It seems that every single week there is a new diet or weight loss program that’s guaranteed to deliver mind-blowing results. Rather than jumping on the bandwagon with every new fad, or the next rapid weight loss diet, why don’t we try listening to our bodies?
Our bodies often give us hints about when we should eat, and when we shouldn’t eat. When your body needs more calories for fuel, you may feel hunger pangs, shakiness, and clouded thinking.
Ignoring these signs can actually slow down your metabolism. This is one of the reasons why fad diets are often more detrimental to our goals than they are beneficial.
When your weight has started to plateau, it could be because you’re denying your body the things it needs. While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to weight loss, there are some general rules of thumb that should be followed, that we’ll touch on in this article.
But first, we’re going to take a little look at what exactly a weight loss plateau is, and what it is that causes it.
What is a weight loss plateau?
Essentially, a weight loss plateau is when your weight stops decreasing, and you stop noticing changes when you jump on the scale. This will happen eventually to everyone who is following a weight loss program.
For those who are sticking to eating well and exercising regularly, this often comes as a frustrating surprise.
What causes you to stop losing weight?
It’s normal to experience a rapid drop in weight when you start trying to lose weight. Part of the reason for this is that when you first cut your calorie intake, your body gets the energy it requires by releasing its stores of glycogen, a type of carbohydrate that is found in the liver and the muscles, and the main source of fuel for our cells.
Each gram of glycogen is stored with about 3 grams of water, so when glycogen is burned for energy, the resulting weight loss is mostly water loss. However, this effect is only temporary.
Also Read: How long does it take to notice weight loss?
Another reason for plateauing is to do with metabolism. Over a period of weight loss, you lose muscle along with the fat. Muscle is important for keeping up the metabolism, as this muscle mass loss causes the metabolism to decline, meaning you burn fewer calories than you did when you were heavier.
This slower metabolism will mean a slower weight loss, even if you’re eating the same amount of calories as you did throughout your weight loss journey. With a slower metabolism, the number of calories consumed will begin to equal the number burnt, so you will reach a plateau.
How to kickstart your body when you want to lose weight
To kickstart your body back into losing weight, increasing exercise is an option to burn more calories. However, it’s also important to remember that your eating habits plays a big part in how your body changes. Whether you’re a weight loss novice or a long-timer, it’s handy to remind yourself of some of the basic rules of weight loss, to help you stay on track.
When you’ve found that you’ve hit a plateau in your weight loss journey, try taking it back to basics:
1. Stay hydrated
Our body is made up of around 60% water, therefore staying hydrated is essential for our health. It’s also important for weight loss, and weight management. Here are some of the reasons why staying hydrated is so vital:
- Regulates the body temperature
- Helps with digestion
- Helps to protect the joints
- Essential for rebuilding blood
- Helps to detoxify the body
- Keeps your skin looking fresh and youthful
2. Improve your diet
If you’re looking to lose weight, make sure your food intake reflects this. Opt for healthy whole foods, full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Rapid weight loss diets often advocate drastic measures such as avoiding entire food groups. However, a balanced diet should consist of nutritious foods from each food group. To keep your body happy, eat a wide variety of foods so that you consume plenty of nutrients.
Don’t be scared of consuming fat, just make sure it’s healthy fats, such as avocado, nuts, and seeds.
3. Practice mindful eating
When the stresses are piling up, and you feel like you simply don’t have time to sit down to eat, it may be tempting to scoff down a quick meal deal at your desk.
If weight loss is your goal, this approach to eating simply won’t work. It’s important to savour every meal, eating slowly and mindfully, remaining aware of what you’re putting in your body.
Eating too quickly can lead to overeating, as your body doesn’t have time to recognise that it’s full.
After a meal, your body releases fullness hormones, which reduce your appetite and tell you to stop eating. This process takes about 20 minutes, meaning the slower you eat your meal, the less likely you are to overeat.
4. Don’t skip breakfast
Some diets purport the idea that skipping breakfast will help you to lose weight, by cutting the calories you consume in a day. However, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
Studies found that most people who lose weight and maintain this loss, eat breakfast every day. However, like with all meals, make sure that your breakfasts are healthy, and full of nutritious whole foods.
