I grew up out west where plateaus and mesas are everywhere. Some are called table mountains and go on for miles; you can’t see where they begin or end. And that is how weight loss plateaus appear if you haven’t been tracking your food intake.
Without this data you don’t know how to correct your diet. You will be lost out on that plateau because there is no way to answer questions like:
- How often did I overeat?
- Am I drinking water every day?
- How many desserts did I eat this week?
- Am I eating more starchy veggies with the cold weather?
- Was that 3 days in a row of having a beer with dinner?
- Am I just mindlessly eating cheese every day?
- Did I do extra grocery shopping this week?
- Did I eat processed foods because I didn’t meal plan?
Hitting a weight loss plateau happens for two reasons. Your primitive brain is making too many food choices AND your body has adapted to the amount and type of food you are giving it.
So, it’s not all our fault, Yay!
The Mayo Clinic defines a plateau as adaptation homeostasis. Basically our metabolism slows as we lose weight. This is a survival mechanism.
Living at a lower weight requires fewer calories. Wait, What? This isn’t what my primitive brain wants to hear, it wants to party like I’m still 22!
To get our bodies out of adaptation homeostasis and off a weight loss plateau we can do any or all of the following:
- Track what we actually eat, the bald facts.
- Eliminate processed carbs and replace them with vegetables (non-starchy).
- Hold off on sugar, even fruit, until you’re back on track losing weight again.
- Change up an exercise routine; time of day, intensity, duration.
- Reduce sedentary activities by increasing NEAT or non-exercise activity thermogenesis. As we lose weight our NEAT slows as part of the body’s adaptation homeostasis so we need to consciously keep NEAT up. I can do this by taking the stairs at work, parking on the edge of the parking lot and eliminating the 2 hours in a chair watching TV after supper. Personal trainer Jared Covarrubias has more good ideas to increase NEAT and includes the math to show how much of a difference it makes!
- Track what you eat.
- Increase protein intake while decreasing carbs and fats on non-fasting days. The mechanism is unclear but protein does seem to increase thermogenesis which is the process of heat production in organic beings like us. Protein can also provide satiety.
- Decrease stress. That’s a big one! Stress stimulates glucocorticoid excretion and has been shown to INCREASE palatable food intake (that would be sweet and savory treats) which INCREASES insulin production and fat storage.
- Try intermittent fasting.
- Reduce alcohol. Alcohol decreases inhibition, increases appetite and promotes abdominal fat storage aka beer belly.
- Increase fiber. Look at labels to see how much fiber is in a product. All whole foods naturally have fiber. Fiber increases the feeling of fullness after a meal, slows food absorption in the GI tract and decreases calorie absorption. So, eat more whole foods!
- Drink water, coffee and green tea which increases your basal metabolic rate.
- Get plenty of sleep. Fat burns during sleep. When we are tired we make poorer food choices during the day. The primitive brain thinks food relieves fatigue!
- Don’t rely on the scale alone. How your clothes fit and measuring body parts can show improvements the scale may be missing.
- Did I mention to journal your food?
Plan your trip, pack your food and you will get off the plateau:)