When you first start to lose weight, you’re on a roll – nothing can stop you. Week after week, kilo after kilo drops off, and the more you lose, the more motivated you feel. You’re in weight-loss heaven!
“Whoever said this was hard?” you say to yourself, “It’s as easy as [eating] pie!”
But then one day when you step on the scale, anticipating your next kilo-kicking record, something is wrong. The numbers haven’t budged! And it’s not because your scale is broken. No, the inevitable has happened – you’ve hit a weight loss plateau.
The plateau stage in a weight loss journey can be hard – but it doesn’t mean you should give up. Dietitian Boris Kazakov has seven simple tips to get your weight moving downwards again.
1. Stop calorie amnesia!
Hitting a weight loss plateau is a good time to take a close look at the way you’ve been eating. Maybe you just need to go back to basics:
- Start keeping a food diary every day. Be honest in your diary and record everything that you eat and drink. Don’t leave out that small handful of Maltesers or the piece of cheese you picked at while cooking dinner – every morsel counts.
- Are you getting too many calories? Consuming too many calories can make you gain weight or hit a plateau. Your food diary can help you spot overindulgences, such as those two ‘innocent’ lattes each day, which could be adding over 350 calories to your daily intake.
- Are you getting enough calories? While overeating is not good for weight loss, neither is eating too little. Eating too few calories every day can trigger your body to start storing everything you eat as fat. It’s a natural defence mechanism designed to stop you starving in times of low food availability. Boris recommends that you make sure you’re eating at least 1200 calories per day if you’re female, or 1500 calories per day for males.
- Are you consuming a lot of salt? High sodium levels can cause you to retain fluids and feel bloated. As well as feeling uncomfortable, fluid retention can also show up on the scales. Use your food diary to identify foods you eat regularly that are high in salt, and avoid adding extra salt to your food.
- Measure and weigh. If you’ve been sizing up your food portions by eye, it’s time to start measuring and weighing your foods accurately. It’s easy to underestimate how much you’re really consuming.
2. Boost your metabolism
A sluggish metabolism can mean slow weight loss. Speeding your metabolism up is one way to burn those waist-expanding calories faster. While genetics play a part in influencing your metabolism, you can still give yours a good kickstart by changing the way you eat. If you’re usually a ‘three meals a day’ kind of person, try Boris’ recommendation of eating four to five small meals per day instead.
“Eating regularly keeps your metabolism fired up and helps to stabilise your blood sugar levels throughout the day,” says Boris.
Keeping your blood sugar levels stable also means you’re less likely to struggle with diet-destroying sugar cravings. And staying on track with your healthy eating is great news for beating your plateau!
Of course, four to five meals per day doesn’t mean eating four or five times the amount of food you were before. You still need to stick within the same calorie guidelines, but replace your super-sized, snooze-inducing main meals with a series of smaller dishes instead.
3. Protein packs a punch
If hunger pains are constantly clawing at your insides, it can be very hard to stick to the healthy meals you had planned. And if you’re not making good food choices, a plateau can be hard to overcome.
Allowing yourself to get really hungry is like dangling a piece of raw meat in front of a crocodile – downright dangerous! Well, maybe not quite that dangerous, but hunger can make your willpower and resolve disappear faster than you can stuff three iced donuts into your mouth.
However, if you’re determined to beat your plateau by sticking to your calorie limits for the day, but you’re constantly feeling hungry, you’re in a spot of bother.
Boris suggests combating this hunger by including a larger serve of protein in your meals, such as lean meat, skinless chicken, fish, legumes or tofu. Protein works wonders to fill you up – and keeps you feeling full for longer. In fact, it’s the most satiating macronutrient of them all. By ensuring that each of your meals (that includes breakfast!) contains a source of protein, you might find that you really don’t need that donut after all.
Including protein in your snacks is also wise. For a filling snack, try Greek yoghurt, low-fat or cottage cheese, a small can of tuna in spring water, or a protein fruit smoothie.
Don’t forget to balance out your meals with wholegrain carbohydrates, healthy fats, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.
4. Stop the mind games
Pay special attention to your emotional connections to food. Start keeping a journal and write down how you feel and what you ate. Do you notice any patterns? Maybe you always eat chocolate cake after you’ve had an argument with your boss, or maybe at the end of the day you only feel relaxed if you’ve had a glass of wine (or three!) and some cheese and crackers.
If you’re regularly making bad food choices in an effort to make yourself feel better, weight plateau, or even weight gain, is bound to happen. Knowing when and why you eat can help you eliminate emotional eating habits.
Make a list of alternative activities that you can do instead of eating, such as taking a walk, having a bath, calling a friend, or gardening. Find out what works for you, and learn to relieve your feelings without eating.
5. How’s your exercise routine?
Boring? If you do the same exercise day-in, day-out, it’s no wonder you’re finding things a little tedious. Disinterest in exercise can easily cause your weight to plateau. On the other hand, mixing up your exercise activities can really get your weight moving again.
Changing your exercise routine can be as simple as trying something new. How about working out with the help of a personal trainer for a month? Or swap one of your usual walking sessions for a yoga class.
You can also boost your exercise by picking up the pace, exercising for longer, or by doing more exercise sessions each week.
The idea is to surprise your body by varying your routine regularly. Trying new things will also give you something to look forward to, which will make it easier for you to stick with regular exercise and can help prevent weight loss plateaus.
6. Hydrate your body
Water is very important for keeping your body healthy. It also plays a role in weight loss.
If you often feel bloated and retain fluids, as well as feeling uncomfortable you’ll know that this can also register on the scales. Luckily there’s a simple solution – drink more water! It may seem strange, but drinking lots of water actually helps to flush water from your body and stops you retaining fluids.
Water is also a great ‘hunger buster’. Often feelings of thirst can be mistaken for hunger pains. Next time you’re feeling hungry, try drinking a large glass of water. If you’re still hungry in ten minutes, then go ahead and eat. However, you might find that you were really just thirsty after all. Now that’s an easy way to save yourself hundreds of unneeded calories!
Drinking a glass of water before eating has also been found to reduce the amount of calories consumed during a meal. So up your water intake to Boris’ recommendation of at least 6 or more glasses of water per day and you’ll be kicking that weight plateau in no time.
7. Measure up
Even when the scales are stuck on the same reading for weeks, it doesn’t always mean that you’re not getting anywhere.
When you hit a scale-weight plateau, it’s a good time to take your body measurements and use them to track your progress as well. Body measurements are good indicators of how your body shape is changing which, after all, is where most of us would like to see a difference.
So instead of obsessing over the scale, think about how you feel. Do your clothes fit better? Are you feeling healthier or more energetic? Are you finding everyday tasks easier to manage?
Considering the big picture can help you stay positive and remind you that a plateau on the scales doesn’t necessarily mean a plateau overall.
Losing weight is about being healthier and feeling good about yourself, so don’t give up on your goals if the scales get stuck for a while. Stay focused, keep positive, and try some of our tips to give yourself the kick-start you need to get your weight loss moving again. Good luck!