You can’t understand why your weight loss is slow. You signed up for the latest diet plan. Your enthusiasm is palpable and this time you’re going to do whatever it takes to shift those excess pounds.
It all goes brilliantly for the first two weeks and then your weight loss completely stalls. Some days you’re even gaining weight and you’re convinced the scales are lying…
Welcome to the hell hole of weight loss plateau. I have been there so many times and I’m ready to give you some tips to find the escape hatch…
Do You Need To Lose Weight?
Ask yourself this one question.
Are you chasing an impossible dream?
I don’t mean that in any “you don’t deserve to lose weight content”. It’s just that anorexia and eating disorders are on the rise and the statistics are shocking.
This article is for people who want to reach a healthy weight, not for people trying to get to impossible levels of extremely low body fat egged on by fake images on social media.
I’ve known too many people with eating disorders in my lifetime. It destroys lives.
If you do need to lose weight, please read on.
The Cause Could Be Your Diet
What the… I know this is so frustrating…
So many diets rely on really low calorie intakes to get quick results. The problem is crash diets slow down your body’s metabolism. It’s a bit like sending your body into hibernation mode.
Crash diets will often leave you dehydrated so as soon as you re-hydrate the weight goes back on. The NHS points out some of the issues with crash diets such as headaches, dizzyness, constipation and cramps. Even your hair thinning!
It’s not good! Unless you’ve been advised otherwise by your doctor, (you can sometimes be told to go on a really low calorie diet if you’re clinically obese), it’s far better to opt for slow and steady weight loss.
Most of us don’t want to end up back on a diet in a year’s time. Instead, gradually losing weight, 1lb to 2lb a week is far more sustainable.
As long as the number on the scale is gradually going down, don’t worry about how long it takes. For some people just losing 0.5lb a week will be a big deal.
Don’t sweat it. Life is about more than chasing numbers on a scale. Start living more, being active and the weight will be easier to drop.
There May Be Underlying Health Issues
Before we dig into the most likely reasons your weight loss is slow, you may want to rule out any health issues.
(I lucked out developing a goitre on my neck when my son was a toddler. The goitre eventually cleared up but I now live with borderline hypothyrodism).
Thyroid issues are common and will affect one in eight women during their lifetime. Many women don’t realise they have a problem, so I suggest seeking out medical advice if you have any concerns.
It’s Normal For Your Weight To Fluctuate
I’m sure most of you will know your weight fluctuates during the day. It can change by several pounds depending on:
- when you last had food
- if you’re fully hydrated
- or even the type of food you’ve had to eat.
Salty food and carbs will make your body retain water. This means the food you had to eat at lunch or the day before can add pounds to your weight on the scales.
It’s the main reason so many people lose a lot of weight quickly when they start a low carb diet. A lot of the weight lost in the first week will be water.
If you’re female, you can expect your weight to fluctuate even more. You don’t need me to tell you how bloated your period makes you feel!
How To Keep Track Of Your Weight When It Fluctuates
I find the best way to keep track of weight loss is to weigh myself first thing every morning. (After I’ve been for a wee of course)!
Instead of getting too hung up on what the scale is telling me every day, I track the wins. I record my lowest figure for the week.
As long as my “lowest figure” keeps going down overall I’m happy. I back this up using a tape measure.
I measure my waist, hips, thighs and the widest part I can find around my bottom. You can also measure your arms if it’s somewhere you gain weight.
Why do you need to take measurements?
Muscle is heavier than body fat. So if you’re combining your diet with increased exercise – and you should be, you could be gaining muscle weight.
This doesn’t mean your diet is failing. It means you’re getting stronger and fitter. The tape measure is the best way to confirm you’re still shifting body fat.
Your Weight Loss Is Slow Because You’re Eating More Than You Think
Diets based around calorie counting, (or points counting), can be difficult to stick to. There’s the slice of toast you forget to account for or the cheeky biscuit you had with your coffee.
Quickly forgotten, but slip ups like this can throw your planned calorie deficit out the window. They also do little to change your eating habits and help you make the switch to healthy eating.
In many ways it’s not so much the quantity, but what you’re eating that counts. These are the two main culprits high-jacking both your diet and your overall health:
- Processed foods. These are laden with refined carbohydrates, unhealthy canola or vegetable oils, excessive sodium and additives. Think of processed food as junk calories. It leaves your body searching for more food to get the nutrients it needs.
- Added sugar. Sugar is highly addictive. How many people are able to eat just one sweet. It’s really difficult. When you’re trying to lose weight it’s best to quit sugar completely or use natural sweeteners such as green stevia, rice malt syrup or honey in moderation.
For many people ditching the diets and opting for healthy eating is a much better way to lose weight.
You’re Eating Too Many Carbs
I’m nervous about putting this. I know it’s trendy to restrict carbs but the problem is the medical profession is completely divided on the issue.
The only theory that really stacks up about weight loss is needing to eat less calories than your burn every day.
Calories in < calories out if you want to lose weight.
This is tough! For most people it’s just about impossible.
It’s almost a full-time job counting calories and measuring out portions. Who has the time? You have to really love measuring stuff!
Then when you fail, and let’s face it most people do, you’re right back at square one.
It’s far easier to cut down on carbs.
I find I don’t need to go really low on the amount of carbs I eat. By exercising daily, I can go for a moderate level of carbs and still lose weight.
This is my typical diet:
- Breakfast (about 8am): Porridge with whole milk and whole fat yogurt
- Lunch (about 3pm): a big bowl of salad with hummus, olives and halomi
- Main meal (about 7-8 pm): it depends on how hungry I am. Sometimes I just have a omelette filled with chopped tomatoes. Sometimes it’s more substantial. For example, I might have chili. If I’m really hungry, I’ll have a little rice or a small sweet potato.
