10 tips for breaking through a weight loss plateau

Cheryl Mussatto | MS, RD, LD

You go on a weight loss diet, you’re working out and all that efforts has been paying off in just what you wanted, losing weight. Then, your body suddenly puts the on brakes with the peeling of pounds coming to a screeching halt. What happened and how can you pick up momentum again with continued weight loss?
Weight loss plateaus are not unusual and can happen to the best of us. Don’t let a temporary stall hijack your hard work. Making a few readjustments and lots of diligence will help you break through this temporary standstill and resume shedding those few extra pounds. Here’s how to do it.

1. Make sure you’re self-monitoring your food intake.

Whether it’s counting calories, carbs or writing down what you eat in a food journal, you need to pay attention to food choices and portion sizes. Often people get off track by eating more food than they realize with calories adding up quickly. It is also possible a person may not be eating enough food, which can slow down metabolism. Either way, becoming more mindful of what kind and amounts of food you put in your mouth can go a long ways to eating the right amount of food for you.

2. Focus on quality.

Busting through a weight loss plateau is more than just calories in and calories out. Cut the junk and keep processed foods to a bare minimum. Focus on quality foods as in foods with a high nutrient density including vegetables, beans, fruits, nuts and lean protein needed to keep your metabolism in high gear.

3. Be aware of every bite you take.

An extra bite here, a little nibble there, they all add up over the course of a day. Mindlessly munching on the children’s leftovers may seem harmless but resist the urge, as those extra unnecessary calories could be what are keeping you from seeing results.

4. Drink up fluids.

Keep hydration in check. Even when mildly dehydrated your body will often crave food. Symptoms of dehydration are similar to symptoms of hunger making them easy to confuse. Aim to drink at least eight to 12 cups of water per day.

5. Switch up your exercise routine.

If you’ve been walking three times a week for 30 minutes for the last six months, it’s time to bust up the routine. When you do the same frequency, intensity, type and amount of exercise as when you first started trying to lose weight, your body will adapt and will burn fewer calories. Create a bigger calorie burn by mixing up what your body is used to. One way to achieve this is to use the FITT principles – frequency, intensity, timing and type of exercise. By increasing each of the FITT principles, you’ll begin burning calories more effectively leading to a drop in weight.

6. Plan ahead prioritizing healthy eating and physical activity.

If you find yourself always in a pinch to eat healthy and fit in exercise consistently, part of the problem is not making those factors priorities to getting in shape. Plan, make and have available healthy meals and food in the house, keep junk food out and carve out time for physical activity throughout the week. Take advantage of opportunities that arise such as parking the car farther away than usual to a destination or stopping at a nature trail to go for on a long walk. All those extra calories burned do add up.

7. Increase muscle mass.

Don’t shy away from lifting weights. It’s one of the most effective methods of achieving and maintaining muscle mass. The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn even at rest and the more body fat you’ll lose.

8. Increase protein.

In order for the body to digest protein, it takes more calories to do so as protein has the highest thermic effect of any food. Leucine, an amino acid found in protein, has been shown to be a strong catalyst for burning body fat. Have between 25-30 grams of protein at each meal.

9. Step on a scale frequently.

Many people dread stepping on a scale but think of it as no different than if a doctor wants you to monitor blood pressure with a home blood pressure kit. It’s simply a tool providing information allowing you to recognize when you’re trending in the wrong direction. By weighing oneself no less than once a week, preferably daily first thing in the morning after using the bathroom, you can “catch” when weight goes beyond a five pound benchmark early on. If you’ve gained weight ask yourself are you eating out more frequently, skimping on veggies, or avoiding physical activity? If so, it’s time to take action. By not allowing yourself to gain back more than five pounds, it keeps you from struggling to have to lose 10 or more pounds.

10. Celebrate the successes you’ve made.

Maybe the amount of weight you’ve lost has slowed down dramatically making you feel discouraged. Focus instead on the gains you’ve made over the past weeks and months. Notice how your clothes fit better, the inches you’ve lost, how you have more energy, less pain when moving, stair climbing is easier and the compliments from others on your appearance. Let that be the catalyst spurring you on your weight loss efforts.

The journey of losing weight can be challenging and frustrating but is always well worth the effort. Keep in mind, even maintaining just a five to 10 percent weight loss over time deserves a pat on the back as all positive health changes we make in our lives is always a success. When we step outside the box of making health-promoting lifestyle changes, weight loss plateaus no longer have to be a roadblock in your drive towards better health.

Cheryl Mussatto MS, RD, LD is a clinical dietitian for Cotton O’Neil Clinics in Topeka and Osage City, and an adjunct professor at Allen Community College in Burlingame. She may be contacted at www.eatwell2bewellrd.com.

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