Weight loss plateaus: what to do?

You’ve been making an effort to lose weight and you've been doing well. But then your weight loss just stops. While this can be discouraging, don’t despair. You may have hit a weight loss plateau. In this article, we’ll explain why it happens, and what you can do avoid around it.

What is a weight loss plateau?

Weight loss plateaus are a normal part of losing weight. Even if you still pay careful attention to your diet and exercise, your weight loss can stall. If you notice your weight loss has virtually ground to a halt, and you have been stuck on the same weight for a few weeks, you could be experiencing a plateau.

Why do plateaus happen?

Bupa Dietitian Gemma Cosgriff says plateaus occur because our body is very good at adapting to changes, particularly when it comes to the amount of fuel our body requires for our day-to-day needs.

When we reduce energy intake, increase physical activity, or do both for a consistent period of time, we should experience weight loss. Unfortunately our body will notice this change and want to get back to normal.

“Our body likes to remain in a state of homeostasis – that is, keeping as stable as possible, particularly through our physiological processes,” she says.

“This means the body will start to store energy more efficiently, and become more efficient when performing physical activity. This can then result in us no longer losing weight.”

Plateaus can happen a number of times throughout the weight loss journey, particularly if you have a large amount of weight to lose.
Helathy meal

Shake up a plateau

Cosgriff says in order to break through the plateau and keep losing weight, you need to change things up to keep the body guessing. One way is to vary your exercise.

“Try to vary the types of activities you do. A good mix of aerobic, and particularly resistance (weight training) has been shown to increase muscle strength, which can help us to maintain lean muscle mass, and keep it as a high metaboliser of energy,” she says.

Cosgriff also recommends changing the time of day you train. That way your body doesn’t recognise a routine.

“Another tip is changing what you eat. Choose different vegetables, fruit, lean proteins and spices,” advises Cosgriff.

“Making slight modifications in what we usually eat, combined with other changes you’re making, can help to provide a noticeable change in weight.”

Her final tip is to add more general movement and reduce the amount of time spent sitting down during your day.

Take it slow and steady

As keen as you are to lose your weight, do it safely. A sustainable and healthy weight loss is around half to one kilogram per week.

Plateaus can take a few weeks to shift. As well as trying the strategies we’ve already mentioned, use this time to make sure your portion sizes haven’t increased and that ‘treat’ foods haven’t snuck back into your routine.

Sometimes you need to stay on course and be patient. Don’t let plateaus get the better of you. If you persevere, they will eventually shift, and you’ll be losing weight again.
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