Plateau Busting Weight Loss Tips
Part 1 - Weigh Yourself, Calorie Creep and Calorie Tracking
Most diets start with a bang. For the first few weeks, a rapid drop in weight is normal. Part of this weight loss comes from how your body burns calories.
If you aren’t getting the energy you need from eating, your body turns to alternate sources. One of those sources is glycogen, a carbohydrate found in the liver and muscles. As glycogen is burned, it releases water. That means that a lot of the initial weight loss is water depletion.
The weight loss those first few weeks can be so rapid, when it slows down, you might think things have stopped. Most long-term, sustainable weight loss comes from losing between 1 and 2 pounds a week. If you’ve been losing 3, 4 or more pounds a week, a sudden drop to just 1 pound a week may seem disastrous.
Weigh yourself once a week. You haven’t hit a plateau until your weight loss stops for at least three weeks. You might not be at a plateau; you’re just dropping pounds at a more sustainable level.
If you have hit a plateau, take a moment to celebrate. You’ve proven you CAN lose weight, and you ARE doing something to live a longer and healthier life. Then follow these steps to continue on that successful path.
Researchers found that the majority of weight loss plateaus happen at about the 6-month point. Many diet books and fitness experts will suggest the main reason is because your metabolism has dropped. As we lose weight, we lose both fat and muscle. Since muscles burn a lot of calories, when muscle goes away, our metabolism drops.
However, when researchers tracked long-term dieters, they found that a drop in metabolism had very little to do with hitting a plateau. The real reason was because the dieter wasn’t following the diet plan as strictly as they did when they started.
In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers concluded: “...lack of diet adherence, not metabolic adaptation, is a major contributor to the frequently observed early weight-loss plateau.”
It’s called calorie creep. All those little things you’ve been adding to your diet, often without even realizing it. Instead of a cheat meal on the weekend, you cheat the entire weekend. You add a second helping without documenting it. Snacks are grabbed on the run, so you don’t bother to count them. You might not think it matters, but your body doesn’t miss a thing.
The best way to beat calorie creep is by tracking your calories—all of them. The act of writing down food in a log or entering it into a tracking program provides accountability. It also lets you see how your diet is breaking down.
Most calorie-tracking apps will tell you how much fiber, protein, fat and carbohydrates you’re taking in. When you start to see imbalances, you can make adjustments before things get too far out of whack.
Calorie tracking also helps you realize just how many calories are hiding in what you’re eating. When researchers asked dieters how many calories were in their meals, more than half underreported the totals.
In just one 14-day sample period, dieters estimated they were eating about 1,200 calories a day. When researchers entered the information, they found the actual number was nearly twice that amount. It’s hard to lose weight when you’re eating twice as much as you’re supposed to.
In the past, there were food journals and calorie books. You looked up everything you ate, wrote it all down and tallied up the totals throughout the day. Things have gotten much easier.
Now there are food and calorie tracking programs that do most of the hard work for you. If you’re eating something from a chain restaurant, type in the restaurant's name and dish. All the nutritional information is already there—the same for foods you buy in the supermarket in packages with a bar code. Just scan the code and type in how many servings you’re eating.
I’ve tried to make it even easier. For the last 15-years, I’ve been cooking and using a taste testing panel to post healthier versions of traditional recipes at WeCookFit.com. The nutritional breakdown of every recipe I’ve posted, now totaling over 900, is already entered into an app called MyFitnessPal. Both the recipes and the app are FREE.
You can download the MyFitnessPal app for both iPhones and Android devices. It also works on desktop computers. The recipes are all free at WeCookFit.com. You can use it to plan out future days or track things as you go.
Part 1 2
Effect of dietary adherence on the body weight plateau: a mathematical model incorporating intermittent compliance with energy intake prescription
Diana M Thomas, Corby K Martin, Leanne M Redman, Steven B Heymsfield, Steven Lettieri, James A Levine, Claude Bouchard and Dale A Schoeller
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2014 Sep;100(3):787-95. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.079822. Epub 2014 Jul 30.
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