5 Ways to Break a Weight Loss Plateau
If you've ever tried to lose fat for any sustained period of time - you may have hit a plateau. You have changed nothing, but suddenly the fat no longer disappears. The human body is incredibly adaptive, and will do its level best to maintain equilibrium (homeostasis).
The plateauing effect has to be the biggest motivation-killer there is. Unfortunately many popular diet books are strangely quiet on the issue -- I guess the concept doesn't sell well.
The best single word of advice is to make a change. Don't make the mistake of doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result (Ben Franklin's definition of insanity).
What changes can you make?
1. Zig-Zag Calorie Intake
Zig-zagging, or calorie cycling is the process of varying daily calorie intake, while maintaining the same weekly intake. Instead of consuming (for example) precisely 1800 calories each day - you can mix it up. Eat 1500 calories one day, and 2100 calories the next. This can be as simple as halving then doubling a portion size, or adding a post-workout shake into the plan. Just keep your body guessing.
2. Strength Training
If you are not doing this as part of your program or lifestyle, then it's time to start. Working your muscles will help to strengthen bone tissue, increase lean mass, and ultimately boost metabolic rate.
3. Change Your Exercise Routine
So you go walking a lot? Then try jogging, or swimming, or cycling -- anything that will change the way your body is working. If you are doing low intensity cardio work, then try some high intensity exercise (such as HIIT).
4. Alter Macro-nutrient Intake
Although it sounds complicated, once again, the idea is to change what you are eating. If (for example) you are eating a moderate diet that is higher in carbs - try eating less carbs and more protein. There is no need to get super-technical over the whole thing. If you have a carbohydrate snack every day at morning tea time - change it to a protein snack. Whatever you are doing consistently - try mixing it up a bit.
5. Change Meal Frequency
If you are eating three square meals a day - start adding snacks in between (which may mean reducing the portion size of the main meals). Eating often is an old and common style of eating - once again, you are trying to boost your metabolic rate.
I know all that - What else is there?
Some of us seem to have more adaptive bodies than others. I remember when I was eating a fairly rigid diet, having three strength training sessions per week, and as much as seven (often intense) cardio sessions a week. After 3-4 weeks - the fat simply stopped coming off. The frustration was enough to make me take my meal plans (stuck to the fridge), screw them up and throw them away in disgust. I was furious and disappointed. I felt that I was doing everything "right". So what was the answer?
Chill out and back off... I was becoming obsessional. I started eating more, and gradually reduced my cardio levels. I gave my body and mind a break. In the process I have learnt to eat more intuitively. Every person is unique, and we must learn how our individual body responds - and how to work with that.
UPDATE: You can estimate daily calories here, or see other tips and tools here.
"Determination isn't measured by what you do when you feel like it. It is measured by what you do when you don't feel like it."