You’ve worked hard to follow a healthy, low-calorie diet and improve your exercise habits, and your reward has been watching the weight fall off and energy rise. But at some point, the scale can stop moving. You can hit what we call a weight-loss plateau…
It’s totally normal for weight loss to slow and sometimes stop. Let us help you understand what causes a weight-loss plateau, so you can decide how to respond and avoid any setbacks.
What Is A Weight-loss Plateau?
A weight-loss plateau eventually happens to everyone who tries to lose weight and happens when your body has acclimated to your current diet and exercise habits. Most people are surprised when it happens to them because they’re still eating carefully and exercising regularly. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, just a time to adjust.
What Causes A Weight-loss Plateau?
During the first few weeks of losing weight, a rapid drop is normal. Its because when you cut calories, the body gets needed energy initially by releasing its stores of glycogen, a type of carbohydrate found in the muscles and liver.
Glycogen is partly made of water, so when glycogen is burned for energy, it releases water, resulting in weight loss that’s mostly water. This effect is temporary, however.
As you lose weight, you lose some muscle along with fat. Muscle helps keep the rate at which you burn calories (metabolism) up. So as you lose weight, your metabolism declines, causing you to burn fewer calories than you did before.
Your slower metabolism will slow your weight loss, even if you eat the same number of calories that helped you lose weight.
When the calories you burn equal the calories you eat, you reach a plateau.
To lose more weight, you need to either increase your physical activity or decrease the calories you eat.
How Can You Overcome a Weight-loss Plateau?
When you reach a plateau, you may have lost all of the weight you will on your current diet and exercise plan. Ask yourself if you’re satisfied with your current weight or if you want to lose more, in which case you’ll need to adjust your weight-loss program.
If you’re committed to losing more weight, try these tips for getting past the plateau:
- Reassess your habits. Look back at your food and exercise tracker. Make sure you haven’t bent the rules anywhere, letting yourself get by with larger portions or less exercise.
- Cut more calories. Further, cut your daily calories, but don’t go below 1,200. Fewer than 1,200 calories a day may not be enough to keep you from constant hunger, which increases your risk of overeating.
- Revamp up your workout. Most people should exercise 30 minutes a day, nearly every day of the week. But people trying to lose weight should exercise more often than that or increase the intensity of exercise to burn more calories. Adding exercises such as weightlifting to increase your muscle mass will help you burn more calories even when you’re not working out.
- Pack more activity into your day. Think outside the gym. Increase your general physical activity throughout the day by walking more, or taking the stair. Try doing more yard work or intense cleaning. Any extra physical activity will help you burn more calories and soon your plateau will be broken.
How Long Does a Bariatric Plateau Last?
A bariatric plateau can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Generally, it is most common 3-6 months after bariatric surgery and can happen at any time in your weight loss journey. During this time it is important to stay on track and to be prepared for 1-3 plateaus during your first year after surgery.
Weight loss plateaus are normal and happen to everyone who is trying to lose weight. It is important to understand the causes of weight-loss plateaus and how to overcome them by reassessing habits, cutting more calories, and increasing physical activity. With the right strategies, you can break your weight-loss plateau and continue your weight-loss journey.