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Mar 6, 2011

Weight Loss Plateau

Hitting a weight loss plateau is a common experience for most dieters. It can be one of the most demotivating things to happen during a diet. Initially you start off full of determination and see the pounds dropping off over the first few weeks, then the weight loss slows and may even stop - the weight loss plateau.

You may feel stuck, but you're probably still losing weight—just not enough to register on the scale. But even dropping a third of a pound per week means that in a year, you'll be down a whole 17 pounds.

Have you hit one yet? That plateau where the scale just seems to be stuck at the same number for weeks at a time? If you're there, don't panic... it's only a temporary situation. Sometimes our bodies may get in a sort of "rut" and doing the same old, same old just seems to stop working. Don't let this situation stop you dead in your tracks. Now is not the time to give up!

Tips for overcoming weight loss plateaus

The first step is to stop focusing on the scale. Often a change in the scale just reflects the pounds of body fluid you lose and gain every day rather than how much fat you've lost or gained.

Also, you can lose inches of fat without losing weight when you gain muscles, because muscles weigh more than fat (but look a heck of a lot better). So if you can't rely on the scale to tell you how you're doing week to week, what can you count on? Use a measuring tape as your another tool to measure your success.

The science of weight loss is not a mystery -- you must decrease the energy in (calories) and increase the energy out. One of the best ways to increase our energy out is to increase our activity level. That means...

Exercise - In any weight-loss program, exercises is a crucial part of the formula. If you've stopped losing weight, it's time to start exercising more or increase your workout intensity. Here are several ways you can alter your training routine to push you past the plateau.

Add variety - If you've been walking, try cycling or swimming. Increase the intensity of your cardiovascular or aerobic exercise by adding short bursts of higher-intensity movement, such as sprinting. These intervals should last 30 to 60 seconds and be followed by less intense exercise for two or three times the length of the burst. Start by adding one or two of these intervals to your routine, then increase the number as you improve your conditioning. Work out with a friend or a personal trainer. This may motivate you to pick up your pace.

Intensify your workouts - Adding a few extra minutes to your routine, occasionally picking up the pace or tackling a hill or two can help you burn extra calories. Your 20 to 30 minutes of daily walking is good, but adding more time or trying new activities, such as bike riding or swimming, will help boost calorie burning.

Add some muscle - Try some strength-building types of exercise, such as weight training or calisthenics. You'll build more muscle, which burns more calories than fat, *even when you're sleeping.

Watch Your Food Intake - A strict exercise regimen is crucial in a weight loss program, but the fat won't come off if you're hitting the potato chip aisle on a regular basis. Here are simple dietary changes you can make to help you lose the fat.

Drink a lot of water - Drink a glass before you treat yourself to a second helping or an unnecessary snack. This helps you feel fuller. Eat foods that are high in fiber - they, too, help fill you up (the body doesn't digest fiber).

Add some weight-loss supplements - Natural weight-loss products contain herbs to boost your metabolism, burn fat and help you curb your cravings for carbohydrates. If you're not using any weight-loss program, a plateau is a good time to start.

Check your eating habits - Sometimes when the pounds start coming off, we're not as diligent as we were at the beginning. Portions start to creep up in size, and more sweets find their way into our diets. A food log is a good way to keep track of what you're putting in your mouth.

As you ease off that weight plateau, maintain your persistence. Your weight loss probably will be about a pound a week, and you may land on another plateau. Make adjustments as needed with your activity level.

In the end, you should view hitting a plateau as a good thing. Why? It means your body has less fat to lose, which explains why the weight isn't coming off as readily. And remember: It's best to lose weight slowly and sensibly so you can make changes that you'll keep for life.

There are many reasons for plateaus and therefore many solutions. If you address the above issues, you'll achieve the weight-loss results you desire. And enjoy your improving fitness level and better health.

One of the most common frustrations in weight loss is when all progress halts, despite the fact that you are diligently following your plan. Such plateaus are predictable and explainable. Basal metabolic rate (BMR)—the energy required to keep the heart pumping, lungs expanding, kidneys filtering and all other vital bodily functions going when the body is at rest—accounts for 60 to 70 percent of the calories you burn and depends, for the most part, on body mass. When weight-loss occurs, body mass goes down; so does BMR.

Consider an example: You weigh 162 pounds and eat 1,900 calories a day. To lose a pound a week, you've got to cut between 500 and 600 calories per day. So you restrict yourself to 1,400 calories, and the weight comes off. But suddenly, after week six, the scale refuses to budge. This is because with the weight loss, your BMR has also declined, and where your body used to burn 1,368 calories per day, now it's using only 1,080. At this weight, there's less of you to move around, so you burn fewer calories working out and waste fewer calories as heat. All in all, your daily calorie expenditure is now pretty close to what you're taking in. You've hit a new—and probably very annoying—equilibrium.

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