Question: I’ve been watching my daily calories really carefully, exercising 3 times a week every week, usually on my stationary bike or using the treadmill or sometimes doing a class at the gym. It’s been about 4 months since I started doing all this, I am ready to lose weight, I’ve done the weight loss thing many times before but kept falling off.
Anyway, I started 4 months ago and I was doing really well, have been committed to my diet and exercise, and I was losing weight, I saw results every week, was feeling really great. But in the past two and a half weeks, the scale hasn’t moved AT ALL, nothing’s happening anymore! Is this a plateau? What am I doing wrong? What am I supposed to do now? Help please!
The SLIMQUICK Coach:
Committing yourself to a new lifestyle of healthy eating and exercise is AMAZING! Good for you!
Yes, it sounds like you’ve hit a plateau. Weight loss plateaus can feel really frustrating, no doubt about it. They’re common, but totally reversible and preventable. There are lots of things you can do to take the parking break off of your weight loss and get yourself rolling smoothly down the path to a lean body again.
Your Mind & Your Body Aren’t Always On the Same Page
First thing you need to know is an important secret about weight loss. It may be hard to swallow at first, but it will totally change your perspective on weight loss, diet and exercise.
In fact, it’s the very last thing in the world anybody wants to hear when trying to lose weight: Your body doesn’t want you to succeed at weight loss.
You see, the unfortunate fact of the matter is that the human body is genetically designed to gain weight – not lose it – and it’s programmed to hang on to that weight at all costs. Based on ancient times when our ancestors had to forage for food in the wild and go for days without eating, our brains and genes developed to accumulate fat as a mode of survival, to protect us from starvation. Because that’s what fat tissue was meant for in the first place – it’s your body’s emergency rations, a built-in calorie stockpile stashed away and reserved as back-up for times of food shortages, harsh living conditions, rough environments, predator attacks, times of sickness or illness, or any of the other situations that humankind has always faced and has limited our access to essential nourishing foods and clean water when we’ve needed it.
Basically, you have thousands of genes working hard at every moment to prevent you from starving to death…but hardly any to protect you from gaining weight!
That’s why plateaus happen. You start on a weight loss program, cutting calories and exercising, and you start to see weight loss results…but soon enough, your body starts to catch on to what you’re doing! You’re emptying its rainy-day calorie savings account! So your body adjusts in kind, slowing down your metabolic rate, burning calories at a slower rate to prevent further fat loss from continuing, lessening the number of calories your body burns on a daily basis. Fat loss starts to slow down and comes to a stand-still.
Happy body. Seriously pissed-off mind!
This means that the only type of weight loss plan that will be effective and STAY effective over the long term is one that re-programs your body to burn fat for survival instead of storing it. You can do this through the foods you eat and the types of exercise you do.
A Diet that Re-stimulates Fat Burning
For weight loss results that are healthy and that you can maintain in the long haul, you need to choose a diet that highlights macronutrient balance (a healthy balance between protein, carbohydrates and fats), whole natural foods, portion control and satiation, rather than simply calorie restriction.
Your body needs a steady supply of certain nutrients in order to live and keep functioning normally. If you aren’t providing those nutrients in the right balance simply for the sake of cutting calories, then everything starts to backfire – your body panics, goes into survival mode and start frantically stockpiling fat cells again.
That’s why the only type of diet that keeps you losing weight while avoiding plateaus is the kind that still moderates calorie intake, but that primarily focuses on addressing your various nutritional needs first and foremost. To stay healthy and promote continued weight loss, you have to eat in a way that works with – not against – your body’s natural default metabolic patterns.
The SLIMQUICK Mix & Match meal plan is a good example of this type of diet, which is designed to carefully balance lean protein foods, naturally high-fiber whole carb foods, and foods that contain a good balance of essential fatty acids. This meal plan also carefully distributes these foods throughout the day in a way that makes you feel satisfied and full of energy. A good weight loss meal plan must also highlight whole natural foods and eschew highly processed and artificial foods that your body isn’t equipped to utilize properly and that end up debilitating your digestive processes, your metabolism and your body’s ability to burn fat.
