Weight loss plateaus are frustrating. The truth is that weight loss is rarely like going downhill in a straight line. Realistically, it's more like walking down a staircase. Sometimes you'll be “in motion” - you'll see and feel the progress. Other times you'll feel as though you are "at a standstill" in terms of progress, whether you see it on the scale or feel it in the way your clothes fit.
If this sounds familiar, keep reading for 5 things to try the next time you hit a dreaded plateau.
1. Focus on the non-scale victories.
Sometimes the scale can be deceiving. You may be losing body fat but due to additional factors that influence your lean body mass, (muscle, water/bloat, food, constipation, sodium, time of the month for women, medications, hormones, stress, sleep cycle…the list goes on) that progress may not be visible on the scale itself. That’s why it’s important to also focus on the non-scale aspects. I recommend taking progress pictures, trying on your clothes, measuring your body manually with a clothing tape measure, paying attention to energy levels, sleep patterns, moods, etc.
2. Take it one day at a time.
Some days you will feel better, others you will feel worse. Just because you’ve had a day or two of feeling like you’re plateauing, that doesn’t mean that the next day won’t bring a pleasant surprise. Set yourself short term, realistic, SMART goals each day and you’ll find that those small obstacles will eventually add up in the long term. In addition, if you had a day (or the day after a day) where you felt particularly good, go back into your food logging app and see what you had to eat and/or what you did for exercise that day, and try to make the next day mimic that day. You may find your body prefers a certain style of eating, working out, etc. Every single body is different so listen to YOURS!
3. Don’t forget about bites, licks, and tastes, and overdoing cheat meals.
While I don’t expect perfection in terms of macros/tracking, you should also be aware that those little sneaky bites throughout the day when the hunger hits can have an impact in the long run. For example, if you have an extra untracked handful of mixed nuts each day, that could be an additional 200 calories per day, or an additional 1,400 calories per week, which can surely disrupt that calorie deficit you’ve worked so hard to create. Try your best to track everything, and make those little nibbles fit into your daily macronutrient allotment. In addition, if you find that your body after a cheat meal takes days and days to get back to where it was before the meal, you may want to readdress the overall calorie content of that meal. You can try tracking your cheat meal and see how bad the damage is, this may help you become aware and make you manage your portions more effectively. Also, STAY AWAY FROM “CHEAT DAYS”!
4. Add in some variety.
Whether it be variations in workouts or meals, variety is the spice of life and never hurt anyone! As long as your macronutrients are in check, of course. Many people find that adding in one additional day of cardio or lifting, or even just varying food choices may cause you to feel better, less bloated, have more energy and motivation, etc. Sometimes that is all it takes, so try to cook with a new ingredient that you've never tried before!
Sleep is by far the most overlooked progress tool out there. When you are asleep, your hormones are regulating themselves, your muscles are recovering, and your overall physical and mental health is recharging. When we don’t sleep enough, our hormones can get out of whack which in turn interferes with your regular hunger and/or satiety cues, not to mention cravings. In addition, if you are training hard and you do not sleep an adequate amount, your ability to heal after strenuous exercise is going to be hindered, which can result in injury and an overall low-energy workout the next day. Sleeping enough will ensure your body and mind are well rested and ready to rock!
So the next time you’re feeling in a rut, try these simple tips and see if they help. Above all else, remember that NOTHING is impossible, and we can do whatever we set our minds to! Keep moving forwards and who knows, you might even surprise yourself.