In a weight loss program, one of the most frequently encountered problems is that of reaching a plateau, from which it can become difficult, if not impossible, to lose the remainder of the weight in order to reach the desired goal.
The individual can be using the same strategies for exercise, strength training, and for diet, but they no longer work. This is obviously frustrating and can create a cycle that is difficult to break, and can even cause a loss of motivation, with the result being that some individuals simply abandon their weight loss goal altogether.
What Causes a Weight Loss Plateau?
Several factors contribute to create a weight loss plateau. In part it is due to a decrease in the body's metabolism, which drastically slows down the loss of fat from the body. Adaptive thermogenesis, also called the 'starvation response', occurs when the body responds to receiving fewer calories by losing less fat as a way to survive. This is especially true when the body mass index comes down to a little above 10 percent, which is classed as below "good" BMI.
With less body mass, your body needs fewer calories. However, many individuals eat the same way and the same amounts as they did before they lost weight. The problem is that a smaller body does not require as many calories on a daily basis.
Exercising with less body mass burns fewer calories. So, an exercise program that took off weight in the initial stages of the program will not remove the same amount of weight when the body is smaller.
The under-reporting of caloric intake can also cause a weight loss plateau. Studies have shown this to be very common, and calories can be under-reported by as much as 50 percent. Inevitably, when a person consumes 1800 calories each day but reports the total as 1200, there will be far less weight lost.
Breaking Through the Weight Loss Plateau
There are several strategies available to break through the weight loss plateau and resume weight reduction. These involve a combination of making changes to both the diet and exercise programs to create a deficit in calories, which stimulates the body into burning more fat.
However, at the beginning it is often advisable to allow the body a respite before commencing in earnest. This offers a mental reprieve that can restore motivation, but more importantly, it allows the body to respond quickly when the program begins again. This physiological and psychological break is a strategy advocated by many in the weight loss industry as a method to help break through the weight loss plateau.
At this stage it is especially important to count the exact calories consumed. Once the break is over, and it should last no more than a week, resume eating and exercising but with a different approach. Keep a food diary, and accurately record the exact quantities of caloric intake as a way to ensure the daily level is not under-reported.
Altering the caloric intake is one method which can be used to create a deficit and stimulate the metabolism. This effectively translates into maintaining the same amount of calories in the diet, but splitting them up. When the level is set at 1500 calories per day, this can be achieved by taking in 1200 calories one day and then 1800 calories the next.
Another method is to keep the caloric intake at the same level, but eat more frequent, smaller meals. This has the effect of boosting the metabolic rate, which in turn will make it easier to lose weight.