A high protein breakfast is a great way to start the day, but, in general, a healthy, balanced breakfast should constitute a combination of protein, complex carbohydrates (avoid refined carbohydrates), healthy fat and fiber, to help you feel fuller for longer.
5. Keep your body moving
A healthy diet alone won’t help you to lose weight if you have a sedentary lifestyle. Regular exercise is an important component of weight loss.
Exercise doesn’t have to be boring, or involve slogging away in the gym 5 days a week. There are so many options for moving your body, that there really is something for everyone. Whether it’s trying a new dance class, taking up spinning, or swimming in your local pool – explore the different options on offer until you find the right exercise for you. After all, if you enjoy it, you’re more likely to stick with it.
6. Avoid processed foods
Processed food really is the enemy of weight loss. They’re pumped full of sugar, fat, and sodium, and they can be just as addictive as nicotine. As a result, you keep on coming back for more, lining the pockets of food companies.
While these types of food taste good, too much of them can lead to health issues such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.
In general, try to avoid foods with a long ingredient list, especially if it contains ingredients that you struggle to pronounce, or don’t recognise.
7. Avoid poor sleep
One of the leading causes of weight gain is stress. This is because, when we’re stressed, the body releases the hormone cortisol, which leads to an increased appetite. If you don’t get enough sleep, the levels of cortisol in the blood rise, which can cause you to eat more, leading to weight gain.
8. Don’t eat while watching TV
Try to avoid eating dinner in front of the TV, or with your phone in your hand. Food should be eaten at a table, in an environment that allows you to focus on your meal. If you eat while distracted, you run the risk of overeating.
9. Use a smaller plate
This is a classic piece of advice, and for good reason: it works. Eating from a smaller plate will stop you from overloading your plate with a larger portion than you need.
Use a small plate, and eat slowly, so that your body has time to recognise fullness.
10. Keep your weight loss goals realistic
One of the most important things to remember with weight loss is that it takes time. Gaining weight happens over a long period of time, and so does losing pounds. Any products or remedies that claim instant weight loss could have detrimental effects on your health, and they run the risk of leading to yo-yo dieting.
Also Read: How to calculate your weight loss percentage
11. Listen to your cravings
Listen to your body, as it will often tell you what you need, through cravings. There are healthy cravings such as celery, fruit, or plain cheese.
However, for most people, a craving is associated with food items such as milk chocolate, donuts, or pizza. It’s important to remember that cravings are often an indication of a nutritional imbalance in the body, and finding a healthy alternative for an unhealthy craving is required to maintain good health.
If you find that you persistently suffer from cravings, you may want to talk to a healthcare professional, as you may have a hormone imbalance.
Don’t let a plateau ruin your weight loss goals
A weight loss plateau isn’t the be-all and end-all, and it certainly doesn’t mean that you should abandon your attempts to lose weight.
Sometimes, it may be necessary to revisit your weight loss goals. This is especially true if it would be unwise, and unhealthy, to further decrease your calorie intake or increase your exercise levels. It may be the case that the goal weight you’re aiming for is unrealistic. Remember, a healthy body is more important than any aesthetic ideal, or number on the scale.
That being said, don’t simply give up and revert back to unhealthy habits. This will lead to weight gain, which would be a waste of all your hard work. Celebrate how far you’ve come, and concentrate on the positive changes that this journey has brought about.
The bottom line – how to lose weight safely
The key to reaching a healthy weight is to approach weight loss as a long-term commitment to a healthier lifestyle. If you try to achieve rapid weight loss, the chances are you will temporarily commit to unsustainable habits, such as a dangerously low-calorie diet, which will make maintaining weight loss impossible in the long run.
Sustainable weight loss means committing to a healthy lifestyle, composed of a balanced diet full of healthy foods, regular physical activity, and a regular good night’s sleep.
While there are bound to be ups and downs along the course of your weight loss journey, reaching a healthy weight is an achievable goal, as long as you’re willing to commit to healthy habits.
Make losing weight easier on yourself
Losing weight can be an emotional and stressful journey. You’ll certainly have your fair share of ups and downs when it comes to results. You may see losses on the scales but not see or feel them on your body for a long time, but it will happen.
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