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Episode 144: What Causes Weight Loss Plateaus and How to Break Through

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Weight loss plateaus. 

They are annoying. Frustrating. Defeating. Discouraging. And all around sucky. 

They also are inevitable on any weight loss journey, so instead of fighting the unavoidable, let's understand why they happen and what you can do to get that scale moving again (without doing anything you're going to regret later).

Why do plateaus happen?

When you start to lose weight you tend to lose it quickly because - spoiler alert - a good amount of it is water weight. Initially your body gets the energy it needs from glycogen (stored in muscles and the liver) which releases water when it gets used for energy.

As you continue to lose weight, and continue to eat in a calorie deficit, your body eventually starts to think there's a shortage of food and so responds with adaptations to protect you, such as...

  • Increasing hunger hormones.
  • Decreasing satiety hormones.
  • Making you want to move around less.
  • Expending less energy during our regular activities (ie reducing metabolism)
  • Not repairing or recovering as well.
  • Dropping sex, thyroid, and many anabolic (growth-promoting) hormones.
  • Slowing down digestion.

All of these things together are what lead to weight loss plateaus. 

So how do you fix it??

  1. Before you make any drastic changes, check in with your habits. Many times if you reflect honestly, you'll realize you're letting things slip that you weren't letting slip when you were losing weight consistency (skipping workouts, eating slightly bigger portions, ordering that extra glass of wine). A lot of times this happens when we feel like we're doing good and can take our foot off the gas.
  2. Take a look at your workouts. If you've been doing the same type of workout, lifting the same amount of weight, running at the same speed, using the same resistance, and doing the same number of reps, your body has made all the adaptations (ie weight loss) it's going to make for that routine. To change your body you'll need to change things up: increase intensity, time, or change the type of workout you're doing to force your body into more adaptation.
  3. Take a diet break. If you've existed in a calorie deficit for too long, your body is going to be fighting to put on the weight loss breaks because it's assuming there isn't enough food to go around. I know it's scary, but increase your calories by 10% and relax on training for a week to let your body know you're safe, there is no famine, and it will begin to release weight again. (There are multiple ways of doing diet breaks, if you want to find out the one best suited for you, click here to schedule a consultation!)
  4. Ask yourself what you're doing to combat stress. Being in a calorie deficit is by definition stressful to your body. You're asking your body to perform the same tasks (or more if you're adding in workouts), using less fuel than it's used to. And stress can have a big impact on our weight loss as it releases fat storage hormones, increases our hunger, and influences our cravings. 
  5. Focus on healing instead of dieting. If you're doing everything 'right' and not losing weight, there's probably either something underlying going on or you need to re-evaluate your goals. If you think this is you, click here to get on the waitlist for the next round of Follow Your Gut!


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