Q: Since January, I’ve lost 15 pounds of “epidemic” weight. I have more to lose but my weight loss seems stuck now. What gives?
Consistent weight loss is a normal but frustrating part of the weight loss process.
Early on, it’s motivating to see and feel your healthy eating efforts paying off. Your weight goes down, your clothes fit better and you have more energy. After a few months, weight loss slows down or stops, despite following a low-calorie diet that initially helped you lose weight.
In many cases, it is possible to move forward through the steady phase of weight loss. The key, first, is to understand why weight loss has stopped.
Biological responses to weight loss
There are physiological reasons that naturally slow weight loss.
When you lose weight, your body burns fewer calories at rest and during physical activity than it did before. That’s because a smaller body requires less energy to function than a larger body.
A reduced-calorie diet also leads to the loss of a small amount of muscle, which slows down the metabolism. (Resistance training and eating more protein can help counteract muscle loss from dieting.)
In addition, hormonal adaptations occur with weight loss that increase appetite and reduce feelings of satiety, which leads to a subconscious desire to eat.
Diet mistakes under the radar
There are other explanations for the stabilization phase in weight loss, the exact reasons you may not be aware of. Take a moment to determine if any of the following common roadblocks are hindering your progress.
Relax on the weekend
Without a weekday structure, it’s easy to get carried away from your meal plan on the weekends.
Larger meals and a few additional cocktails and/or snacks can appear on the scale on Monday morning. The result: you play during the week to lose that weight.
If weekends are slowing down your progress, plan your Saturday and Sunday meal in advance. It’s also helpful to keep track of your food intake from Friday to Sunday.
Consider weighing yourself on Friday and Monday to learn about weight gain at the end of the week.
Creeping portion sizes
It happens so gradually that most people don’t even notice. You pour more granola into your bowl, serve yourself an extra half cup of rice and eat six ounces of salmon instead of four. These extra calories accumulate day after day.
To make sure the “eyeball” of portions don’t turn off, re-evaluate portion sizes every now and then.
Use a digital food scale to weigh protein foods such as fish, chicken, and red meat. Use measuring cups for breakfast cereals and cooked cereals and measuring spoons for cooking oils, salad dressing, and nut butters.
Having a no-snack rule
Not including a healthy, filling snack in between meals may result in you arriving at your next meal feeling hungry. And more likely to overeat.
When meals are 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, apple slices with almond butter, or whole-grain crackers with tuna are good options.
To control calories, keep snacks to no more than 150 to 250 calories.
Eat more food because you exercise
If you burn 400 calories during a peloton workout, resist the temptation to add those calories back into your diet, thinking they balance out.
Research suggests that you can’t rely on exercise to increase calorie burn. The theory is that our brain responds to increased exercise by adjusting our metabolism to keep our daily energy expenditure within a narrow range.
In other words, you’ll burn similar calories throughout the day whether you exercise or not. Adding calories to your diets can lead to weight gain.
Don’t give up on exercise, though. Besides offering tremendous health benefits, regular exercise can also affect body composition, reduce stress, improve sleep, and improve mood.
lose sight of your goal
It’s not unusual for you to pay less attention to your goal after losing 15 pounds. After all, you feel good now.
But losing focus can make you less aware of your food choices and portion sizes. To keep you focused (and motivated), set small, short-term goals to help you lose the remaining weight.
If you feel you are closely following an enjoyable and sustainable eating plan, reassess your weight goal. It is possible that your goal is unrealistic.
Pat yourself on the back for your progress. And stay focused on maintaining your healthy habits.
Leslie Beck, a Toronto-based private dietitian, is Medcan’s director of food and nutrition. Follow her on Twitter Tweet embed
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