It had been working so well – the progress was showing on the scales and you are sure you have not changed anything. But now the scales will not budge! What is going on?
Why do plateaus occur during weight loss?
It might seem our bodies are working against us when we try to lose weight – that is because they actually are.
Our bodies are fine-tuned machines, optimised to ensure we do not starve. This programming was developed way back when humans did not have the unlimited access to food we do today. Our ancestors might have travelled for weeks with very little to sustain them – and the females might have been gestating a baby at the same time. Our bodies have therefore developed to conserve nutrients we do not use immediately – our bodies store the excess energy as fat.
Your body will actively work to sabotage your efforts when you go on a “diet”
The amount of energy we use in a day depends on our activity levels to some extent but depends a lot more on our height and current weight.
The heavier I am, the more energy I need just to stay the same.
So, I can consume many more calories when I weigh 70kg without gaining weight however if I only weighed 60kg I would need to drop my calorie intake to maintain my weight – or add some activity to use up the energy my body does not eat.
More bad news!?
Depending on how you lost weight initially, you may have also further sabotaged your efforts by stifling the calorie burning engine in your body – your muscles…
If you went on a crash diet and cut out too many calories in a bid to lose weight quickly, your body will actually go for your muscle and consume this for energy instead of the fat you wish to burn.
Well, remember the programming I talked about earlier… when you go on a crash diet your body is concerned that it is having to cope with a famine – so it purposely looks at ways to reduce your metabolism in the hope you will not burn as many calories. So now your body needs fewer calories than it did previously and guess what your body does with the excess food – you guessed it! Your body hoards it away as fat like it is programmed to do.
So, what to do?
Do you know your numbers?
First thing to consider is revising your daily calorie intake – there are many online tools that will tell you how many calories you need to maintain your weight or to lose weight and this will change as you progress with your weight loss journey so you need to adjust regularly
Next, you need to explore the quality of the foods you are eating – are they providing you with all the nutrients your body needs? If not your body will go seeking those nutrients and you end up with cravings that destroy your good work OR (worse, in my book) your body gets run down and susceptible to ailments ranging from acne, to sore joints, to gut problems, fatigue or a combination of all of the above.
Are you getting enough ZZZs?
Your hormones play a big role in your body’s ability to burn fat.
Sleep is a wonderful tool for regulating our hormones.
If you are sleep deprived, chances are you have high levels of cortisol coursing through your body. This can cause insulin resistance which in turn leads to high blood sugar and weight gain.
Can you use those excess calories?
It is very hard to outrun (or out-exercise) a poor diet. But if you are eating well but still struggling to shift the pounds it is a good idea to look into how you could build more muscle – all exercise helps to build muscle, even walking. Is there any activity you can add to your day that will increase the energy you use – every little helps…
Are you eating instead of hydrating?
We all do it. The symptoms our bodies feel when thirsty are very similar to hunger pangs. It is worth asking yourself whether you really are hungry the next time you have your mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack – maybe a drink will suffice?
So yes, our bodies are working against us when we try to lose weight – however knowledge is power… understanding your body more will give you the tools to achieve the healthy vibrant body you deserve.