from the intense periods.1 There are a lot of workouts that combine HIIT with muscle growth, which would be the optimal way to target fat loss and tone up.
As a disclaimer I will say that long form cardio still has other health benefits and still has a place in your weekly workout; but for losing weight it’s not as effective as HIIT. 2 When you do long form cardio (jogging, swimming, cycling, etc) more than 3 times a week, you break down more muscle than your body can effectively repair. The best workout plan would be to include a day of longform cardio for cardiovascular (and mental) health, two or three sessions of HIIT and four to five days with strength training (remember that you can combine your strength and HIIT training!)
You’re not getting enough sleep
Not getting enough sleep is one of the biggest factors stopping you from dropping weight. Not only does your brain send you sugar cravings throughout the day to replenish energy levels, but it also overproduces a hormone called ghrelin that encourages you to eat more. Sleep deprivation also affects your cortisol levels (a hormone that gets your body to cling on to fat) and your metabolism can slow down by more than 30% when tired. Add that to the fact that you probably don’t have the energy to workout or cook, and you’re honestly just setting yourself up to fail. 3
You’re not getting enough water
As crazy as it sounds, a lot of us actually confuse thirst for hunger, so we load on unnecessary food when in reality we’re craving water. Drinking a glass of water before eating can help you decide what you need. Drinking before meals actually boosts your metabolism, (through a process called diet-induced thermogenesis) 4 so if you’re not getting enough H2O you minimise calories burned along with weakening your digestive abilities and energy levels. 5
You’re way to stressed
Ok, so here’s the thing about stress. You kinda feel like you’re burning off calories with all that nervous energy. But really your body resorts to your fight or flight instinct, and activates glycogen in your liver for a quick energy boost. Which is great for a physically stressful situation but doesn’t do much for our mental anguish – except burn muscle and boost cortisol and ghrelin. Like we touched on before; these hormones slow down your metabolism and convince your body to eat more than it should. 6 Try to incorporate mindful moments into the day; be it meditation, art, reading, journaling – something focused on only you. Also make sure your stress isn’t coming from your workout and diets – talk about counterproductive! Don’t be too hard on yourself and try to shift your focus onto what you HAVE achieved as opposed to what you haven’t.
You’re not eating enough food
A lot of the times when we start dropping calories or trying different diets, we can actually drop under the amount of calories we need (it’s happened to the best of us) Trainers are constantly talking about how they have clients who come to them struggling to drop weight; only to find out they’re only eating 900 calories a day. [Depending on your weight] you should be staying above 1000 – 1200 to avoid going into starvation mode – which will leave your body clinging onto fat and all but shutting off your metabolism. To see a change in weight, you really really don’t need to drop more than 100 under your RDA. 7
You’re binging on ‘healthy’ foods
You need to be real straight about whether what your eating is ACTUALLY healthy, and whether you’re overeating (even on the healthy foods). If you are, don’t feel bad – there are so many foods marketed as ‘light’ versions that are still loaded with sugar that diet food can be a minefield. For example – snack bars. They might seems like a good option, but in reality they’re full of sugars and fat – in the same way that shop bought fruit juice or smoothies are. Write down what you’re eating (even if it’s just for a week) and do your research to make sure everything is as it seems. Or just cook natural ingredients so you know exactly what’s going into your food. 8
You’re not getting the right Macros
Our major macros are protein, fat and carbohydrates. You need all of these to be healthy and lose weight; but you only need a certain amount. Learning to recognise and track your macros can be a gamechanger; seemingly innocent foods like nuts or avocados can tip you way over the recommended fat for the day, or if your protein is low you’ll struggle to maintain muscle and burn calories. The digestion of protein burns more fat than the digestion of carbs or fat, and studies have shown that women who double their protein intake can lose up to 27% more weight. 9 Trying to get into the habit of meal prepping is a good way to get your macros in and understand what you’re missing. If you’re not sure how to start tracking macros and working out how much of what you need, this is a good resource to calculate the exact amounts for your body: Resource
Learning to be mindful of when you’re really hungry and what you’re body is really craving is an art, but once you become the master everything will start to shift into place. If you’ve tried everything listed above, and nothing’s working, then maybe it’s time to see a doctor, but generally reducing your stress and getting into the right headspace will be the solution you need. It’s good to keep track of macros and calories, but don’t let it consume your life. If you’re doing it right, getting into shape and getting your body to it’s best should be a passion, rather than a punishment. The basis of losing weight and getting healthy is really taking the best possible care of your body – it’s the only way you’re going to see this world so make sure you treat it right!
Author Bio: Elle Juliette is a writer who focuses on helping women learn how health – both physical and mental – are the key to beauty, by writing researched, detailed posts and articles. For more information or to work with her visit betterlifeblogging.com