5 key steps to busting that weight loss plateau
We all know about diet plateaus - that infuriating time when you're following your diet plan to the absolute letter, but the numbers on your bathroom scales stubbornly refuse to budge. This is one of the key periods when a weight loss plan can so easily go to pot, so understanding WHY it happens is the best way to get you back on track and start those scales moving again.
It is important to know that your body doesn’t particularly want you to lose weight, no matter how big or small you were to begin with. The problem is, we are all evolutionarily hard-wired to maintain weight just in case there’s a famine around the corner. Our physiology hasn’t kept pace with the development of food technology which now means you’re never far from a muffin, a chocolate bar, a packet sandwich or crisps wherever in the world you find yourself and whatever time of day or night.
So even though it’s incredibly unlikely to find yourself in a situation where food is scarce, your body will be programmed to store energy just in case there's a no-food emergency.
Coupled with this is the fact that many weight loss diets will cause you to lose muscle as well as fat. Shedding muscle might appear to help you lose weight but it can also mean your metabolism slows down and you end up burning fewer calories even at rest.
In the initial stages of any diet plan it is common to lose water too which is why the scales can drop so impressively in the first few days. This can, however, give a bit of a false impression of actual weight loss. When you find yourself struggling to maintain the same slimming pace even though you’re sticking to the same rules, that’s when the psychological gremlins can start to appear.
When you notice yourself starting to plateau it’s really common for a whole host of niggling negative thoughts to start creeping in. You might find yourself thinking ‘this is pointless, I’ll never lose weight anyway’, ‘I’ve never been able to keep weight off before so why am I bothering to even try?’, ‘It doesn’t really matter anyway, no one knows I was trying to lose weight so I might as well just give up now’ or ‘why the hell should I have to be on a diet when everyone seems to be able to eat what they want?’.
Psychologists call these Health Limiting Thoughts (or HITs) and they are pretty much do what they say on the tin – they act as a brake on even our best healthy intentions. Diet plateaus are a BIG danger zone for HITs so it’s incredibly important to recognise these thought patterns when you spot them and challenge them if you can.
Here’s our definitive Shrinkology guide to leaping forward off any diet plateau:
1. Sit down and work through four days of food/mood diary (always include a weekend) to look for any new triggers or eating patterns that might have slipped through the net and might – honestly it really is worth doing this! (download our free FOOD/MOOD diary blog on the resources page).
2. Get moving. You need to try to keep hold of (and even build) as much muscle as you can and exercise is your best bet. There is a huge body or research on weight loss which shows that long-term, simply changing your diet is unlikely to be enough. If you do exercise regularly and you STILL find yourself reaching a weight loss plateau, it could be time to change things up and experiment with new and different forms of exercise to push your body a little harder and set new challenges for your body and your mind.
3. Hit back on your HITs (Health Limiting Thoughts). One session in the gym is never going to be enough to create a six pack and the same rules apply to the psychological support you need to really change your eating habits for the better. You can’t skimp on Shrinkology if you want to get your head in the right place to make lasting changes. HITs have a nasty habit of popping up when the going gets tough so if they do, take each one-by-one, and challenge it by asking yourself a) is this thought true? b) is it logical, and c) is it helpful? If the answer is ‘no’ to even one of these questions, bash that HIT out of the park with a bit of positive self-talk.
4. If you find yourself feeling secretly resentful towards your diet plan and the restrictions it might be putting on your life, make sure this really is the right plan to suit your eating personality type. There’s no such thing as ‘one diet fits all’ and there might be an equally good diet plan out there that suits your eating behaviour, lifestyle and personality better. We’ve listed a number of diets that might work best with each Shrinkology types in our book, The Shrinkology Solution, so take the QUIZ to find your type and check your dedicated chapter in the book – you might be surprised!
5. Accept that plateaus are all part of the weight loss process – Rome wasn’t built in a day and nor is changing a lifetime of eating and activity patterns. Be kind to yourself, always. Good luck! Why not join our lovely supportive Facebook group https://facebook.com/groups/shrinksquad to share your weight loss journey with like minded Shrinkers?