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How to overcome a weight loss plateau

Weight loss plateaus are normal — here's how to break through

How to overcome a weight loss plateau
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If you're on a weight loss journey, chances are you've experienced a weight loss plateau — that annoying phase where you suddenly stop losing weight. There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason why a weight loss plateau occurs and it can be incredibly frustrating when you've been on a roll with losing weight.

The important thing to remember here is that weight loss isn't linear and it's actually normal for your weight to fluctuate on a regular basis. And, while this can be annoying, remember that it is normal and happens to many people.

If you're in the midst of a weight loss plateau or you've experienced one in the past and want to be equipped with information on how to break through the plateau should it happen again, we're here to help. Here's what you need to know.

What is a weight loss plateau?

Weight loss occurs when you consistently burn more calories than you consume, which results in a "caloric deficit" [1]. When you start increasing your exercise and decreasing the number of calories you consume, you should begin losing weight.

However, when your body adjusts to the weight loss brought on by reduced calorie consumption and increased physical activity, weight loss plateaus can occur. Muscle helps to keep up the rate at which your metabolism burns calories but as you lose weight, you also tend to lose a bit of muscle, which can slow your metabolism rate [2].

This means your body will begin burning fewer calories than you were, despite you keeping up your healthy habits and this is where a plateau can occur.

A plateau can be incredibly frustrating when you're continuing to eat a balanced diet and move your body but shifting weight feels like it becomes almost impossible. After all of your hard work, it can feel disheartening to experience a plateau.

How long does a weight loss plateau last?

A weight loss plateau usually involves your weight stabilising for at least three to four weeks. In some cases, you might even experience a small weight regain and if this happens, that's okay!

As we mentioned earlier, your weight loss journey won't ever be a straightforward process and it's best to take it one day at a time.

What causes a weight loss plateau?

While a weight loss is to be expected at some point in your journey, it doesn't make it any less frustrating. Here's why you might be experiencing a plateau.

Old habits

After weeks of following a calorie-restricted diet, it can be easy for old habits to creep in. This could manifest in snacking on something while you're cooking dinner, starting to go back for seconds after a meal or including a small afternoon or post-dinner treat.

While these changes are small, they can have a larger effect on your overall energy intake over time. If you have found yourself slipping into old habits like these, it might be worth tracking your food intake again.

Eating the right amount of calories

When you lose fat, you will usually lose a little muscle as well. And, as muscle helps keep your metabolic rate higher, as you lose weight, you begin to burn fewer calories.

To help kickstart the weight loss again, you might need to work out your new calorie requirements with your weight.

But, it's important to remember that you shouldn't reduce your calories after a certain point — around 1200 calories — as it can send your body into starvation mode, which can increase your hunger and craving signals and make you feel lethargic and further contribute to your weight loss plateau.

Muscle weighs more

Chances are your fitness level has increased since kicking off your weight loss journey and if you're amping up your weight training, you will put on some lean muscle mass. Lean muscle tends to carry more water and is heavier than fat and if you're converting body fat into muscle, your weight loss can slow down.

This doesn't mean you're no longer making progress. Instead, your progress has shifted to your muscle mass.

Survival mechanism

There are thousands of processes that occur in your body each day, with one of these processes involving chemical messengers that instruct the body on what to do. These messengers are involved in the eating and drinking process, where your hormones ghrelin and leptin regulate your hunger and fullness signals.

Dieting for a prolonged period of time can affect your body and cause it to turn down your fullness hormones in order to make you feel more hungry more often.

Your weight loss efforts can also be hampered by other hormones that instruct the body to converse as much energy as possible, which is achieved by slowing down the metabolism as you are losing weight.

How to break a weight loss plateau

Each person's body is different so breaking through a weight loss plateau won't look the same for everyone. And, you might have to try a few different things in order to continue losing weight.

Here's what you can try.

Keep a food diary

Before you change up your routine, it can be helpful to keep a food and physical activity diary for a few days to a week. This will allow you to reflect on your habits and highlight where you might have lost some momentum when it comes to your weight loss goals.

Meal replacement shakes

As the plateau drags on, it can feel like it might never end. And, as a result, frustration can build. If you feel like you need a little kickstart, meal replacement shakes could prove to be helpful.

Juniper's Nourish Shakes are dietitian-approved meal replacement shakes that offer the nutritional benefits of a balanced meal. In fact, each shake contains 20 minerals and nutrients and covers 40 per cent of your daily vitamin needs for immunity and overall health.

They also contain high-quality protein in the form of whey protein, which contains all 9 essential amino acids and helps to limit the loss of muscle mass in the body. And yes, these meal replacement shakes will work to help with your weight loss goals.

On the Rapid weight loss plan, which involves consuming two meal replacement shakes per day, it's normal to lose up to two kilos a week for the first four to six weeks, then 0.6kg each week beyond that [3].

On the Steady weight loss plan, which involves consuming one shake per day, you can lose up to four per cent of your body weight in 12 weeks, when combined with a low-calorie diet [4].

Protein, protein, protein

We touched on how your metabolism can slow down when you begin to lose lean muscle alongside fat. So, to help keep your metabolism firing, it's important that you're consuming enough protein, which helps to preserve your muscle tissue.

The best way to approach this is by including a source of protein at every meal and if you're including a snack in your day, make sure it's high in protein.

Sweat it out

When you've plateaued with your weight loss, this can be a great time to take your workouts to the next level. It might be time to switch up your exercise routine or try something new like strength training.

You can also try reducing your rest periods during your workouts or work on your pace. Whatever it might be, changing up your approach to exercise can help build muscle mass and improve your cardiovascular endurance, which in turn, helps burn calories.

The importance of celebrating non-scale victories

While it can be exciting to see the numbers on the scale go down, this isn't the only measure of success when it comes to losing weight. And, when you're in the midst of a weight loss plateau, it can be even more important to celebrate these non-scale victories.

Try writing a list of all the changes you've experienced since you embarked on the process of losing weight and improving your health. This might include feeling more in control of your eating, learning to stop emotional eating in its tracks, changes in your measurements, being able to exercise for a longer period of time, improvements in your mental health and feeling more confident.

It’s more than just weight loss

Thousands of Australian women have found new confidence with Juniper.

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