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Q.

My weight has hit a plateau. What do I do?

Related Topics: Weight
 

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A.

There are several reasons why your weight can hit a plateau, including:

  • Losing weight too quickly. When this happens, your metabolism (the rate at which your body burns calories) can slow down because your body senses it is starving. Rapid or large amounts of weight loss can slow your metabolism by as much as 40% in six months.
  • Losing muscle. When you lose weight, up to 25% can come from muscle tissue. And since muscle is the engine in your body that burns calories and helps maintain your metabolism, losing it can hinder weight loss. Weightlifting can help preserve and build muscle.
  • Reaching your body's particular set point -- the weight and metabolic rate your body is genetically programmed to be. Once you reach that point, it's much harder to lose weight and even if you do, you're likely to regain it. If you're at a weight at which you've hit a plateau in the past, if your body generally seems to gravitate toward that weight, and you're within a BMI (body-mass index) range of 20 to 25, then you may be at your set point.
  • Decreasing your physical activity and/or increasing your caloric intake. People lose weight all the time by reducing their caloric intake without doing any exercise, but it's almost impossible to keep weight off without exercising. Many scientists agree that physical activity is the single best predictor of whether a person will maintain a weight loss.
  • Other health factors, including thyroid or adrenal gland problems; medications like antidepressants; quitting smoking; menopause; and pregnancy.

Even with any of the above factors, the bottom line to losing weight is eating fewer calories than you burn. Studies show that people almost always underestimate how many calories they're eating. So if you're struggling with weight loss, you're still exercising, and you've ruled out any of the above reasons for weight plateaus, look at your calorie intake.

As for exercise and weight plateaus, sometimes a change in routine can help. Instead of the treadmill, try the bike, or the stepper. Instead of a dance class, try a stretch and tone class. If you're not weight lifting, this would be a good time to start. If you already do aerobic exercise, try adding intervals (short bursts of higher-intensity exercise) to your aerobic workouts. And keep reminding yourself that if you maintain an active lifestyle and continue with healthy eating, you will reach your goals.

This answer should not be considered medical advice...down arrowThis answer should not be considered medical advice and should not take the place of a doctor’s visit. Please see the bottom of the page for more information or visit our Terms and Conditions.up arrow

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Archived: March 20, 2014

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A.

It can be frustrating when you’re putting so much hard work into losing weight only to hit a plateau. Don’t be discouraged; a few simple changes may be all that you need.

For exercise, consider the F.I.T.T. principle:
F – Frequency – How often or how many days you exercise
I – Intensity – How hard you work during your exercise
T – Time – How long or how many minutes you spend per session.
T – Type – The type of activity that you are doing

Making adjustments in one of these areas could help you break through your plateau. Of course, the more that you do with your exercise, the greater the benefits you should see from it. 

For example, let’s say that your current exercise routine is walking three times per week for thirty minutes at a moderate intensity. You could add more days per week or spend more time per session to expend more calories and hopefully further boost your metabolism to promote weight loss. Try increasing the intensity by walking at a quicker pace or incorporating intermittent bouts of jogging. You could also try carrying arm weights, having a weighted backpack, or incorporating more hills or inclines to challenge yourself further.

Your body may have just become accustomed to your exercise routine, so sometimes it can also be helpful to change the type of activity as well. Try different forms of cardiovascular exercise or try doing strength-building exercise if you’re not already.

With nutrition, try reassessing your dietary intake. In what ways can you eat healthier? Can you eat out less often or drink less soda? What about having less chips, pastries, or candy? Can you increase your fruit or vegetable intake? Try food journaling to track and monitor your dietary intake so that you can better recognize areas for improvement. Don’t forget to reevaluate your calorie needs as you continue to lose weight.

Keep working at it! Often times the best way to break through a plateau is simply persistence!

This answer should not be considered medical advice...down arrowThis answer should not be considered medical advice and should not take the place of a doctor’s visit. Please see the bottom of the page for more information or visit our Terms and Conditions.up arrow

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