Weight loss can be just as much a mental game as it is a physical one, and this especially applies to hitting weight loss plateau and stalls.
Going from where you are right now to your ideal body is going to be filled with ups and downs, temptations, slip ups and some confusion.
There’s nothing more frustrating and puzzling in the weight loss game than plateaus and stalls on the scale.
Even when you’re making phenomenal progress overall, you let the number on the scale mess with your head and make you question your results.
Stalls and plateaus are a perfectly normal, and expected part of the weight loss process, but I’m sure not a lot of people have told you that before.
Contrary to what you may think, stalls and plateaus are actually a sign of progress!
When you have a stall or plateau it means that you were doing a good enough job of losing weight that your body was forced to adapt to bring you back into balance.
There’s common reasons why some of you will have more stalls and plateaus with your weight loss than you’d like.
This only makes your weight loss journey feel more frustrating and confusing than it should be, unless you understand the solutions.
In this blog we’re going to cover the most common reasons you run into weight loss plateaus, and how to break past them to keep losing weight.
Issue #1: Only Using Scale Weight To Measure Progress
When you only use the scale to measure fat loss progress you’re unknowingly ignoring a lot of signs of progress.
Especially when you realize your scale weight is influenced by a lot more than just how much fat you have.
Your muscle mass, bone mass, organs, food in the digestive system, water retention, stress, carb and salt intake, fiber intake and inflammation can influence how much you weigh on a day to day basis, and knowing that can bring some sanity to scale fluctuations.
Something I’ll challenge you to consider is that your goal really isn’t a specific scale weight, even though you think it is.
You think at a certain scale weight you’ll look a certain way, so the real goal is how you want your body to look, not what it weighs.
If you weigh more than you do right now, but looked how you wanted I guarantee scale weight wouldn’t matter to you.
To truly measure your fat loss progress alongside the scale, using measurements and progress pictures is crucial.
Solution #1: Measurements
Measurements are a great way to measure progress because it’s allows you to have objective numbers on where you’re losing fat from, even if the scale is staying the same.
If your measurements are going down, especially in the problem areas like the mid-section, hips and waist then you’re making progress with your fat loss.
To get started, measure the exact same point in your body every two weeks so there’s enough time between taking measurements to see a change.
For accuracy pick a landmark on your body like a scar or a freckle to make sure you are at the same spot as the previous measurement.
Take a circumference measurement (all the way around) at each these points every two weeks, and put the measurements in a spreadsheet or write them down to compare.
You may need some help with a few of these, others can be done on your own.
Shoulders: Put both your arms down at your side. Measure at the widest point from
shoulder to shoulder.
Chest: Put both your arms up in the air and wrap the tape measure around the chest.
Just a little bit above the nipple, then put your arms down and take the measurement.
1.) Right at the belly button
2.) 2 inches above the belly button
3.) 2 inches below the belly button.
Hips: Measure the widest part of your hips, going all the way around.
Thighs: Measure around the widest part of both your left and right thighs, but use the same body landmark to keep measurements accurate each week.
Every two weeks retake the measurements and enter them into the same spot so you can assess if you’re on the right track, or need to make a change.
Solution #2: Take Progress Pictures
You’ll have a hard time noticing any changes to your body on a day to day basis, but if you have a few months worth of pictures to look at you can see your body composition progress and make any necessary changes.
Get into a bathing suit or your underwear, and use your cell phone to take a picture. If you have someone who can help you take pictures even better, if not a mirror picture will work.
Take a picture facing forwards towards the mirror, then turn sideways and take another side profile picture. If you have someone who can help take a picture of your back profile as well.
You may not like what you see and you may not want to see that picture again, but when you’ve made amazing progress you’ll be happy you have the first picture to look back on.
Issue # 2: Food Misreporting
If there is one big thing that accounts for more stalls and plateaus than anything else it’s unintentional under reporting of food.
What you think you’re eating, and what you’re actually eating from a calorie standpoint can be dramatically higher than you think.
Whether it’s the forgotten snacks and samples, handfuls of m&ms off a co-workers desk or a few extra bites of peanut butter when making sandwiches, these can all add up and stop your weight loss.
Whenever I have clients who’ve hit a plateau and do an inventory of everything they’re eating and drinking for a week we always find at least 250 or more calories that they were missing daily.
The good news is if you’re stuck and feeling frustrated the solutions are pretty simple to solve this issues.
Solution # 1: Track Your Calories For One Week
If you’re stalled I’d recommend getting a cheap food scale and downloading the app myfitnesspal and for one week commit to tossing every piece of food on the scale and logging anything you eat or drink into myfitnesspal.
