A plateau is... "a state of little or no change following a period of activity or progress." A plateau is also what makes us want to give up and stop diet and exercise altogether!
But don't -- there are ways to help you get out of your weight loss slump!
There are fitness gurus out there, like famed trainer Jillian Michaels, that believe what you're going through is not permanent, but more of a short 2-3 week lag in your fitness journey.
According to Michaels, what's going on is that you've been so good at keeping up with your diet and exercise that your body has become accustomed to it and will maintain itself at a healthy weight. All you have to do is continue on with your healthy lifestyle until this period of lag is over or you can take a few steps to kick start your weight loss up again.
1. KEEP TRACK OF CALORIES
Sometimes when you're eating right, exercising regularly, and getting pretty close to your goal weight, you give yourself a break (on occasion). You say things like "I've been good I can treat myself" -- and by all means, yes you can have a cheat meal once a week; in fact it's recommended to help kick start your metabolism -- but when you give yourself a treat one too many times, it may hinder that weight loss. Keeping track of your calories will help you see if your treats are causing you more harm than good.
Helpful Tip: Did you know that you may be inadvertently sabotaging your weight loss by "eyeballing" your portions? Sure, a cup of cherry tomatoes is more or less a mere 25 calories. But if you're off even a few grams in weighing peanut butter or olive oil or almonds, you could be consuming a whopping 50+ calories or more unintentionally! Measuring cups are no match for a kitchen scale for accuracy; weigh all of your foods (at least your calorie dense ones!) to help you stay on track.
2. HOW MUCH WEIGHT ARE YOU TRYING TO LOSE?
If you are someone that is looking to lose 50 pounds or more, then this is not your issue. You can move right along to number 3. If you're looking to lose 10-15lbs, this is what's called vanity weight: it means you're not obese, but basically just trying to look better naked. Your body doesn't think it needs to lose the weight. It already thinks you're a healthy human as you are, so it will be a bit more stubborn when it comes to shedding the last few pounds.
I bet I know what you’re doing: you’re cutting calories and hitting the gym harder, but what your body is doing is slowing down your metabolism. Your body is going into starvation mode meaning it will hold on to anything it has to keep you alive.
Don't stress out, what you have to do is keep a calorie count and not let yourself fall below 1200 calories at any point. Instead, Michaels' method suggest you increase your calorie intake up to 2400 for 3 days (and three days only!).
That sounds like an insane amount of additional calories, but remember that it's just 3 days only! Once you hit the three day mark, go back to the 1200-1500 calorie levels you're used to. You should see a difference shortly after.
3. CHANGE YOUR WORKOUT
You have been so great with your workout routine and diet plans that your body thinks this is easy. You're no longer struggling in those training sessions, you're no longer craving those cheat meals, basically, you got this!
...But actually you don’t.
What you’re not realizing is that BECAUSE your body is used to the diet and exercise you provide it, it’s basically just sitting back and relaxing. It doesn’t have to do any more work than it’s used to and it’s not any more or less hungry than it usually is.
Here is where you need to step up your workouts. Whatever weight you’re currently lifting, add 5lbs. However long your cardio is, add another 15-20 minutes. If you’re an elliptical loyalist, take a spin class or use the treadmill. If you’re just a weight lifter, add some cardio. Basically what I’m saying is, mix it up and (yes) your body will be sore, but it will react and you will see a change.
4. DRINK MORE WATER
It’s really very simple. Water can curb your appetite, help burn more calories, and increase your metabolism. The American College of Sports Medicine spells out nicely. Basically, your muscles need adequate hydration before your exercise; and after you exercise, your body needs to refuel what it sweat out.
So drink more water, but don’t be dramatic. Six to eight glasses of water a day is just right.
5. HORMONE IMBALANCE
If you are actually a fitness superstar and are counting your calories, trying to lose more than just vanity weight, have kicked up your workout, and you're actually drinking 8 glasses of water a day... well then you may consider getting yourself over to an endocrinologist, because you may have a hormone imbalance. Some types of imbalances include a thyroid disorder, insulin resistance, or polycystic ovary syndrome.
Listen to your body, if you’re doing all you can and your body is not reacting, it’s trying to tell you, “Help me, something is wrong!”
A plateau doesn’t always have to be a moment of discouragement. Use it to your advantage to try something new, and your body will thank you!