We Hate Weight Loss Plateaus
The most common reaction is to blame anything but the caloric deficit although that’s usually the culprit.
I like to call them the “water cooler” excuses because they’re the typical responses you’ll hear from people who typically aren’t educated in the way of working out and/or nutrition.
Here’s some favorite water cooler excuses we’ve all heard:
- “I’m just big-boned.” – What does that even mean?! We’re talking about losing fat not bone mass!
- “I’m retaining a lot of water right now.” – While sometimes a valid excuse, it’s used far too often and it can only be blamed on a couple pounds for a couple days at most.
- “It’s genetic. I come from a family of overweight people.” – If Mom and Dad were overweight, they simply ate too many calories, as well. Break the chain!
- “I’ve had too many carbohydrates lately”. – Yes.. eating too many carbs is a common problem when you eat too many calories.
- “I have a thyroid condition.” – Another sometimes valid excuse , it’s more often a strange excuse often used by people who like to self-diagnose and have never actually been told this by a doctor.
Why the Scale Doesn’t Move
Here’s the primary fact on losing weight that most people overlook. You will lose weight if you are in a caloric deficit and expending more energy that you’re eating. The excuse of having “too many carbs” is close to the truth but even an abundance of carbs in a caloric deficit will result in weight loss so the ultimate problem is “too many calories” and not “too many carbs”.
There are those who resist the “calories in vs calories out” argument of maintaining a caloric deficit to lose weight, the most common objection being that our bodies are more complex and it’s not as easy as this.
There are certainly contributing factors and soley focusing on fat loss or fat loss and muscle gain will require attention to these other factors, but ultimately, this formula always works.
3 Common Reasons for Weight Loss Plateaus
1) Your body requires less food after losing weight. It’s well known that as you drop pounds, your metabolism typically drops too. This is one reason why exercise is so important, as it stimulates metabolism.
What causes the drop in metabolism? It’s usually just the normal physiological response your body has to being smaller. Less body weight requires less energy. A calorie is a unit of energy so your body simply requires less calories to maintain it’s new weight.
2) Your body composition is not detected by your scale. Your plateau could be a good thing if this reason applies. It’s quite possible that you have lost excess body fat and added even the smallest amount of muscle.
Muscle weighs more than fat so it could easily be that the scale is stuck because of an overall improvement in body composition.
3) You’re eating too much. As explained earlier, this is the most common reason for a plateau. The fact is that most people simply don’t realize how many calories they eat on a daily basis.
The scale can jump back and forth from day to day but week to week is a far more telling story. If the scale sees a steady increase over the course of a few weeks, you’re getting more calories than you’re expending.
If the scale is steadily decreasing over a period of a few weeks, you’ve found that sweet spot where you’re getting a few less calories than your body needs for fuel. Be sure to combine this perfect caloric deficit with weight training to preserve muscle and you will ensure that the lost weight is fat being burned.
Steady weight indicates a perfect balance of calories consumed and energy expenditure.
I just finished the fantastic (and highly recommended) book, “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think“, written by Cornell Professor, John Dyson. Inside, a cornell study reveals that overweight persons underestimate caloric intake by 40 percent while normal-weight persons underestimate caloric intake by an average of 20 percent.
Many people eat well over 1000 calories more than they think they eat, every day.
That’s a “big” difference.
How to Bust Through the Plateau
I’ve been there many times this year and I’ve been able to bust through the plateau every time by incorporating 2 main methods.
1) Carb Cycling – The easiest method is 3 low carb days and 1 high carb day. Keep repeating. Carb cycling “tricks” the body on high carb day. When the body thinks it is getting an abundance of carbs, it won’t try to conserve carbs, thus burning fat for fuel.
2) Count Your Calories – I can’t stress this enough. No matter what the diet, take a few days and track every single carb, fat and protein gram you consume and see how they translate to overall calories. Adjust calories as needed and you will drop weight!
Need Some Help?
Simply download my Excel Spreadsheet to achieve your carb cycling and calorie counting goals. It’s been the most valuable tool in my arsenal this year and I know you’ll love it too!
Finally, if you’ve been dropping weight consistently, don’t fret the occasional plateau! It’s a necessary part of consistently dropping fat. Your body needs some time to reset as it continually drops weight.
I no longer worry about a weight plateau at all. It’s just understanding what’s going on an being patient. This too, shall pass.
Enjoy life and keep up the same routine and you’ll be dropping even more fat after a couple weeks of maintaining weight.