Moreover, a macronutrient-balanced diet helps to calibrate your hormones to burn fat without making your body think that it’s starving, unlike strictly calorie-focused diets that leave you feeling hungry, fatigued, emotionally and mentally low, and eventually run you into a weight loss plateau.
Learn more about how to eat right and properly balance your macro-nutrients to lose weight here
Exercise to Re-Stimulate Fat Burning
The right diet MUST be combined with exercise in order to ensure that your weight loss results keep rolling in and you don’t hit a plateau. The right exercise forces your body to burn up your body fat as a source of fuel, and to use the food you feed it to build up a powerful internal fat-burning machine – muscle – that prevents future fat from being stored.
How do you do this if your body would much rather hang on to fat instead? You have to prove to your body that you need muscle more than fat. You do this by challenging your body to do things it can’t do without a better, stronger system of muscles than what it’s already got.
The key word here is challenging. If the exercise you’re doing isn’t truly challenging – if you don’t feel your heart rate quicken, if you can get through the entire set of exercise without huffing for breath or struggling to lift that weight through the final reps – than investing food calories into muscles instead of fat just isn’t worth it for your body. In other words, you haven’t succeeded in convincing your body to let go of its fat after all. And so it won’t. And you won’t lose weight.
This means that knowing when to raise the bar for yourself and make your workouts more challenging – by increasing how much weight you are using, doing more repetitions, doing a more difficult version of an exercise, trying a different and higher intensity form of the exercise, etc. – is extremely important if you want to see continued weight loss success. Doing the same thing week in and week out is tempting, but it’ll eventually bring your weight loss to a disappointing halt.
The cliché is true: no pain, no gain. If you can get through your workout without a real struggle, than it’s time to increase the challenge level.
Blast Plateaus with Simple Exercise Tweaks
At first, your own body weight will provide enough of a challenge to get your heart pumping and your muscles working. But repeating the same exercises in the same ways over and over again will eventually throw you up against a weight loss road block. You have to keep changing the exercises you’re doing and increasing the challenge level of your routine in order to keep seeing your weight loss results moving in the direction you want them to. After 3 to 4 weeks of repeating a weekly exercise routine regularly, it’s time to change things up and increase the challenge level.
Ways to increase the challenge level of an exercise include:
- Adding a Jump.For example: turn your squats into jump squats; when you rise up from a lunge, jump up off the ground instead, and lunge again once you land; do a set of burpees in place of your regular set of push-ups; etc. Jumping forces your core muscles (tummy and back muscles) to turn on for balance, and your leg muscles to exert extra power to lift you off the ground. Jumping also gets your heart rate up and makes an ordinary exercise a lot trickier. Jumping jacks or skipping rope are simple exercises with a lot of power. You can use these sorts of jumping exercises as warm ups before a workout, or can even make them into full-blown, calorie-torching cardio sessions. Focus on making each jump intense, powerful, and throw in additional challenges like alternating jumping legs, including big arm movements, holding light weights when you jump, etc.
- Creating an unstable surface.You can do this by performing an exercise on one leg (make sure you alternate legs), or by placing one foot onto a low step, or a part of your body on a stability ball. Performing an exercise on an unstable surface forces your core muscles to work extra hard to compensate and keep you from falling.
- Slowing things down or speeding things up. Simply by changing the pacing of an exercise – for example, holding the most difficult part of the exercise for longer, or lowering and lifting a weight more slowly, or speeding up the entire sequence of a movement – forces your body to engage different muscles into the exact same exercise pattern, providing a brand new challenge.
- Increasing the resistance your body has to work against.You can do this by holding and lifting weights with different parts of your body in order to work out different muscle groups. Place a stability ball under your chest and perform the movement with only your upper body lifting and lowering.
VARIETY & CHALLENGE is the Key to Breaking Weight Loss Plateaus & Achieving Good Health
Eating a variety of healthy, wholesome, nutrient-packed foods along with an ever evolving, challenging exercise program is the formula to fight off weight loss stand-stills while keeping your body getting better and better, looking trimmer, leaner, healthier and stronger, day by day.