So you're doing ALL THE THINGS....meal prepping, eating right, exercising....yet the scale quit moving. (my first response may be big, hairy deal-read my last blog post on The Scale = The Devil) But let's be real, this does happen and sometimes there are things that can be done to get your progress kick started again. First, let's talk about why weight loss can plateau.
Have you ever noticed, the first week you are on a new diet, you sometimes lose 4 or 5 pounds? (and if you're a man you lose like 15 which is ridiculous and unfair) This rapid loss at the beginning is usually a result of water loss. When you cut calories, the body initially can get needed energy by releasing glycogen (a type of carbohydrate found in muscles) and since glycogen is partially made of water, this results in weight loss. So, you really haven't lost 5 pounds of body fat in a week, you've lost mostly water. And that's still something to celebrate because it's part of the process and will leave you feeling leaner and healthier.
As you continue to gradually lose weight, your body loses both fat AND muscle. This will result in your metabolism declining. And a slower metabolism, means a slower weight loss. Because you will be burning fewer calories than you were before. This is one reason why it's important, in my opinion, to continue to eat enough calories and not starve yourself through excessive dieting and exercise. Long term, this will not result in keeping the weight off. You should never eat fewer than 1200 calories a day. Let me repeat that. And louder this time. YOU SHOULD NEVER EAT FEWER THAN 1200 CALORIES A DAY. Over the years, I can't tell you how many clients of mine wanted to diet and lose weight by cutting their calories way down to 1200 or less. If you do this right at the start, guess what? Once your metabolism slows to where you can't burn any more calories than what you're eating, you will quit losing weight. And then what? Reduce your calories even more? From 1200 down to 1000 or 900? Ummmmm no way. That's starvation.
This is why, many times it's best to start off with your calories high but coming from healthy food. If you start off dieting, eating 2000 calories, all coming from whole, nutrient dense food, then when your weight loss stalls, there is room to reduce calories. Make sense? Good. (keep in mind, I'm not saying 2000 is the magical number---this is very INDIVIDUAL. Each person's calorie intake will differ depending on activity level, age, and health history)
Ok so I just realized this whole calorie, metabolism thing is a whole other blog post I need to write. So, back to the topic at hand. What can you do to kickstart progress again?
1. Adjust your calorie intake. And honestly this could even mean INCREASING your calories because of what I just explained above. Many times it will mean decreasing. But I've noticed a trend in women that they under-eat regularly. You may need to track your food intake for awhile using MyFitnessPal or MyMacros app. (if you need help with this let me know!)
2. Switch up your exercise routine. Are you ONLY doing cardio? This is a popular trend in women also. Lots of treadmill and eliptical time but not much weight or resistance training. Did you know that the more muscle in your body, the more fat you'll burn throughout the day? Yep. It's true. Look it up. Lots of research on that. Are you only lifting weights? Try adding a daily walk. Park further from the door of the grocery store or work. Walk whenever you can, it's one of the best forms of movement. (better than running which is hard on your joints and tendons)
3. Are you sleeping well and enough? You should be getting at least 8 or 8.5 hours of sleep per night. (I'm preaching to the choir here because I struggle with this!) You should also limit your screen time close to bed time. The blue light from screens interferes with your body's ability to fall asleep and sleep well through the night. That means phone, tablet, computer, and television. (again, preaching to the choir!)
4. Cut back on snacking between meals. Even if your snacks are healthy choices, this can add up to a lot of extra calories at the end of the day. I'm not saying you shouldn't snack at all. Just keep it in moderation. And watch out for nuts! No, not crazy people. They are everywhere. I mean like cashews, almonds, walnuts, etc. Even though they are good choices for snacks, they are calorie dense and it doesn't take much to add up.
5. Water intake. You should be drinking at minimum half of your body weight in ounces. So if you weigh 150, you should be 75 ounces of water per day. That's minimum. I try to get closer to 100-120 ounces each day.
6. Quality of calories. Remember that even if you are staying within your boundaries of how many calories you should consume in a day, if those calories aren't coming from real, nutrient dense food then you could actually be digressing from your goal of weight loss.
7. Protein intake. Make sure you're getting enough protein in your diet. Protein will help you feel fuller longer so you won't feel hunger pains as often. This will help you to be less apt to make a hasty decision to eat something off of your plan. I find that most people are not getting enough protein. In my opinion, you should be getting . 7 or .8 grams of protein per body weight. So if you weigh 150 lbs, you should get 105-120 grams of protein.
8. Stress levels. If you are constantly stressed throughout the day, and your body's response is to create too much cortisol, some research has shown this can both stop weight loss and even cause weight gain. Managing stress is of utmost importance. Stress has many negative effects on the body. And because like everything else, managing stress is very individual, you have to find what form of stress relief will work best for you. Meditation or prayer is a great start. Breathing techniques have proven to reduce stress and increase focus. Walks in nature, exercise, long soaks in a warm tub, engaging in fun activities with your loved ones....all of these can reduce stress and work for different people. Find what works for you!
9. Intermittent fasting. I LOVE this one. This is so powerful and so easy. And there are lots of different ways to fast. My favorite is to eat in a condensed window. So for example, not eating til noon and then stopping your meals at 6 or 8 pm. This means you are only eating for 6-8 hours a day, and fasting for 16-18 hours. And my oh my there are so many health benefits. More than just weight loss. Fasting can slow the aging process!! Worth trying right? Check out this great article on fasting written by Chris Kresser (he is my FAVORITE voice in the world of health and wellness. I trust most anything he writes or recommends) https://chriskresser.com/intermittent-fasting-the-science-behind-the-trend/
So there you have it. Nine different things you can try to get your weight loss kickstarted again. I should have thought of one more to make it ten. Oh I know, how about you help with that! Leave a comment telling me what you have done that has worked for you!
If you are overwhelmed and just not sure where to start, I'd love to help you. Send me a message or an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to my
https://www.melissastewarthealthcoach.com/services-and-pricing page to learn more about what coaching is and if it's right for you. I'd love for you to set up a FREE consultation call with me!