The Dreaded Weight Loss Plateau
Weight loss plateaus – however common – can be frustrating. For many people who’ve adopted a Paleo diet, it’s a common story. For a while (a few weeks, months even..), the weight sheds immediately and drops at a steady clip. Eventually, though, they get to a point where the scale is no longer budging.
They’ve hit the dreaded weight loss plateau.
I know that this can be frustrating – infuriating maybe. Take a breath. I’m here to tell you that even the most diligent dieters experience this. It’s incredibly normal. In fact, it’s kind of a good sign.
I know, that sounds crazy…but hear me out. As I’m sure you know, your body is smart. It is also great at adapting to the conditions you give it.
When you lose weight, your body adapts to that new weight. Suddenly, it requires less calories than it did before.
Also, speaking in a very general sense, when you lose weight, you’re inevitably losing fat along with some muscle. Muscle is closely linked to the speed of your metabolism (more muscle = higher metabolism), so your metabolism is likely slowing down a bit as well.
It’s also worth mentioning that when you first start your weight loss journey, your body loses water weight. This can sometimes result in a large weight loss (from the water) at first and the a leveling off after that. Read all about water weight here.
If you’re committed to losing weight, there are a few things you’ll have to do to kick your body back in gear.
Disclaimer: these suggestions are very general and may not apply to everyone. Every body is different and requires close attention, patience, and experimentation to find out what works best. Always consult with your healthcare professional before adapting your diet.
Determine Your Caloric Needs
Like I said, as you lose weight, your body requires fewer calories. If you’re eating the same amount as you did when you first started your weight loss journey, you’ll more than likely have to cut back a bit to see the progress again.
One of the perks of the Paleo diet, in my opinion, is that there is no specific need to count calories. But, if weight loss is your main goal and you’ve hit the plateau, you may have to re-evaluate.
Try tracking your food in a food logger app – like myfitnesspal – just to see your average daily calorie intake. If it’s higher than your suggested amount, try cutting out 100-200 calories a day. This could be as simple as eating one less piece of fruit or a tablespoon or two of almond butter per day.
Pay Close Attention
When you start to see results and get into a routine, it’s easy to put yourself on autopilot. Are you sneaking a bite or two of dessert, eating out more often, or putting more condiments on than normal? Oftentimes, people don’t realize how mindless their eating has become when they get into a routine. Tracking your food intake with myfitnesspal or a food journal will help bring mindfulness back to your eating habits. You don’t have to track all of the time, but try doing it a few days a week just to hold yourself accountable.
Stress Management and Sleep
Stress hormones can wreak havoc on weight loss. Elevated cortisol, the main stress hormone, has been linked to extra weight gain around the midsection. Ensuring that you’re properly managing your stress – whether it be meditation, exercise, or something you’ve personally found to work for you – and getting enough sleep is vital to regulating stress hormones. Aim for at least 8 hours a night. The amount of sleep we get also regulates appetite-inducing hormones – especially leptin, the hormone that tells us that we are satisfied. Studies have shown that there is a correlation between poor sleep and increased BMI, so be sure that you are getting enough shut-eye each night.
Switch Up Your Exercise Routine
Remember how I said your body is highly adaptable? That’s true for your exercise routine too. If you are running on the treadmill every day at the same pace for the same amount of time, your body and muscles are going to adapt to that stress. Soon, that routine no longer cuts it.
Try to get outside of your comfort zone and implement a new routine a day or two per week. Maybe it’s a HIIT (high intensity interval training) class, swimming, cycling, or even just alternating walking and sprinting intervals on the treadmill. Surprise your muscles with some new moves and see if that kicks things back into gear. Not only may this help break the plateau, it will also be more fun!
Are you drinking enough water? The symptoms of mild dehydration are often similar to hunger. You may be reaching for food when your body really wants water instead.
While personal hydration needs are individualized, it’s generally recommended that you drink half of your body weight in ounces to remain properly hydrated. Try starting your morning off with a glass of water to kick the day off right.
That Being Said
I feel like I should state that weight loss is not the only way to measure health. The number on the scale does not automatically deem you healthy or unhealthy. But, for many people, weight loss is a goal, and therefore, it’s important to know about weight loss plateaus and what to do when you reach one.
Have you experienced a weight loss plateau before? What did you do to bust through it?