Nancy, I’ve lost 40 pounds and I want to lose another 10 pounds — but I have hit a plateau. I’m so frustrated… what should I do???
Yes, weight plateaus are indeed frustrating for dieters who can’t quite get to their desired weight. Those last five to ten pounds can be tough to shed. Yet, research suggests people do not hit a plateau due to metabolic issues (1). Rather, they find it hard to sustain a lower and lower calorie intake. That is, your body is now lighter than when you started dieting and it requires fewer calories. The lighter you are, the less you get to eat. That is not much fun, is it?
If you are battling a weight-loss plateau, these suggestions might be helpful:
—Assess if you really do have more fat to lose. Maybe what you see as “fat” is actually “flesh” (with empty fat cells)? This is particularly true for reduced obese people who have lost 100 pounds or so and they have a lot of skin flapping around their mid-section.
—Pay attention to how much you are actually eating. Baby carrots might be a healthy snack for dieters, but carrots are not “free.” If you eat the whole 16-ounce bag of carrots, you are eating 175 calories. Yes, even “healthy foods” have calories that add up and need to be counted…
— Perhaps you have become a “sedentary athlete.” That is, after you have fervently exercised for an hour each morning, do you then sit for the rest of the day? One hour of exercise does not compensate for a day dominated by sedentary behavior. Maybe an exercise tracker or a step counter could inspire you to move more during the entire day?
–Perhaps you could start lifting weights (if you do not already do so) to build muscle. Muscle is an active tissue that burns more calories than does body fat. During weight loss, you lose muscle. The less muscle you have, the less food you can eat. By lifting weights to curb further loss of muscle—as well as rebuild the muscle you lost while dieting, you will not only become stronger, but will also boost your calorie burn.
For more help with weight management, read the chapter on “How to Lose Weight and Have Energy to Exercise” in my Sports Nutrition Guidebook.