Why does weight loss plateau? The 8 things that could be halting your weight loss
Slimming World member discusses her seven-stone weight loss
If you’ve found you were losing weight easily to start with but not anymore, this could simply be down to a process called the weight loss plateau. This bodily function makes it extremely hard to maintain weight loss and is partly why 95 percent of diets fail. It’s totally disheartening when your weight loss is halted but you’re not at your goal weight yet, so is there anything you can do about it? Express.co.uk chatted to Dr Deborah Lee from Dr Fox Online Pharmacy to find out what to do when your weight loss starts to plateau.
No weight loss journey is completely linear and you might find that you go through a period where you cannot lose any weight or you might have even gained weight.
Dr Lee said this is called the weight-loss plateau and it’s totally natural.
She explained: “Your body does its best to thwart your attempts to lose weight.
“In fact, for each kilogram of weight lost, your daily calorie expenditure decreases 20 to 30 percent per day, whereas your appetite increases 100 calories per day above the level before you began your diet.
“This means the weight is lost relatively easily at the start of the diet, but losing weight becomes harder and harder as time passes.”
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Weight loss plateau: Have you STOPPED losing weight?
Weight loss plateau: Most diets fail
Weight loss plateau isn’t a condition you can treat, it’s a necessary process.
Dr Lee said: “It’s a normal bodily function that simply means maintaining weight loss after the end of the diet is a very difficult thing to achieve.
“The difference between those who manage to keep their weight off and those who do might be as little as 100 calories per day.
“This is why successful diets, where you lose weight and keep it off require long term changes in lifestyle and eating habits and behavioural change.”
You’re not going to keep losing weight or avoid gaining weight that you’ve lost if you’re living unsustainably, so it’s time to make healthy lifestyle changes to keep your weight loss journey flowing.
Here are the eight things that could be slowing down your weight loss, alongside the plateau.
Weight loss plateau: Drink two litres of water a day
Not getting enough sleep
Not getting enough sleep has a major effect on your weight.
All adults are recommended seven hours of good quality sleep every night.
Dr Lee said: “Studies in which sleep has been restricted, have shown an increase in levels of ghrelin, a decrease in levels of leptin, an increase in chronic inflammation, and a reduction in insulin sensitivity. Ghrelin and leptin are hunger hormones.
“Obesity also results in an increased risk of various sleep disorders, including sleep apnea.”
Not drinking enough water
Although water doesn’t help you lose weight faster, if you are dehydrated this is not good for your health, and you can confuse being thirsty with being hungry.
We should all be aiming to drink at least two litres of water per day.
Dr Lee added: “Have a glass of water before every meal and this will help fill you up.”
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Not taking enough exercise
Weight loss programs are generally more effective in terms of weight loss if they are followed in conjunction with increased levels of physical exercise, rather than just using calorie restriction alone.
Dr Lee explained: “The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 200 to 300 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous exercise per week, for those who want to lose weight.
“These should be taken as 30 to 60-minute episodes most days of the week.
“Exercise improves your cardiorespiratory fitness and it also helps in the equation – to lose weight you need to be taking in fewer calories and expending more energy.
“The key here is to avoid being sedentary and get moving!”
Do you spend all day sitting at a computer, then rush home to spend the evening curled up on the couch? Don’t do this!
Your fitness routine doesn’t need to include an expensive gym – Dr Lee advises getting busy at home, doing the chores and gardening.
You can take regular brisk walks and do any activities that challenge your cardiovascular system.
Weight loss plateau: Make sure you’re exercising enough
Not being honest about what you eat
Human beings are prone to underestimate their calorie intake and then overestimate the amount of exercise they have taken.
The only way to keep this in check is to keep a careful food diary, according to Dr Lee.
She explained: “Write down everything you eat and your exercise routines – be honest.
“You will probably surprise yourself when you look back over the week and you haven’t lost any weight!”
Take care with portion control to ensure you’re not overeating.
The doctor suggested: “You might want to try a smaller plate –remember that half the plate is for salad or vegetables, a quarter of the plate is for protein, and another quarter of the plate is for complex carbs (such as rice or potato).
“High-fat foods such as cheese, oil or butter should be only half of one tablespoon. You need to stick to this even when eating out.
“If you like snacking, always choose a healthy snack such as plain fruit or a handful of nuts but avoid cakes, biscuits, sweets, and chocolate as well as alcohol.
“Be honest about what goes into your mouth and put it in your food diary – you will be surprised at the end of the week.”
Weight loss plateau: Always complete a food journal
Not having enough fibre in your diet
Fibre is an indigestible carbohydrate that passes out of your tail end in the faeces unchanged, so it’s vital for your digestive system.
Dr Lee said: “Fibre bulks out the intestinal contents and stimulates the gut wall to keep things moving through at the right speed.
“Too little fibre results in lowered gut motility and constipation, but eating enough fibre speeds up the transit of food and loosens the stools.
“Fibre also helps to reduce the amount of fat absorbed from the intestines.”
Make sure you have plenty of high fibre foods in your diet, such as figs, prunes, kiwi, and whole grains such as brown bread, brown rice and pasta.
Don’t go it alone – join a weight loss group
Medical studies suggest you are more likely to lose weight and keep it off if you have peer support.
If your weight loss has started to plateau, why not enlist a friend to help or join a weight loss group such as Slimming World or WW?
Dr Lee explained: “Many people who have successfully lost weight attribute their success to attending the group sessions.
“Being in a weight loss group creates a community feeling, in that all the others present have similar problems and similar goals.”
Weight loss plateau: It’s hard to keep the weight off
Not eating enough protein
If you don’t eat enough protein, this can make you hungry and stall your weight loss.
Dr Lee noted: “The metabolic pathway for digesting protein uses up more calories than those for fat and carbohydrates.
“If you go for a high-protein diet, this can speed up your calorie consumption by 80 to 100 calories per day, compared to eating a low protein diet.”
You are eating the wrong carbs
Choose to eat carbs with a low GI index – these release energy slowly, so help you feel fuller for longer.
Dr Lee said: “These are unrefined carbs found in whole grains as in brown bread, brown rice and brown pasta (a baked potato has a medium GI index.)
“Avoid foods with a high GI index such as white foods – white bread, white rice, and white pasta. Also cakes, biscuits and sweets.”