You’ve made such great progress! The scale was down. Your clothing size was down. Then, all of a sudden … nothing. Nothing is budging. Your progress has halted and you’re frustrated. You’ve hit the dreaded PLATEAU!
How do you get past it? Well, figuring out why you hit a plateau can help you find a way through it.
Reasons you may have hit a plateau:
- Not eating enough to start with. Your body does not know the difference between diet and starvation. If you started too low in calories to begin with, walking down in calories will become very difficult if your body believes you aren’t going to feed it enough. Figuring out your energy balance (resting metabolic rate plus activity levels) can help to make sure you don’t allow your body to become stubborn about burning that extra body fat.
- Eating too many carbs, not enough protein and fats. Carbohydrates are your body’s energy source. If you are giving it plenty of carbs, it has no reason to tap into fat stores as fuel.
- You stopped tracking your food and exercise. It’s easy to overestimate how much exercise we are doing or under-calculate how much we are truly eating. Getting it down on paper (or on to an app like MyFitnessPal) makes us accountable to what we are accomplishing in real time.
- Alcohol. While alcohol doesn’t necessarily cause you to get fat, it can prevent your body from burning fat. Your metabolism must deal with the alcohol first before it can do anything else. If your alcohol consumption has been increasing, it can halt your progress.
- Too much cardio, not enough strength training. Your body adapts very quickly to cardio, meaning you don’t burn as many calories doing the same activity. However, building muscle increases your metabolism overall (even while you sleep).
- You’re focused on the wrong thing. If the scale is the only tool you are measuring your progress by, you may still be seeing results but not appreciating them. If your body fat is decreasing, you are dropping inches and if your clothes are getting too big, you haven’t hit a plateau at all. Progress is progress.
- Too many cheat meals. If you are doing great during the week but eating thousands of calories on the weekend, eating a cheat meal (or two or four), you are probably undoing all your hard work by exceeding your body’s energy needs. Try sticking to one cheat meal and don’t make it a “free-for-all.”
- Hormones. As we get older our hormones decline, making it more difficult to lose weight or keep fat off (especially in the abdominal area). This can play a role in reaching those stubborn plateaus. There is also something to be said for the chemicals, additives and preservatives found in processed foods. It is now widely reported that high-fructose corn syrup confuses our ghrelin and leptin levels (the hormones that tell us if we are hungry or satiated).
- Stress. Cortisol does lead to stubborn belly fat (although a pill will not solve the situation). Reducing stress and exercising self-care may get you past that frustrating point.
Tips to get past a plateau:
- Be patient. If you are still seeing changes other than the scale, you are still seeing progress. The goal should be fat loss, not weight loss.
- Switch up your workouts. Add strength training, try a new class or take up a new sport to shake it up and stay motivated.
- Go back to tracking your food. It’s important to be accountable. If you aren’t 100 percent sure how much you are eating or how many calories you are burning, you may be justifying extra goodies too often.
- Recalculate your macros. If you have lost 50 pounds, you may not need quite as many calories. Base your energy intake on your energy output by using a Fitbit or other activity tracker.
- Drink more water. Considering your body is made up of mostly H2O, staying hydrated will keep your body working as efficiently as possible.
- Consult a professional. Hire a trainer, nutritionist or coach who has shown they can get their clients results in a healthy way. Be sure to choose someone who has certification, plenty of experience and practices what they preach.