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Tips on dealing with weight loss plateaus

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Weight loss is challenging for all kinds of reasons, but one aspect that can be especially demotivating is the dreaded weight loss plateau. If you’re on a weight loss journey and you’ve hit your first plateau, read on for some straightforward advice.

What is a weight loss plateau?

“Plateau” is a word used to describe something levelling out i.e. reaching a point where no further change occurs. It can be used in lots of different situations but within the context of weight loss, it refers to a point in your journey when you stop losing weight – even though you’re still dieting.

The good news is that hitting a plateau is pretty normal for people who are dieting. The bad news? It can be challenging to move past this kind of hurdle, which means you’re at risk of dropping all your hard-earned healthy habits.

What causes a weight loss plateau?

There are a few different reasons why you might hit a weight loss plateau, and they’re all to do with your calorie intake and how your body burns those calories.

Your metabolism has slowed

The basic rule of weight loss is that you need to burn more calories than you consume.

The rate at which you burn calories is called your metabolism, and in the early stages of a diet, it’s likely to be quite fast. However, as your diet progresses, your metabolism will slow down as it becomes accustomed to the reduced calories you’re consuming.

After a certain period, in other words, your body will be burning the same amount of calories as you’re consuming each day. This means your weight loss will stall.

You’ve lost muscle mass

Muscles are good at burning calories and keeping your metabolism fast. This means that any muscle loss, which happens naturally as you lose weight, can accelerate the slowing down of your metabolism.

You’re eating more than you think

Even the most devoted of dieters can fall victim to “calorie creep”. This is where you start consuming more calories without realising you’re doing it – for example, you might start eating slightly larger portions, or having one additional snack during the day without really giving it much thought.

In weight loss, eating a few more calories each day can make a big difference, especially if it coincides with the slowing down of your metabolism.

You’ve lost motivation

Perhaps the most obvious explanation for hitting a weight loss plateau is loss of motivation. After following a diet for several weeks, you might be feeling fed up with the work that goes into losing weight and you might start letting those unhealthy habits slip back in.

How can I move past a weight loss plateau?

If you’ve been dieting for several weeks and you’re no longer losing weight, don’t lose heart! Hitting a plateau is very common, and it’s not a sign that you should give up altogether.

If you’re yet to reach your goal weight, the best thing to do is to continue with your diet plan, bearing in mind that you may still be making progress, just at a slower rate than you’re used to.

It can also be helpful to look at your eating habits to check that you haven’t fallen foul of calorie creep – be very careful about portion sizes, and cut back on snacking.

Beyond that, make time to exercise more, as this is a great way to burn more calories. In addition to standard cardio, try to incorporate some muscle-strengthening exercises (e.g. lifting weights) into your routine, as having more muscles will give your metabolism a boost.

What should I do if I stop making progress?

If you stop losing weight, even if you’re doing everything right (e.g. exercising and counting calories) it’s worth seeing your GP, as there might be an underlying condition which is affecting your ability to lose weight. Alternatively, your GP might advise that you’ve reached a healthy BMI and don’t need to worry about losing any more weight.

If your GP thinks you need medication to help with weight loss, they might prescribe medication to help your body stop absorbing some of the fat you eat. There is also medication available over the counter which the Pharmacist can discuss with you and provide advice on the most suitable options for your specific needs.

Get help with weight loss from LloydsPharmacy

If you’ve been trying to diet and you’re not making progress with your weight loss, you might benefit from using our medicated weight loss service. You may be eligible for this service if you’re over 18 and you have a BMI over 30, or a BMI over 27 with a weight-related health condition such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension or sleep disorders.

Weight loss service

References

https://assets.nhs.uk/tools/download-panels/data/weight-loss/pdf/wlp11.pdf
www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/weight-loss-plateau/art-20044615