Weight loss plateaus are so frustrating. You’ve worked hard on your diet and fitness routine, but suddenly you’ve stopped shedding pounds. “What happened?” you ask. “I’m doing everything I did before… why won’t it work anymore?”
You’ve hit a weight loss plateau. It happens to a lot of people, but don’t worry! Weight loss and diet experts, fitness coaches and real women share what helped them break through that barrier and reach their weight loss goals.
Track your daily calories
Fitness guru Jillian Michaels recommends getting a weight loss or diet app that will help you track everything you eat and activity you get. “You have to pay close attention to details,” she says. “When you first start a diet and fitness program, you make drastic changes. But many people get complacent.”
Michael adds that in the first weeks of a diet, you may have lost excess water. Now, you have to work harder to burn fat. “To lose one pound of fat you will need to burn roughly 3,500 calories. That takes more time, so you have to be patient with the process.”
Oh, and cutting calories doesn’t mean giving up your favourite food. Get tips on how to cut 500 calories from your daily diet and still eat what you love.
Incorporate a rest day
Hollywood fitness consultant Sam Raymonds says that extreme exercising can actually make your body think that you’re under stress, which will make it hold on to fat. Also, women have evolved to hold on to a few more pounds of fat for survival and child bearing. That’s why those last inches of fat are harder to burn than the excess 20 or 30 pounds.
That’s why he says the last thing you should do when you hit weight loss plateau is to cut more calories or spend every day at the gym. “Your body will think it’s losing too much energy and release fat storing hormones. Increase the intensity of your workout, but have a rest day.”
Make sure you’re getting the right calories
Dietitian Ilyse Schapiro says that going below 1,200 calories will slow down your metabolism. So make sure you’re eating enough, but get the nutrients your body needs.
“I don’t agree with fad diets that cut out entire food groups. Your body needs carbohydrates, proteins, healthy fats, and micronutrients from different kinds of vegetables.” While it’s okay to have a low-carb diet, you can’t have a no carb diet. “Carbohydrates are the body’s fuel. If you don’t have enough energy, you won’t be able to get a good workout. So you see, your diet will affect the quality of your exercise too. Starving yourself backfires.”
Add more fiber to your diet
“Emerging weight loss research shows that focusing on high-fiber foods can help you shed pounds after other diets have caused a plateau, likely because the nutrient is so filling,” says Dr. Sean M. Wells.
He recommends adding 30 grams of fiber to your daily diet. You can get this from fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, and fiber supplements.
Switch up your workout
Your body gets used to your exercise routine, so you’re not burning as many calories as much as you used to. Try different workouts or gym moves. You can also increase your weights or perform fewer repetitions, or use lighter weights but add sets. invest in a personal trainer who can develop different kinds of exercise programs so your body is always challenged but never overworked. “Muscle confusion is the key to successful weight loss and fitness,” says celebrity trainer Kit Rich.
Think beyond the scale
Amy Lee lost over 65 pounds with the help of a personal trainer and nutritionist. However, even with all that guidance, she still hit a weight loss plateau. She would only lose 1 to 2 pounds a month. “I was so frustrated that sometimes I wanted to give up completely.”
But they convinced her to see weight loss as part of a bigger picture. “I looked good in my clothes. I had more energy. My cholesterol and blood pressure was normal again. My low carb diet was also improving my skin – I didn’t get as much acne anymore!” she said. “I was still committed to weight loss but I chose to celebrate the other benefits of her healthier lifestyle. That helped keep me motivated and stick to my program, until I started losing weight again.”
Start using weights
Cardio activity is great for rapid weight loss, because you’re sweating it out and really using up calories. But every fitness expert will tell you that you should incorporate some kind of weights into your routine. Weights will build muscle that burn calories throughout the day. And don’t worry, you won’t “bulk up” – you’ll get leaner and more toned.
You can alternative your cardio routine with gym days, or just do an extra half-hour of weights before or after your usual workout. If you don’t have time, buy a set of weights and do it at home.
Check if you have a hormone imbalance
If you’ve tried all the exercises and weight loss tips and still can’t lose the pounds, see an endocrinologist. You may have a thyroid disorder, insulin resistance, polycystic ovary syndrome, or other conditions that makes it harder for your body to burn sugar and fat.
