Breaking a Weight Loss Plateau

Nothing is more frustrating than a weight loss plateau. Let’s discuss how caloric cycling and other healthy techniques can help you lose those last stubborn 5 pounds

Ask anybody who has lost a lot of weight, say 20 pounds or more, they will always tell you the first 5-10 pounds come off so easily, and the last 5 are the toughest! You’re still doing all the right things, you’re eating less, working out more, but all of a sudden It stops working! The scale won’t budge! Wherever you are in the weight loss process, hitting a stubborn weight loss plateau, is frustrating. But don’t let it discourage you or throw you off your path, today I have three easy ways to help you break through a weight loss plateau. 

In order to lose weight of course you need to cut back on your food intake. And if you do that for long enough, your body could play a nasty trick on you. It may start conversing energy by lowering your basal metabolic rate, and as a result, you won’t burn as many calories, and your weight loss slows down or stops altogether. Although it may feel like your body is trying to sabotage you, your body is actually trying to look out for you. Your brain has noticed that food supplies have seemed been scarce for an extended period of time, so it is trying to increase your chances of survival in case this food scarcity continues. Of course, when you’re trying to lose weight this definitely not helpful. In this case, eating even less is not going to help at all because that’s going to confirm your brains suspicions of a dwindling food supply. And on the other hand, eating more to increase your basal metabolic rate isn’t going to help either, and isn’t going to help with your weight loss. At this point it may feel like your body is fighting back, but there is a way for you to bypass the confusion your brain and body are feeling at this moment. It’s called calorie cycling. Let’s say you’ve been eating about 1800 calories a day, and that has allowed you to steadily lose weight. Now suddenly, it’s not working anymore. Rather than trying to eat even less every day, try alternating higher and lower calorie days. For example, you could alternate between 2000 calories days and 1700 calorie days. In the course of a week, you could trim off anywhere from 900-1200 calories. The higher calorie days should help keep your brain from panicking, because you are keeping  your body at a homeostatic level. 

So what are the advantages of calorie cycling? First of all, the high calorie days keep your metabolism from slowing down in response to sustained caloric restriction. And secondly, many of my clients say this feels easier to maintain than constant caloric restriction. To keep you from feeling hungry on your low intake days, you can incorporate super nutrient dense foods, to keep you feeling fuller for longer. Switching up your caloric intake day to day might be enough to knock you out of your metabolic slow down. 

Now I want to point out that calorie cycling isn’t for everyone, and before you consider it, check in with me or a local registered dietitian first to ensure that caloric cycling is a good fit for you. If you have diabetes, hypoglycemia, are pregnant, or if you have a history or risk of eating disorders, this technic should be avoided. And aside from any health issues, some people just feel more comfortable with a traditional approach to weightloss. Honestly, if what you’ve been doing has been working and you haven’t hit that weight loss plateau, stick with that! But if you should hit a plateau, caloric cycling might be something to try. 

My second tip is to shake up your exercise routine. Exercise helps the pounds come off more quickly than just dieting alone, however, when it comes to exercise our brain steps in again. If you do the same workout routine, over and over again, your muscles will learn to perform those motions with less energy, which means you burn fewer calories. And for future reference, please ignore those “calories burned” displays on the gym equipment because they are notoriously inaccurate. You can maximize the energy burned from your workout sessions! Try a different cardio machine or a different variation on an exercise you always do. Or if you want to switch up your cardio game, try doing one of the interval programs on your preferred cardio machine. If you prefer low impact exercise like walking or jogging, try a new route that has some added hills or work some 60 second sprints into your routine. 

So my final tip, isn’t so much about changing the speed at which you’re losing weight, as It is about reframing how you look at it. The closer you get to your goal weight, the harder it seems to reach it, and the slower the weight tends to come off… tell me I’m wrong…I’ll wait… If you’re thinking of your goal weight as a finish line, this can be super frustrating because it never feels like you’re going to get there. But then again, if you lose those lands pounds really quickly, you have a greater chance of those pounds coming right back on the minute you get off your diet and relax your efforts surrounding nutrition. So rather than trying to sprint across the finish line, think of those last 5 pounds as your cool down. By losing the last of the weight more slowly, you’re actually making a gradual transition into your long term maintenance phase. If it takes you 1 or 2 extra months to lose those final pounds, that’s 1 to 2 extra months of healthy eating habits under your belt, and that greatly increases your chances of maintaining a healthy weight in the long term. 

If you’d like to listen in to this episode, tune into the Bites Radio podcast below. If you’d like to keep up to date on all the latest, comment or join the conversation, be sure to head over to the bites radio Facebook page! And lastly, if you liked todays blog post or previous posts, be sure to subscribe to the Bites Radio podcast for weekly bites of nutrition knowledge! 

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