Weight Loss Plateaus

Mary Jane in her old pink pants
Mary Jane Medlock

Weight loss plateaus are complex and are caused by a variety of problems. Here are a few of the most common:

1. Lowering caloric intake too much. It takes calories to burn calories. When you decrease food intake you are decreasing your basal metabolic rate, meaning your body burns less calories at rest. If your caloric intake is too low, your body may go into starvation mode and hold on tight to the calories you do take in.
2. Not enough muscle mass. Muscle burns more calories than fat, so if you are losing muscle, or not building any, you are not burning as many calories as you could be. Make sure strength training is a part of your regimen.
3. Weight Loss. That’s right! When you weigh less your body does not require as many calories to function. Make sure you have adjusted your energy intake as you lose body mass.
4. Adaptation. The human body has the amazing ability to adapt to almost anything that disrupts it. When you first begin exercising and calorie cutting, the body responds because it is faced with something new and disruptive. After a while, the body gets used to the exercise program and calorie cut. The body also becomes better at the exercise you do, thus requiring less calories to perform them.
5. Overtraining. When you exercise too much, your body responds by holding on to the calories you do take in. It is trying to conserve and hold on to energy to function properly.

Tips to Overcoming the Plateau

1. Add or increase resistance/weight training to your exercise routine to increase lean body mass.
2. Change up your exercise routine. Try a different kind of workout. If you usually run, try an elliptical machine, or riding the stationary bike. Surprise your body by working different muscles.
3. Interval training. This is a great way to burn more calories during a workout. Intervals are when you periodically increase and decrease the intensity during a session. For example: walk for 2 minutes, sprint for 1 minute, walk for 1 minute, run uphill for 2 minutes, walk for 1 minute, etc.
4. Re-motivate yourself. Make sure you haven’t slipped in your goal setting. Try to return to the commitment level you were at when you first started.
Think of this plateau as an opportunity to evaluate whether this weight could be the right weight for your body. It might not be the best idea to lose any more. Your body doesn’t want to because this could be your body’s ideal weight.
What is Your Correct Caloric Intake?
To make sure you are consuming the right amount of calories for your weight and daily needs, use this equation:
Men
Kg body weight x 24 = cals/day
Women
Kg body weight x 23 = cals/day
*kg = pounds divided by 2.2
Almost everyone hits a plateau when participating in a weight loss program. You are doing all the same great things for your body and for some reason the scale just won’t budge! It is very natural and common. The causes of weight loss plateaus are complex but there are things one can do to overcome these obstacles and continue on the path to successful weight loss.
Do not have a deficit of greater than 500 to 700 calories per day!

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