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How to Solve a Weight-Loss Plateau: Causes and solutions from an expert

weight-loss-woman-mirror.jpgby Stacy Berman, N.A.S.M., A.C.E.

Question What causes a weight-loss plateau?

Answer Even the best of us have experienced a plateau in one form or another when it comes to our fitness level and goals. Here are some common reasons and solutions.

 

CAUSE: Calorie reduction. As your body gets used to the new calorie intake, it may adjust its metabolic rate to require fewer calories.

SOLUTION: The best approach is to vary your calorie intake each week or every few days. For example, if you need 1,800 calories per day to maintain your weight, for one week have 1,600, the following 1,800, the following 1,500. (Remember never to go more than 500 calories below your normal calorie needs because this can affect your metabolism, too.)

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Also, keep in mind that as your weight drops, so does your caloric requirement. If you continue to eat the same amount of calories you ate at 10 pounds heavier you won’t lose weight.

 

CAUSE: Efficiency. When you begin a workout program your body responds quickly because you’re placing new demands on it. At some point, though, you begin to adapt to this workload and become more efficient at it. It takes less energy to perform the same task; therefore, you burn less fat and fewer calories.

SOLUTION: Vary the intensity, duration, frequency and/or type of exercise every few days or weeks.

 

CAUSE: Muscle loss. Because muscle is active tissue (calorie using), the more you have, the more calories you burn—even at rest. So someone who weighs the same as I but has less muscle will burn fewer calories. When you start dieting and doing lots of cardio exercise, you burn about the same amount of fat as muscle.

SOLUTION: To get over plateaus you must do some form of resistance training, like using the weight machines in the gym or doing pushups, lunges and crunches.

 

CAUSE: Overtraining (not as common). Doing too much exercise can actually interfere with your weight-loss goals. Workouts break you down and it’s only when you rest that your body will change and improve.

SOLUTION: If you’re not giving your body the time to heal it can’t function optimally. In this case, make sure to get enough sleep as well as taking days off between intense workout sessions.

 

Fitness trainer STACY BERMAN is the founder of Stacy’s Boot Camp in New York City. She’s certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine and the American Council on Exercise.

Last updated and/or approved September 2008.
Article originally appeared in July/August 2008 print issue . Bio current as of that issue.

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Re: Asia Y Powell
written by James Hubbard, M.D. , September 25, 2011

All veggies aren't the same. Surely you like a few. Raw? Cooked? Exotic? Check them out at a health food store. Maybe you would like them in a low-fat soup. These articles may help:

- "How to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables"
- "19 Easy Ideas for Adding More Fruits and Vegetables to Your Diet"

As far as the weight, 13 pounds in three weeks is more than enough. Be sure you weigh on the same scale each time. Even good scales can differ. Be sure you're consistent with the clothes when you weigh. For instance you can always weigh with shoes, or always without. Empty your pockets of heavy keys, coins, etc. Weigh at the same time of day. Before you eat breakfast is a good time. If you can't do that, weigh, say, two hours or so after a meal.

James Hubbard, M.D.
Publisher, MyFamilyDoctorMag.com

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written by asia y powell , September 14, 2011

I really hate veggies...what can I do about this..? And I started my diet like 3 weeks ago my starting weight was 289..I now weight 276....but last Monday I went to the doctors and I weight in at 273..what's going on? Why did it just stop..?
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Great..
written by asiaypowell , September 14, 2011

***** I feel much better
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...
written by liss , September 12, 2011

so simple yet never thought of it that way, the more weight u loose the fewer calories u need, and differ in workouts, cheers =)
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Inspiration!
written by Anthony Angeli , June 30, 2011

Extremely well written article. I am guessing the weight-loss plateau is kind of similar to a weight training plateau?

It seems some people tend to "max out" if you will, and constantly need to find ways to trick their body a bit. Are the two similar?


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How To Flatten Your Stomach Fast
written by Jesse , June 21, 2011

Great article! I think a lot of people forget to lower their caloric intake as they lose weight, halting or preventing them from continued weight loss success.
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This is some good stuff!
written by suzy , May 20, 2011

Most people tend not to talk about plateaus but it is going to happen to everybody at some point so people need to know how to blast through it. Great tips.
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motivation
written by antjon , April 01, 2011

variation is the spice of life no matter what you are doing it stops the boredom setting in, it keeps you motivated and in sight of your goal, i think motivation is one of the key elements to losing weight
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Changing up your exercises works!
written by Cody , March 19, 2011

These are some great ideas. I especially like the idea talking about varying your exercise routine. Breaking it up really works. Thanks!
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