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Does weight loss plateau?

A common thing can happen whenever you are on a weight management programme - whether it is weight watchers, slimming world or using medication to help get things moving. The dreaded weight loss plateau - but is it as bad as we think and can we find a way to overcome it?

A weight loss plateau is when your weight loss either significantly slows down or stops, and in some cases, your weight may even increase slightly during a plateau.

It’s one of the most disheartening and frustrating things that people on a weight loss journey experience, but it’s completely normal, and studies show that it is actually good to experience a weight loss plateau, as it means that your body is taking the necessary time to adjust to its new, reduced weight. This means it is easier to maintain this plateaued weight in the long run and it just needs to recalibrate in order for you to start losing weight again.

Weight loss is usually fastest at first, with results being more than 3-4lbs a week for a while in some cases. However, it’s important to understand why this happens so that we can understand why weight loss plateaus can happen in the first place.

Why does weight loss plateau?

When you first start losing weight, your body releases its glycogen stores, which are partly made up of water, so some of the weight loss that you experience at first is due to the loss of fluid from these glycogen stores.

Once these glycogen reserves have been used for energy, there’s less fluid to lose, so your weight loss will then be down to fat loss, as long as you’re following a healthy lifestyle, which is why it is very important (for the long run) to be following a healthier regime of diet & exercise.

When your weight decreases, your body needs fewer calories to maintain itself on a daily basis. Because of this, you may hit a plateau even if you haven’t changed anything. It’s completely normal for weight loss to slow down after a few weeks or months. It’s a sign of successfully making healthy lifestyle changes. Try not to beat yourself up over a weight plateau – instead you should congratulate yourself at getting to this point and start looking at how we can get things moving again.

Weight loss may also plateau if old habits have crept back in or if you’ve become lenient on portion control. For example, if you’ve stopped weighing food, it becomes harder to tell whether or not you’re eating the right amount of food. Weighing your food into portions is important to keep up as a healthy lifestyle choice, as it can reduce the risk of gaining weight back over time.

Essentially, weight loss plateaus happen because the body is consuming more energy than it needs - essentially your metabolic rate will have slowed down. To push past it, you’ll need to either increase how much energy you burn when working out, or decrease how much energy you consume when eating (less calories per day).

It's now time to be thinking about changing things up in order to push past the plateau. This could mean decreasing your calorie intake, or increasing your physical activity levels.

How long does a weight loss plateau last?

Unfortunately, there’s no hard and fast rule that says how long a weight loss plateau should or may last. Everyone’s different and so your individual plateaus may last for a week or even a couple of weeks if changes aren't made to get things moving again.

Sometimes, a weight loss plateau might go away on its own after a couple of weeks of your body readjusting. However, a lot of the time with a plateau, you may have to make some additional lifestyle changes to support further weight loss. Don’t fret if you’ve maintained your weight for the last couple of weeks, just making some small tweaks might be enough to get the scales moving again.

Start small - increase your fluid intake or slightly reduce your portion sizes to try and get past a plateau, as making drastic changes is likely to result in another plateau in a few weeks’ time. It has to be slow & steady - you've done the sprinting part, now it's time for the marathon.

When we lose weight, we sometimes expect it to be a linear journey and a gradual decline. However, a lot of the time, healthy and successful weight loss is intermittent, with some small fluctuations along the way.

How to break a weight loss plateau

If your body has adjusted to its new energy requirements and you’ve noticed that you’ve stopped losing weight, it might be time to switch things up.

Step up your workout

You might notice that you have to work harder when you’re exercising to reach the same intensity as a few weeks or months ago – that’s great! It means that you’re building stamina and that your body is now capable of more than it was when you started.

If this is the case, it might be time to step up your intensity or work out for longer. For example, if it normally takes you 10 minutes to walk around the block, see if you can try to make the same journey in less time. This should increase the speed that you’re working at and give you a goal to work towards for motivation.

Keep a food diary

As part of the programme, we recommend keeping track of what you’re eating and drinking - this might help to identify any setbacks in your diet. For example, if you’ve become lenient without realising it, keeping a food diary might help to make you more aware of what you’re eating, look back and think "Ah, I may have had a bad day there".

You can keep a food diary via our your dashboard on our Members Area or use the one sent in your aftercare email.

Drink lots of fluids

Drinking enough water is always important, but sometimes, we can hold onto some fluid in our body, particularly if it’s warm or you’ve eaten salty foods. Drinking enough water can make sure that you’re not holding onto any excess fluids by keeping yourself properly hydrated at all times. Another helpful thing about drinking water is that it occupies some space in the stomach, so goes some way towards helping you to feel satisfied.

Watch the booze calories! We all like a cheeky drink to either relax us after a stressful day at work or to socialise with family & friends. However, it can be easy to forget about many calories are in alcohol. Boozy drinks can be quite high in calories which could be eating into your daily requirements and drinking alcohol on a regular basis can be enough to stall your weight loss, so make sure that you aren’t undoing all of your good work with a few extra glasses of wine!

So what to take away from this...

A weight loss plateau can be perfectly normal, although frustrating or disheartening. But do remember they can show a healthy part of losing weight, and most of the time, you just need to make a few small tweaks to your routine or lifestyle. It’s usual to have to change up your routine during a weight loss programme as our bodies adjust and change to your new calorie intake & metabolic rate. It’s all about giving your body the right amount of fuel – not too much and not too little. Remember – the key to successful weight loss and maintenance is making sustainable lifestyle choices, so don’t make drastic changes that you won’t be able to keep up with.

If you need any advice or support whilst using our programme, please do not hesitate to request a review or check in via email.

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