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How to Break Out of a Weight Loss Plateau

By Copyright 2003 Renee Kennedy

Updated January 05, 2004

What is a weight loss plateau?

You are on a diet, but you reach a period of time (two or more weeks) where you can't seem to lose any weight. Your weight may actually fluctuate 3lbs up or down, but you can't seem to break below this range.

You can experience a weight loss plateau for different reasons:

  1. You are consuming too many calories for the amount of calories that you are burning off.

  2. You are not consuming enough calories; your body defends itself by slowing down your metabolism.

First, you need to determine if you are experiencing a plateau or if your weight is in a state of normal fluctuation. Weigh yourself once per week. If you have not lost any weight after 3 weeks, you've hit a plateau. Remember, people lose weight at different rates. If you've lost even one pound after three weeks, you are still losing weight and probably don't need to change anything. The closer you get to your goal weight, the harder it will be to lose weight.

Second, if you are experiencing a plateau, look at your current diet and exercise patterns. The NutriCounter can function as a measurement tool to see how many calories you are consuming each day. (http://www.nutricounter.com) It will also help you determine if you are eating the appropriate amount of carbohydrates and protein each day. You should also keep an exercise journal that will help you determine how much exercise you are getting each day.

Here are some patterns that you may need to break. (Note: before trying any of the methods below, get your doctor's advice. This is especially important if you have special dieting needs.)

  1. You should be eating at least 1200 calories a day if you are a woman and 1500 calories per day if you are a man. If you restrict your calories too much your body will start stockpiling fat because it thinks you are starving.

  2. You may try to break a plateau by decreasing the percentage of carbohydrates and increasing the percentage of protein that you intake each day.

  3. Another common recommendation is not to mix your protein and carbohydrates. If you have a protein breakfast, wait 2-3 hours before resuming your balanced meals.

  4. Generally speaking, you should be exercising no more than 1 hour per day. However, ask yourself if your fitness routine is intense enough? Simply walking around the block for 15 minutes a day may not be enough for you. Each person is different. Also, walking around the block may have been an excellent exercise when you first started to lose weight, but it may not be enough now that you've hit a plateau.

  5. If you have recently added a fitness regimen to help you lose weight, you may experience a slight weight gain for the first few weeks, especially if part of that routine involves weight lifting. This can be a very frustrating experience. If you are engaged in an intense workout regimen, it may help to measure yourself with a measuring tape, rather than the scale. You will be putting on muscle and muscle will burn more calories than fat, but it's also heavier.

  6. If you are already on a low calorie diet and you are sticking to it, then it is not recommended that you cut out any more calories. Increasing your activity is really the key to breaking out of a plateau. However, if you are "supposed" to be on a low calorie diet but you are not sticking to it, well, the answer is obvious: you need to stick to it.

Come and visit the NutriCounter web site for more information on how nutrition and fitness influence weight loss, diabetes, pregnancy, heart disease and more! http://www.nutricounter.com

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