The reality is a lot of people underestimate their calorie intake on a daily and weekly basis, and fall into the I don’t eat that much trap while consuming more than they think.
Maybe you fall into the week day dieter trap where Monday through Friday you’re really adherent and on point. Then during the weekends you get looser and have more meals out, social events and snack more.
During those weekend escapades you might just guesstimate those calories, forget about them or selectively ignore them, but they still count.
Solution #2: Reduce Calorie Intake by 5-8%
Let’s say you’ve tracked everything, even the weekends and you’ve been measuring progress with pictures and measurements too and you’re at a true plateau or stall.
This is where reducing your calorie intake comes into play.
I like reducing calories by 5-8% because it doesn’t dramatically drop your food intake to an sustainable level, but can help to kickstart weight loss again.
If you’re already having to eat on the lower end or don’t have a lot of calories to play with I’d go in the 5-6% calorie reduction range. If you have more calories to play with then I’d recommend the 7-8% calorie reduction option.
During fat loss phases to preserve muscle and make sure you stay fuller for longer I recommend keeping protein the same, and reducing calories from carbs and fats.
If you’re someone who dipped your toes in the tracking calories water and realized it wasn’t for you no worries we can still reduce your calories without needing to log them.
I’d recommend on days where you’re more sedentary dropping denser carbs and doubling vegetables.
Making swaps like cauliflower rice, choose lettuce wraps or using zucchini noodles can can keep you just as full, while dropping calories a bit.
A few other options would be choosing some leaner cuts of meat, mixing in egg whites with a whole egg or two. Using some lower fat dairy options or turning to something like powdered peanut butter (blasphemy I know) to reduce your calorie intake without tracking.
Issue #3: You’re Unconsciously Moving Less
When you’re losing fat because you’re eating less and exercising your body has a really sneaky way it fights back against this process to make you burn fewer calories.
You move less throughout the day.
Not in your workouts, but in your day to day movement which is actually way more detrimental to your fat loss goals.
The component of your metabolism known as NEAT which stands for non exercise activity thermogenesis and is a fancy way of saying the non exercise calories you burn each day from movement.
This part of the metabolism accounts for a massive amount of your calorie expenditure each day, and the cooler part is you have control over it.
As you diet for weight loss the body will actually do it’s best to make you move less as a way to conserve calories. By knowing this you can consciously make changes to increase your NEAT levels.
Solution #1: Increase Your Daily Walking
Walking is the easiest way for you to increase your NEAT levels, and can be the difference between staying in a plateau or stall or getting back on track with your weight loss.
Don’t get caught up in exactly how many calories you’re burning from walking, but instead focus on the habit of walking more as that’s what you have control over.
I recommend trying to hit 8,000-10,000 steps per day as a basic goal, if you’re nowhere near that don’t worry about it just work your way up to that level.
Here’s some simple ways you can increase your walking throughout the day:
- Go for a 30-minute morning walk
- Walk at lunch for 20 minutes
- Walk on a treadmill while watching TV
- Instead of email walk to tell coworkers messages at work
- Take the stairs
- Park further away and walk
- Get off the bus/subway a few stops early and walk
- Batch all your calls into one time and walk & talk
Solution # 2: Don’t Crush Yourself AT The Gym Everyday
This last point may seem counterintuitive since so many people think you need to be really sore or leave the gym in pain to have gotten a good workout.
This doesn’t mean don’t work hard or push yourself in the gym, but be aware of the negative effects if you’re consistently so sore that you don’t want to move.
If you’re too sore and beat up from a work out earlier in the week you’re not going to want to get up and move around more throughout the day.
If it hurts to move you’re not going to want to go for those extra steps or move a little more during the day to burn those few hundred extra calories.
That’s exactly why having coaches at Vigor Ground Fitness to push you and get you stronger without leaving you feel beat up for the whole week in invaluable to your fitness goals.
Plateaus and stall are a normal part of the process when it comes losing weight, and it’s actually a sign of progress because your body has adapted to the fat loss you’ve achieved this far!
When you’re stuck in a weight loss plateau or stall instead of feeling frustrated and wanting to toss in the towel, assess the reasons in this blog you may not be losing weight.
Use the solutions for each of the issues, and give it a few weeks to work as getting things moving in the right direction may take some time to work.
Stop by Vigor Ground Fitness and I guarantee one of our world class coaches can help you with your exercise and nutrition habits to help you finally get in the shape you’ve been dreaming of!
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