How to Break your Weight Loss Plateau

If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you might agree that the first 5  lbs come off easy, but it always seems like the last 5 lbs are a struggle to get off.  You’re doing everything right —eating less and moving more—but all of a sudden it stops working. The scale won’t budge. Hitting a weight loss plateau is frustrating. But don’t give up, here are my 3 tips to break through your weight loss plateau.

Tip #1: Calorie Cycling

In order to lose weight, you need to be in a calorie deficit. But if you’re in an extreme deficit for too long enough, your body might start conserving energy by lowering your metabolic rate. The result? You stop burning as many calories and your weight loss slows down.  Although this is very frustrating, your body is actually trying to look out for you. Your brain noticed that your food supply has been scarce for an extended period of time. It’s trying to increase your chances of survival in case the famine continues. Of course, when you’re trying to lose weight, this is exactly what you don’t want.

So what do you do?

You could try eating even less in order to lose more weight, but that just confirms your brain’s suspicions about the decrease food supply. Or, you could eat more in an effort to restore a higher metabolic rate, but thats not going to help you lose the weight you want to lose.

This is where calorie cycling comes in.

What is Calorie Cycling?

Let’s say you’ve been eating 1500 calories a day and steadily losing weight. Now, all of a sudden,  it’s not working anymore.  Rather than trying to eat even less, try alternating high and low calorie days. For example, you could alternate between 1800-calorie days and 1200-calorie days. Or you could give yourself a re-feed meal weekly or bi-weekly (thats what I do with many of my clients and especially my online FIT12 Clients). The higher calorie days might be enough to knock you out of a metabolic slow-down, and help keep your motivation while trying to lose that last bit of fat.

Benefits of Calorie Cycling:
  1. The higher calorie days keep your metabolism from slowing in response to sustained calorie restriction.
  2. Many people find that this sort of regimen feels easier than constant restriction. Although you may feel hungry on your low calorie days, you’ll always have a higher calorie day to look forward to.

Keep in mind, calorie cycling isn’t for everyone. Those with diabetes, hypoglycemia, pregnant, or have a history or risk of eating disorders are not good candidates for this technique.

Aside from health issues, some people may simply prefer a more traditional approach. And, honestly, if what you’re doing continues to work, I’d stick with it. But should you hit a plateau, calorie cycling might be something to try.

Tip #2: Change up Your Workouts

Exercising while being in a calorie deficit can help those pounds come off more quickly. However, if you continue to do the same workout over and over again, your muscles will learn to perform those motions using less energy, and you’ll burn fewer calories. (And, by the way, the “calories burned” displays on gym cardio equipment and in your spinning class are not accurate!)

I always tell my clients to mix it up if they want to see more results. Try a new class, try lifting weights, a different cardio machine, or come to one of my group training workouts.

Tip 3#:  Be Patient

The closer you get to your goal weight, the slower the weight tends to come off. If you’re thinking of your goal weight as a finish line, this can get frustrating. If you lose those last pounds quickly, chances  are, they’ll come right back the minute you relax your efforts.

If you don’t spend time creating healthy, sustainable habits, you’ll go back to what you did before. Usually until you “undo” all the progress you just made (and then some).

Rather than trying to sprint across the finish line, think of the last 5 pounds as your cool down. By losing weight more slowly, you’re actually making a gradual transition, both mentally and physically, into your long-term maintenance phase. If it takes you 6 months to lose those final pounds, that’s 6 more months of healthy eating habits under your belt.

Take your time. Be patient. This isn’t a race. No need to rush. Give yourself some leeway. Room to breath and make mistakes. Because mistakes will happen. And that’s ok. It’s part of the process. By planning to make mistakes along the way, you eliminate the guilt you get when you go off track. And when you eliminate guilt, you eliminate the binges and feelings of failure that keep you from getting back on track. And that greatly increases your chances of maintaining a healthy weight for the long term.

Keep in Touch

I’m want to hear your thoughts, so please post them below. If you need help with your diet, check out my customized meal plan or online FIT12 Program.  You can also follow me on Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook @aftannfit which I share more tips, recipes, and workouts.

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