One of the biggest stumbling blocks to consistent lifestyle change is when the scale stops moving. When you’re going through the discipline of eating better and exercising regularly, seeing the scale inch down each week is a little victory and “high five.” But when the scale doesn’t budge, it’s really easy to fall into the “what difference does it make?” mentality and let those behaviors slip.
So why does the scale stop moving? What do you do when your weight loss plateaus?
We are so conditioned to focusing on the scale to give us feedback on our progress. The scale is just a simple machine, however, and really doesn’t show us the big picture. We assume that by eating less and exercising more, the first results will be weight loss. Sometimes our body has different plans. It’s possible that our body is working furiously with your new healthy behaviors to stabilize blood sugar, or strengthen muscle or repair something that isn’t quite up to par. Fat loss may not be the priority. But once everything is working more efficiently, your body is ready to kick up the burn and start using fat for fuel. Here are a few things that happen when your weight loss slows down:
1) You may be burning fat but the cell fills up with water and you see no change on the scale. Solution: Make sure you are hydrated! Drink at least 10 cups of water a day. WATER! Don’t include coffee, tea, soda or other liquids in that 10 cups.
2) Muscle vs. Fat. You’ve probably heard that “muscle weighs more than fat.”
Well, technically, a pound of muscle weighs the same as a pound of fat BUT that pound of muscle will take up much less room. If you haven’t been exercising at all and then start walking or biking, you’ll add a little bit of muscle. However, if you start a program of heavy lifting, your muscles will inflame for the first 2 weeks (you’re sore right?) and the scale may even go up! As you start building muscle, your clothes will fit better, you’ll see less “fluff” but the scale may not go down. Solution: Stay the course! Muscle will help your metabolism and keep you strong. Having more muscle is more important than what the scale says. Focus on how you look and how your clothes feel and forget about the scale! Use a tape measure to check progress or that favorite pair of jeans that have been too tight!
3) Even with the best of intentions, your calorie intake may not be what you think. There are times when you eat without thinking, nibble from a container, mis-judge portion size or even eat something loaded with extra, hidden calories. On the flip side, you may not be eating enough. YES, eating too little will cause your metabolism to slow down and burn very very efficiently. Efficiency is great for our utilities but not for our bodies!! We want to be spewing out calories like a fierce out of control engine. You have to eat enough! Solution: Track your food! Measure it, write it down and pay attention. Make sure you’re getting in enough calories but not too many! You’ll need 500 calories less per day than you’re burning up, to lose a pound a week.
4) We will never know all the intricacies of weight loss because so many factors come into play…..hormones, genetics, nutrition, exercise, etc. There will be times when you are doing exactly what you need to do…..you’re eating well with the correct balance of carbohydrates-fat -protein, your exercise pushes you and you’re combining cardio with strength, you are tracking your calories at an optimal level and eating healthy foods. And then your body gets bored. UGH! Truthfully though, our bodies are constantly striving for equilibrium so after doing the same thing for 4-6 weeks, it settles into cruise mode. Weight loss comes to a screeching halt. Your body is “adjusting” and “adapting” to the new you. It “pushes pause” while it settles in even though you’re kicking and screaming. Solution: Mix things up! Change up your exercise, go for longer walks, do shorter walks at a faster pace, add some high intensity interval training, add weight resistance exercise, increase protein and cut back on carbohydrates, increase water, eat more frequently etc. Continue with your good habits but change things up a bit. Your body will start scrambling then!
Experiencing slow weight loss or reaching a plateau is frustrating but common. If you’re following the above guidelines and doing them consistently, (not one week on and one week off), things will start changing. Tie a knot at the end of your rope and hang on tight until you start seeing changes again. It will happen.
If you need help implementing the above solutions, call me and we’ll set up a plan to make sure you get your best results.
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