Switch some of your coffee for green tea
In some ways, coffee can help your weight loss: it boosts metabolism, and can suppress hunger. That’s why a lot of weight loss and diet supplements contain some form of caffeine. (Coffee also has a lot of surprising health benefits!)
However, limit your coffee to about 3 cups a day. Some studies show that drinking more than 5 cups of coffee a day can make your body store more belly fat. If you need a caffeine fix, try green tea, which also contains catechins that can improve your liver’s ability to burn fat. In fact, one weight loss study found that people who drink 5 cups of green tea a day lost two more pounds a week than those who didn’t)
Get moral support
Lorraine Tan struggled to lose weight for over 15 years. “I would lose weight, gain it back, then lose it again. But after I gave birth to my first child, my weight really went out of control. I gained 40 pounds. A health scare made me realize I had to take my weight loss and diet seriously, for my sake and my child’s.”
She went to the gym, hired a trainer (“so I would feel guilty about skipping training!”), went on a low carb diet. But she credits losing over 70 pounds to the support she got from friends she made in an online weight loss community. “They gave me weight loss tips and advice, and most of all, lots of encouragement and inspiration. When I hit a weight loss plateau they said they all went through it too, and told me to keep going. Just knowing I wasn’t alone – and that I wasn’t doing anything wrong — was such a big help.”
Drink water before meals
Dietitian and nutritionist Eliza Zeid says it’s important to stay hydrated, because the body uses water for proper digestion and metabolism. And one of her most tried-and-tested weight loss tips: drink two glasses of water before every meal. “You feel full, which prevents you from overeating.”
Samantha Raine, a weight loss coach, agrees. “Sometimes we mistake thirst for hunger. We have a headache, feel dizzy, our stomach hurts – these can be symptoms of hidden dehydration.” Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. “Bring a water bottle with you everywhere. If you don’t like the taste of plain water, try getting infusers which will let you flavour your water with cucumbers, lemons and other fruits.
Spread out your protein intake
You can’t lose weight without eating protein. Your body needs it to build muscle – and most importantly, retain muscle while burning fat. If you’re just living off salads, you’re losing muscle which lowers your metabolism.
Protein-rich foods also suppress a hormone called ghreline that’s responsible for your hunger pangs. If you’re not eating protein, you’re more likely to get cravings and eat more than you really need.
Dietitian Gina Hassick says the best way to get protein is to include 20 grams at each meal, instead of eating one heavy dish a day. “You get a study supply of protein and feel full the whole day, so you’re not going to binge on unhealthy snacks.”
Try a HIIT workout
High intensity interval training is one of the best ways to burn fat and lose weight. Best of all, these short but intense workouts are really easy to fit into a busy day. You can find free HIIT workouts on Youtube – or invest in a program!
“When I hit a weight loss plateau, I started doing HIIT twice a week. I started losing weight again, and my endurance improved too – so I was able to run farther and faster,” says Dawn Vicente, who lost over 40 pounds in a year from exercise and diet.
You can also read our article on how to burn more calories in your workout!
Try intermittent fasting
Many people swear by intermittent fasting for weight loss. You eat the same amount of calories, but in a shorter period of time (usually a 6 hour window) and then fast for the remaining 16 hours. Supposedly, this forces the body to burn fat instead of carbohydrates for fuel.
Sixteen hours seems like a lot of time to go without food, but you can do this at night. So, take your last meal at around 5pm and have breakfast at 9 am. Just don’t skip breakfast, because that will mess with your metabolism and make you more prone to binge eating.
Take a weight loss supplement
Combined with proper diet and exercise, weight loss supplements can be a healthy way to break through a plateau.
There are many different kinds of weight loss supplements in Singapore. Some burn fat, and others interfere with your body’s ability to absorb sugars or fats. Others suppress appetite, or act as meal replacements.
However, don’t take weight loss supplements without talking to your doctor – especially if you’re taking maintenance medication, have a chronic condition like heart disease or diabetes, or are planning to conceive. Even natural and herbal supplements can contain ingredients that won’t mix well with other medicines or affect your heart rate or blood pressure. Better to be safe than sorry!