I will snack on a handful of nuts or fruit. Watermelon is my favorite. It’s a high sugar fruit but it’s mainly water and really fills me up.
Experiment and find out what works for you. Some people will need to go easy on the fruit if their weight loss is stalling and some may need to cut it out completely to reach their goal weight.
I need my porridge to be able to run or walk at mid-day. Its about finding a balance. The idea should be to get fit and healthy, not just to lose weight.
Your Weight Loss Is Slow Because You’re Doing The Wrong Sort Of Exercise
It’s easy with exercise to get into your comfort zone. If you want to lose weight, the best way is to find your comfort zone then push yourself a little bit harder.
I can’t say do this or do that when it comes to exercise. It depends on where you’re starting from.
If you haven’t exercised in years, a fast paced walk is a good place to start. (Always get medical advice before launching into a sudden exercise program).
The trick with weight loss is to keep challenging yourself.
Your fast paced walk starts to feel easy? Try a slow run!
A slow run feels easy? Try running faster.
It’s intensity that makes the difference.
I know so many runners who are “fat but fit”. From a health point of view there’s nothing wrong with that, but slipping into slow long distance mode for run after run just doesn’t challenge your body.
If you want your times to improve, and your weight on the scales to come down, up the intensity. It doesn’t matter whether you’re walking, running. doing yoga, unless you’re spending hours every day exercising, (and who has the time), your body needs to be worked hard if you want to lose weight.
You’re Not Building Muscles
It’s a fact that muscles burn more energy than fat cells. Building muscles will boost your metabolism. It’s one of the reasons men tend to have faster metabolisms than women.
Any strength building exercise will help with your weight loss. Take to the gym or join a yoga class.
I’m not talking about bulky muscles. Toning up your body will give your metabolism a boost and help protect your body from injury.
Stress Is Affecting Your Ability To Lose Weight
Weight loss is complex and stress is yet another factor that could be affecting your ability to shift the pounds.
Stress affects everyone differently. Some people may lose weight but in others it can trigger comfort or binge eating and even effect your metabolic rate.
It’s not a condition to take lightly and seeing a doctor should be a first priority if you’re suffering from the effects of stress.
Facing up to the causes of stress and seeking help to reduce or eliminate it from your life should be your first step. Sadly I know this can be very difficult in today’s society where the support systems are often lacking or non-existent.
For low level stress, mindfulness can be helpful and meditation is a good way to calm the mind.
Daily exercise really does help. It won’t solve your problems but it will give your mind a brief respite.
You’re Not Drinking Enough Water
Staying hydrated is so important if you’re trying to lose weight. Your brain plays tricks on you.
It can tell you to eat when really you’re just thirsty. Fortunately there’s a very simple solution: drink a glass of water before you sit down to eat.
Try Avoiding Alcohol
When you’re trying to lose weight, alcohol is your enemy. It reduces your inhibitions and self control. The next thing you know, you’ve eaten half a tub of Ben and Jerry’s while watching Bridget Jones’s Diary.
It’s a good idea to cut or limit alcohol when you’re trying to lose weight. It will also give a big boost to your health!
Be More Active During The Day
It’s easy to start exercising and immediately cut back your general daily movement because you feel tired!
Going out for a 2 mile run then sitting on the couch all day isn’t the way to lose weight. You need to keep you’re normal movement up.
Walk about the office, walk to the local shop, take the stairs instead of the lift – it all helps.
Lack Of Sleep May Be The Reason Your Weight Loss Is Slow
Studies have shown the amount of sleep you get may be related to your weight loss.
Making sure you get between six to eight hours sleep every night will help you stick to your weight loss plans.
You Need A Support Group To Lose Weight
Some people will have the resolve to lose weight on their own, others need a support group to successfully lose weight.
Weight loss is tough and being accountable for your choices to a group or coach makes a difference for many people.
Find what works best for you, but if you’re struggling don’t go it alone. Seek out your support group. You can also join my new FaceBook Group for friendly support and advice.
I know how frustrating it can be when you’re trying to lose weight and the number on the scale just never seems to go down. Try switching your focus to exercise rather than pure weight loss.
It can improve the way you feel about your body, help you feel healthy and add a little zest to your life!
As you get lighter your body needs less calories to maintain it’s current weight. This makes it harder to lose weight as you continue on your diet. Most people on a diet will lose weight at a faster rate in the first few weeks. A lot of this will be water, especially if you’re following a low card diet. Exercise, both cardio and strength building exercises, are good ways to prevent hitting a weight loss plateau and will help you reach your target weight.
It’s always better to lose weight slowly. Otherwise a lot of the weight you lose will be water weight and muscle weight. You don’t gain weight overnight so it’s unrealistic to try and lose weight quickly. Rapid weight loss rarely works in the long-term. Dieters often regain the weight they lose and even put on extra pounds. It’s better to aim for sustained weight loss over a longer period of 1-2lb a week. Adjust to a healthy lifestyle and keep the weight off for good.
A weight loss of 1-2 lb a week is a realistic target for most people. If your weight loss has stalled try increasing your exercise intensity such as a HIIT workout, add in strength building, (body weight exercises at home or visit a gym) and try keeping a food journal to make sure you’re sticking to your diet.
There are many diets claiming you can lose a lot of weight really quickly. These diets fail to say most of this weight will be regained just as quickly. A safe level of weight loss is one to two pounds a week. Most people can safely lose 10 pounds in 1-2 months.