How to break a slimming plateau?

When you lose weight, your body burns fewer calories at rest and during physical activity than before.Getty Images/iStockphoto

Q: Since January I have lost 15 “pandemic” pounds. I still have more to lose, but my weight loss seems stuck now. What gives?

Weight loss plateaus are a normal but frustrating part of losing weight.

In the beginning, it’s motivating to see and feel that your healthy eating efforts are paying off. Your weight goes down, your clothes fit better and you have more energy. A few months later, your weight loss slows or stops, despite following the low-calorie diet that initially helped you lose weight.

In many cases it is possible to get through a weight loss plateau. The key, first, is understanding why your weight loss has stalled.

Biological Responses to Weight Loss

There are physiological reasons why weight loss naturally slows down.

When you lose weight, your body burns fewer calories at rest and during physical activity than before. That’s because a smaller body needs less energy to function than a larger body.

A low-calorie diet also causes you to lose a small amount of muscle, which contributes to a slower metabolism. (Resistance training and eating more protein can help prevent muscle loss from dieting.)

Also, hormonal adjustments occur with weight loss that increase appetite and make you feel less full, resulting in an unconscious desire to eat.

Under-the-radar nutritional blunders

There are other explanations for weight loss plateaus, subtle culprits that you may not be aware of. Take a moment to determine if any of the following common obstacles are hindering your progress.

‘Relax’ on the weekend

Without the structure of weekdays, it’s easy to deviate from your meal plan on weekends.

Larger meals, a few cocktails and/or extra snacks can appear on the scale Monday morning. The result: you play catch-up during the week to lose that weight.

If weekends slow your progress, map out your Saturday and Sunday meal plan in advance. It’s also helpful to track your food intake from Friday through Sunday.

Consider weighing yourself on Friday and Monday mornings to become aware of your weight gain over the weekend.

Creeping portion sizes

It happens so gradually that most people don’t even notice. You pour a little more granola into your bowl, serve yourself an extra 1/2 cup of rice, and eat six ounces of salmon instead of four. Those extra calories add up day after day.

To make sure your “apple’s eye” of portions isn’t out, reassess portion sizes every so often.

Use a digital food scale to weigh protein foods such as fish, chicken and red meat. Use measuring cups for cereals and cooked cereals and measuring spoons for cooking oil, salad dressing and nut butter.

Having a no-snack rule

If you don’t have a healthy and satisfying snack between meals, you may arrive hungry at your next meal. And more likely to overeat.

When meals are more than four to five hours apart, include a small snack that contains protein and low-glycemic carbohydrates. A quarter cup of nuts or seeds, yogurt and berries, sliced ​​apple with almond butter, or whole-wheat crackers with tuna are good choices.

To keep calories in check, keep snacks to 150 to 250 calories.

Eat more because you exercised

If you burn 400 calories during your Peloton workout, resist the temptation to add those calories back into your diet thinking it’s balanced.

Research suggests you can’t rely on exercise to increase calorie burn. The theory is that our brains respond to more exercise by adjusting our metabolism to keep daily energy expenditure within a narrow range.

In other words, you burn similar calories over the course of the day whether you’re exercising or not. Adding exercise calories to your meals can actually lead to weight gain.

However, do not skip the exercise. In addition to tremendous health benefits, regular exercise can also affect body composition, reduce stress, improve sleep and improve mood.

Losing sight of your goal

It’s not uncommon to pay less attention to your goal after you’ve lost 15 pounds. After all, you feel great now.

But if you lose focus, you may become less aware of your food choices and portion sizes. To stay focused (and motivated), set small short-term goals to help you lose any remaining weight.

If you feel like you’re closely following an eating plan that’s fun and sustainable, re-evaluate your goal weight. Your target may not be realistic.

Pat yourself on the back for the progress you’ve made. And stay focused on maintaining your healthy habits.

Leslie Beck, a private dietitian in Toronto, is director of nutrition and nutrition at Medcan. Follow her on Twitter @LeslieBeckRD

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