There is very little more frustrating than hitting a weight loss plateau. The food choices and exercise that had been getting you great results for months all of a sudden aren’t getting you anywhere. Your weight isn’t moving, your inches aren’t changing, your clothes fit the same but you’re working as hard as ever! What the heck?!
Weight loss plateaus are very common and you should expect them, but that certainly doesn’t make them any easier to deal with!
Your body is built to seek balance. More often than not your body will be fighting against everything you do to lose weight. It’s going to work hard to adapt to the changes you make and you’ll find your body is less responsive over time. Sad, but true.
The easiest way to tackle plateaus is to create your weight loss plan in such a way that you always have another play in your book to keep your body guessing and reduce the chances that you’ll hit a plateau to begin with.
Think of your weight loss efforts as a continuum. On the far left you have reverse progress, or eating, exercising and living in a way that moves you away from your weight loss goals. Of course we want to avoid that.
A little further down the path is the minimum amount of changes required to see results. Maybe this is 3 workouts each week and eating clean 70% of the time. You continue down that continuum until the max point – eating clean 100% of the time and working out at your maximum amount of time and effort.
Sometimes we make the mistake of starting out guns blazing close to the far right of this spectrum. I am SOOOOO guilty of this! As our body adapts (and it always does), we aren’t left with much wiggle room to kick things into a higher gear. You put yourself in position where your only options are eat less or exercise more. That’s a bad place to be as both are likely to increase your hunger and decrease your energy. Not to mention that fact that you’ll probably be 100% miserable and unable to maintain that kind of program.
I made the mistake early on in my weight loss. About 6 months in I got super strict with my eating and workouts. I basically limited my intake to lean proteins and green vegetables. While that’s great for fat loss it certainly wasn’t the minimum effective dose and when my body adapted, I had very few options other than to endure several months of frustration. I had to take time off, settle for not making any progress and wait until my body was ready for me to try again. NOT FUN! (But totally my own fault!)
The best approach is to identify your minimum effective changes and gradually increase your intensity as your body adapts. Start making small, incremental changes and monitoring your progress. When you find something that works, keep doing it! Resist the urge to add more, eat less or up your intensity. Seriously. I know how tempting it is but that approach is very likely to backfire. Stay consistent with that small change for as long as you’re making progress towards your goals. When your progress slows or stops, add another small change that boosts your rate of progress again. Keep practicing it, keep monitoring your results, and continue to avoid the urge to go “all in” right out of the gate!