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The Best Way to Beat a Weight Loss Plateau

Updated on March 8, 2011

Change, change, change! Keep your body guessing- it's the most efficient, sometimes the only way, to break a weight loss plateau or shed the stubborn last few pounds. People stop losing weight, even though they are dieting and exercising, for a couple of different reasons: 1. If you have lost a lot of weight recently and prior to a plateau you were losing quickly, but now it slowed or stopped, or 2. you don't have much weight to lose to begin with (5-20 lbs.) and your body fights you on every pound you try to lose.

There are solutions that can kickstart your weight loss. A modified diet and exercise are the ideal ways to lose weight but just this simple equation may not get you to your goal. I've had to lose 20 lbs. twice (after college and after having a baby). Here are some tips (I've tried them all-successfully) that you can easily use to adjust your diet and exercise in a way that will make you happy to jump on the scale.


Tip #1- Don't Eat the Same Amount of Calories Every Day. This isn't yo-yo dieting! It doesn't mean you pig out one day and go into conservation mode the next day, kinda like binge-eating. Keep your calorie difference between days within 500-not too drastic. If you keep track of calories, for example your diet requires you to eat 1500 calories a day, then this tip will be easy for you to implement. Eat 1500 cal. for a day or two, then eat 1800 for a day or, then eat 1300 for a day or two and continue that rotation.

Another way is to eat your daily 1500 cal, then one or two days a week add in a whole "cheat" (within reason) day or on a couple of days allow yourself a couple of cheat meals. This approach is easy even if you don't keep track of calories, you can eat sparingly for most of the week, then eat until slightly past full for a day or two a week.

Tip #2- If you've been good, be bad. This relates to change. If you HAVE been a slave to your work-out and diet regimen, then you need to take a break an have some off days. Your body only builds muscle when you are at rest, not while you are working out. So get rest. Have leisurely exercise days where you just take a stroll or take your kid or dog to the park. 

Tip #3- Don't Eat the Same Kind of Foods Every Day. Most diets don't work because dieters get bored of the types of foods prescribed. One diet may suggest no meat, another no carbs, and so on, but eventually you'll hit a weight loss plateau with them all- even your body is screaming "I'm bored"!

As far as dieting goes, I always think it should be realistic- a lifestyle change and something you can live with, but if you're going to diet switch the prescribed foods around every few days and draw from a variety of diets out on the market. They all work initially until boredom with the food sets in so mix them up- do one for a few days, then another. and keep rotating. Once you've lost the weight, then go back to a balanced. modified diet you can live with.  


Tip #1- Skip or minimize Cadio and try Interval Training. Interval training is commonly used for athletes, but now everybody is implementing this type of exercise technique into their personal workouts. For instance, instead of a 40 minute low intensity aerobic workout, do a 20 minute workout alternating every 2 minutes with low intensity then high intensity (from a walk to a jog (aerobic) or sprint (anaerobic). Switching between low intensity to high intensity gives you more bang for your buck because it burns more calories overall, even after your workout. That will give you results and less time in the gym.

Another version of interval training, my favorite, is alternating between a few minutes of aerobic activity, then lifting weights for a few minutes- for a total of 20-40 minutes. This also gives you plenty of benefits and will change your body. Aerobic exercise is great and weightlifting is great, but together they're powerful enough to break a weight loss plateau.

Tip#2- Change Workouts and Exercises on a Weekly or Bi-weekly Basis. If you do the same workouts all the time, your muscles will be out of balance and you will not be truly fit, especially true if you're in a rut. Same workout=same results. You can change this by adding variety to the types of workouts you do every two weeks. You can do interval training for two weeks, then swtich to flexibility type routines like pilates and simple walking for the next two weeks.

I use this method of training a lot because it keeps me from getting bored and sometimes I'll use it to try out a new type of exercise. I'll do an interval training routine for two weeks, then try something new like dance exercise videos or walking with a couple of days of a new class at my gym, such as kick-boxing or water aerobics.

Everything I've mentioned is designed to keep your body guessing. I've gathered these tips through the years by reading several diet and exercise books, taking college exercise and physiology courses, and from my personal experience.

One fact is if you do the same thing day after day, you will get the same results as usual, which can eventually end up being no results. Whatever you decide to do to break your weight loss plateau, make sure there is some aspect of constant change; the body is very efficient and easily adapts to a boring old routine.


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