Even people who keep up on their weight loss diets and exercise regimens can run into periods during which they just can’t seem to lose weight. There can be a number of reasons for these “plateaus”, and a number of ways to overcome them.
How a Diet Can Cause Plateaus
Sometimes a weight loss plateau can just mean that the body has caught up to an adjusted diet. The body adjusts how it stores calories based on what it’s used to. This means that if the main part of your weight loss plan is the restriction of calories and carbs, it may work for a while your body takes note, but the body often sees calorie-restriction as a possible threat to survival and takes protective measures by storing more energy than it used to.
Just as the body noticed the change in calorie intake and adjusted its metabolism, it will eventually accept the new diet, and weight will start coming off again once the body realizes that it is still getting enough calories to survive.
It can be important not to give up on the diet at this point in the game. While plateaus can be disappointing, they are a natural part of the diet process. People who have trouble sticking to diets on the long term may find help in setting up a rewards program for reaching certain benchmarks, or just for staying up on their diet. Others find that joining a support network with other dieters can help them maintain their weight loss objectives. It can also be helpful to take brief breaks from time to time to make the diet more bearable and to keep the body guessing. After all, too constant a diet may have caused the plateau in the first place.
If the main point of the weight loss plan is a calorie or carb restricted diet, there are other aspects of a healthy lifestyle to consider as well. It may be time to think about the accompanying exercise regimen as well, as this can contribute to plateaus, or prevent plateaus in weight loss plans that only focus on diet and not on activity.
How an Exercise Regimen Can Cause a Plateau
While plateaus from the diet are something to more or less suffer through, plateaus from an exercise program are usually easy to fix. Like the body’s metabolism can change in response to changing calorie intake, muscle gain can slow after doing similar exercises. It can be easier to change exercises than the diet, however.
If using weights or machines, changing the weight can be one quick fix. Changing the number of reps can also help. It can also help to keep the body guessing by changing the kind of exercise altogether. Future exercise plateaus can be prevented by keeping exercise regimens diverse and keeping the body guessing. Lifting weights or using machines some days, doing body resistance exercises some days, and being sure to work in aerobics as well. It is also important to be sure to work different muscle-groups as well. Many exercise experts will set aside one day for legs, one for arms, one for the shoulders and back, and one for the core. Keeping a diverse exercise regimen can be a helpful way to prevent plateaus, which is helpful considering it can be hard to tell the source of a plateau.
If you primarily use body-resistance exercises like crunches, it can be hard to increase the weight, but the length of each rep can be increased. Try performing a rep, then holding it for a few seconds, and then going back down before repeating.
Is the Plateau Really a Problem?
Another important note to make on the topic of plateaus, is that it can be easy to perceive plateaus that may not be there, or to exaggerate the severity of a brief plateau. This can be particularly easy if one’s weight loss plan has been working particularly well so far.
Many “crash” diets will begin being very successful, and the results will start to become less remarkable over time. Once a crash diet begins to plateau it can be helpful to change the diet a little. This may mean accepting a more slow-burn weight loss plan, but no meaningful results will come from short-term efforts. On the other end, If one is on a diet that does not only focus on severe calorie or carb restriction it is important to note that sometimes these diets take longer to become effective.
Most importantly, whatever kind of diet is being employed, if the numbers are still going down it isn’t really a plateau. If numbers go down slowly, whether regularly or after they were declining more steeply, they are still going down. Weight loss decreasing without hitting a plateau is often a sign of the body becoming healthier and adjusting to the new diet, not a sign that something is wrong and that the diet needs to be changed.
People can also perceive a plateau where there isn’t one by not relying enough on all ques. People who are losing weight on the scale but not seeing a difference yet in the mirror should know that it can take time to notice weight loss, especially if they are hoping for it in a certain area.
Different exercises target different muscle groups, but it doesn’t work that way with fat, which is far more likely to gradually recede from all areas simultaneously rather than drastically from just the waist or the hips or wherever it is least desired. Doing sit-ups doesn’t cause a drastic decrease in fat around the middle, walking doesn’t cause a drastic decrease of only fat in the lower body, etc. If that is the kind of result that you are hoping for, it might be best to re-visit your personal philosophy on your diet anyway.
Weight loss plateaus can come in many forms and for many different reasons. While it can be hard to determine what that reason is, the important thing is to keep focused on the big picture and not lose faith over a period of flat numbers, or a seemingly unchanging figure. Many plateaus are just a sign that the diet is working, and will continue to pay off with perseverance.