The Diet Detective: 11 Ways to Break Through Your Weight-Loss Plateau

The numbers on the scale are not budging no matter what you do. They were moving so fast before. What happened?

Anyone who has ever been on a diet knows about hitting a plateau. It's the barrier that comes after you've lost the initial weight, and you can't seem to lose another ounce. The plateau typically happens after six months of dieting.

Your body has a reduction in lean body mass (muscle), which can be a consequence of weight loss in many instances. There is also water loss (from glycogen stored in your body), which stops after a while.

Additionally, your basal metabolic rate changes. It goes down, and your overall caloric needs are lower. Basically, you start burning fewer calories than before, which makes sense because you're lighter, and you're moving less mass. However, that's not the full picture. There is a process known as adaptive thermogenesis, whereby your body is adapting and creating a new calorie-burn rate.

More: Who Burns More Calories: New or Veteran Runners?

According to researchers at Laval University in Canada, the more weight you lose, the fewer calories your body burns at rest, and that means it becomes harder to lose weight. It can be worse if there is rapid weight loss, which makes sense, considering the accelerated loss of lean muscle mass, which burns more calories than fat.

Try the following tips to break through your plateau.

Practice Acceptance and Expectation Management

Weight-loss programs typically produce a 10-percent weight loss. The problem is that many people don't find this acceptable. You can probably achieve the weight you want and even reset your metabolism; however, it takes time. It won't happen in six months; rather you should expect a two-year process.

Increase Protein Consumption

Foods that are high in protein slow the movement of food through the gastrointestinal tract, and slower stomach emptying means you feel full longer and get hungrier later. The evidence also suggests high-protein meals lead to a reduced subsequent calorie intake. Make sure to keep your meat (no visible fat and portion controlled) and poultry (white meat, no skin) lean. Egg whites are a great low-cal source of protein. Also nuts, seeds, beans and legumes are super healthy, but nuts and seeds are high in fat, so limit portion sizes.

More: 18 Protein-Packed Foods That Improve Metabolism

Understand It's Not Just Numbers

There are other important factors than how you feel. Don't just focus on the numbers. Do you have a little extra zip? Are you sleeping better? Feeling healthier? More energetic? You are probably continuing to benefit from your workout and diet even if you are not losing weight.

Increase Your Physical Activity

You need to increase the duration or intensity of your current workout. Walk a little farther or a little faster. Walk at least 60 to 90 minutes per day, even if you have to break it up.

Incorporate Strength Training

Lifting weights builds muscle mass, and muscles are more active than fat when it comes to burning calories.

More: Strength Exercises for Runners

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