Ever since you’ve set your mind to the lose weight, you have been doing great, losing an average of 1-2 lbs a week. Now you are down 30 lbs! The last few months has been relatively easy as your eating habit has now become a routine. But this last month you notice your weight loss has slowed, and even halted. You believe you are doing the same thing as when you were losing each week, but the scale refuses to budge. You start to wonder, “Is this a temporary plateau or will I permanently stay at this weight?” or “Maybe this is my metabolic set-point and I won’t be able to get it any lower?”
Habits can help you lose weight by taking some complex cognitive behaviors required to change and making them more automatic, but sometimes we need to re-evaluate our daily habits when we reach a plateau. The habits may drift from the original routine and we need to shift them back to get past the plateau. Alternatively, our habits themselves need to be re-adjusted to accommodate a new (smaller) body in transition. The routine that you set forth is what defines the set point. If we want that number to change, we need to make some adjustments.
5 areas to watch to when reaching a plateau:
- Curb the Carb Creep – This is usually a result of habit drift. You add a little bit more fruit here and eventually you do it every day and is now a part of your routine. Maybe you have a few crackers one day and now it’s part of your daily routine. The small increase in carbs can result in increased cravings and hunger. The extra carbs may also kick out of ketosis leading to more water retention and reduced weight loss.
>Try 2-3 days of protein only (no carbs) to see where your carbs are sneaking in and also help you dial down your cravings through a mini- abstinence.
- Are you undereating or overeating at any time? Sometimes we seem to do so well all day with small portions for breakfast and lunch and then find ourselves overindulging or overeating at dinnertime. This may result from habit drift as we slowly increase our dinner and then find ourselves not as hungry in the morning and then decrease our skip our breakfast. We focus on the first half of the day with the best intentions and inadvertently undereat, letting ourselves be susceptible to the stress of hunger by the end of the day.
>If this sounds like you, consider making the following tweeks:
-Eat more breakfast
-Add an afternoon snack – Before you’re hungry
- Watch your hydration. We can find ourselves dehydrated and mistake our cue for thirst as hunger and inadvertently eat slightly larger portions at our meals. Hunger may be a skill for some of us and when we stop practicing it, we lose it.
>Up the water. Shoot for 100-125 ounces a day. Randomized controlled studies demonstrated that water helps with both weight loss and weight maintenance efforts.
- Evaluate your alcohol intake. This is usually a habit drift. You are good about having wine on special occasions but then every weekend is special which then drifts to every dinner time with just 1 glass. You can be perfect with your eating, but adding that glass of wine every day will prevent you from moving the needle on the scale.
>Nix the Alcohol – empty calories, reduce inhibition and overeat, dehydrates and “feel hungry,” and also kicks out of ketosis
- Move your body – This might be a habit adjustment. You can lose weight without exercising but when you are in a plateau, moving the body might disrupt the plateau by several mechanisms. Exercise can help reduce stress and reduce the stress eating that may come with it. Exercise can also, over time, get the the energy-producing organelles in our cells, called mitochondria, into gear. Mitochondria can increase our metabolism but remember, they don’t develop overnight.
>Start slow but be consistent. To make this a lifestyle change, choose a form of exercise that you enjoy and can do consistently. Moving your body doesn’t equate to exercise as we know it. Walking is a popular form of moving your body that doesn’t require a gym membership.Beware of overdoing. Sometimes intense exercise can increase your hunger and be another cause of a plateau.