The Dreaded Weight-Loss Plateau

I had lost twenty-six pounds as of last week–but the same twenty-six pounds popped up on the scale this week. Yes, I’ve reached a plateau. It can be discouraging, but it happens to all dieters. The Web defines it thus:

Weight plateau–during weight loss, a period of time in which weight stabilizes. Often temporary, weight plateaus are usually the result of one or more factors, including increased exercise, increased intake of complex carbohydrates, water retention, menstruation, or constipation.

You can usually rule out one or two of those factors and get to the real culprit.  In my case, all the first three reasons are to blame (if blame is the word). I am exercising more, drinking more water, and eating more complex carbohydrates.

The progression from initial weight loss to a weight-loss plateau follows a typical pattern. During the first few weeks of losing weight, a rapid drop is normal. When calories from food are reduced, the body gets its energy by releasing stores of glycogen. Glycogen releases water, resulting in substantial weight loss that’s mostly water.

A plateau occurs because your metabolism slows as you lose muscle. You burn fewer calories than you did at your heavier weight.

Callie ready for her weighing

Callie wants to be weighed too

This means that to lose more weight, you need to increase activity or decrease the calories you eat. Using the same approach that worked initially may maintain your weight loss, but it won’t lead to more weight loss.

And that’s where I am. Exercising the same amount, and consuming the same amount of calories. At this point we all have to ask ourselves some straightforward questions:

  • Have I reached a comfortable weight?
  • Would I be happy maintaining at this level?
  • Is the ultimate weight I originally had in mind realistic?
  • How do I feel, both physically and mentally?

For the overweight or obese, even modest weight loss can be extremely beneficial to health. So, whatever your answer to these questions, congratulations on reaching this point. But don’t give up and backslide now!

Since my goal is to reach that recommended weight on the USDA charts at least once in my life, I will continue to up my game. For others, just dropping twenty-five pounds or more may be a very big deal. Try to maintain it, for you may want to renew your efforts at a later date, and you’ll be twenty-five pounds ahead of the game when you do. Good luck!

What tricks have you used to get past a plateau?

© Wade Kingston

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