Can you relate to any of these questions:
- You have recently lost a lot of weight, first quickly, then slowly and now...NOTHING despite no change in your workouts or nutrition.
- You have been slowly but consistently losing and now can't seem to make those numbers on the scale move.
- You want to lose those last 10 pounds but just can't seem to get there regardless of changes in your nutrition and exercise.
If so...you are most likely in a fitness or weight plateau! Here's the scoop...our metabolism is constantly trying to adapt to the way we are treating our bodies...good or bad. So, when we stop losing weight, it's our body's way of saying "Oh, I see you. I'm going to slow things down here and protect you from this change in calories and higher exercise level". It can last three to four weeks, or even longer.
Before sharing ways to address a plateau, I want to mention that I am NOT a licensed medical practitioner, and the safest route to truly address what's going on with your body is to talk to your general practitioner. The advice below is based on my own research and experience as a mama and health coach who is on her own health and fitness journey! Now that's out of the way, let's get to the good stuff!
- Stay The Course: Once you notice a plateau, you can try waiting it out to see if your body will start changing again after a few weeks. With this approach, it's very important to pay attention to NSVs (non-scale victories) such as your jeans feeling looser, more energy and your measurements changing. If you are noticing that the scale is not changing and you have not had ANY NSVs for a few weeks, you can move on to a few of the approaches below.
- Change Your Nutrition: Do NOT just consume less calories because your body will adapt! If you are exercising like a maniac and think that you must exercise more and eat less, then it's time to change your mindset. That approach is NO FUN, and who can maintain that anyway. It's a surefire way to burnout and much worse. When we consume a lower calorie intake and stay at it with no change, our bodies adapt by dramatically slowing down our metabolism and storing fat. It's very difficult to put muscle on this way!Try the "calorie zig zag" approach. The key to this is to take your weekly caloric intake, and over the course of one week have the same number of calories, but one day eat more calories, and the next day eat fewer. It confuses your body and makes it more difficult for it to adapt to a set point. Experiment with it! You can also try to zig zag a little bit more dramatically. One day create a bit more of a deficit but just one day. On days with fewer calories, so that you don't feel deprived, just maybe wake up a bit later and go to bed later. Getting extra sleep is ALWAYS a good thing and can also help break a plateau.
- Attention To Detail - In the beginning of a fitness journey, it's common to be very careful about rules for program - measuring, sticking to how much we are supposed to be eating, etc. Oftentimes, we may think that we are sticking with the plan, but we slowly we have gotten back into old habits. Try starting a food journal. This can be a very effective tool for unveiling hidden calories that you may have started consuming!
- Fitness Changes - Cross training is a great way to keeps your body confused. If the body knows what you will do every day, it gets really good at adapting and conserving calories. Muscles know how to conserve themselves even when you push to the max and at some point your body no longer burns calories at a maximum rate. Try to keep doing things different and not creating patterns that make it easy for your body to predict what's coming. The MOST effective workout is anything that is new, uncomfortable and gives your body a great workout!
- Plateaus are meant to protect us. When we are under stress, our body stores fat. Under a great deal of stress, and when we don't get enough sleep, weight is often stored in the mid-section. Hormones also have a part in this. When we workout 6-7 times a week, our body may think it's being attacked and under stress! It's so important to make sure to schedule a lower impact or restorative workout 1-2 times a week. Admittedly I'm guilty of wanting to push myself to the limit every single day, but studies now show that this leads to injuries, burnout and...plateaus!
- Finally, if you've tried all of these suggestions and they haven't worked, take a week off from exercise and change nutrition. Keep the same number of calories but change your diet. Perhaps go vegetarian or gluten free. Get more sleep during this time too!
In the end, remember that weight loss and living your best life is a marathon not a sprint! If you are in a plateau it means you are getting close to your goals. Do NOT give up! If you want some extra help, inspiration or advice feel free to join one of my challenge groups or reach out to me about getting to your goals!