Push Past Your Weight Plateau

Why Aren’t You Losing More?

Have you ever hit a weight loss plateau?

It’s infuriating! You’re working hard, doing all the right things, but suddenly your weight loss stops. Why?

There are plenty of possibilities, so let’s break down a few of the reasons that you might have hit a dieting wall. Plus we’ll talk about a few ways to get past it!

You’re plodding along—literally.
Not losing at the same rate you once were? You may need to step up your own rate. Studies have shown that high-intensity interval training—or, exercising at a high intensity for 30 seconds to several minutes followed by 1 to 5 minutes of recovery time (either no exercise or very low-intensity exercise) then repeating the cycle several times—produces more weight loss than plain, old, moderate-intensity aerobic exercise. Say you normally jog at a moderate pace for 30 minutes. Instead, warm up at an easy pace for 5 minutes. Then run at very high intensity for 1 minute and recover by running very easily for 4 minutes. Repeat five times.

How do you know your intensity is high? Take your heart rate. High intensity exercise is defined as exertion at 70 to 85% of your maximum heart rate. Now, before you do the usual mental math (220 minus your age) to determine your max, try a newer, purportedly more accurate formula, devised after studying more than 3,000 men and women ages 19 to 89: 211 minus 64% of your age. The newer formula yields a higher number, but that’s a good thing. The greater your exertion, the greater the results.

You’re stressed about the scale—and stressed being stressed about the scale.

Losing weight isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s challenging work that requires both sustained focus and hope—the very combo meditation is touted to provide. Which is why researchers from the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles recently sifted through the results of all existing research studies on meditation’s effect on binge eating, emotional eating, and overall dietary intake. And they found that the vast majority of the studies (86%) found that meditation improved all three. If you’re stressed because your weight loss appears to have stalled, don’t reach to Ben & Jerry’s for comfort, try quieting your mind instead. Focus on filling your lungs and exhaling slowly. Empty your mind, and relax your body, one body part at a time. Be still, in the moment, for 5 minutes. Feel the calm—then press on. No Chunky Monkey required.
– via Prevention

Pushing Past the Plateau

When you’re doing all the right things, but can’t seem to make the pounds drop like they should, it gets frustrating.

Even more than frustrating, it can become discouraging and make you question the whole process. But what if the struggle of a weight plateau comes down to just a simple change in your habits.

A small change here or there could yield major changes to keep your weight loss on track.

You Don’t Drink Enough Water
We’ve all heard how important H2O is when it comes to shedding pounds. It helps to suppress appetite, so you’re less likely to overeat. But that’s not all: When you’re dehydrated, your kidneys can’t function properly, so the body turns to the liver for additional support. Because the liver is working so hard, more of the fat you consume is stored rather than burned off.

What surprised me most, though, is that if you’re upping your fiber intake but not also hitting the bottle hard, things tend to get a wee bit, er, backed up. “It’s important to add fiber gradually and increase water intake at the same time. Otherwise, instead of helping with digestion, fiber may actually lead to constipation,” notes Anna-Lisa Finger, RD, a personal trainer for the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center in Baltimore. I often consume nearly double the recommended 25 grams of fiber daily. Gulp.

Just how much water should I be drinking? “About one-half your body weight in ounces every day, especially if you’re exercising,” Dr. Smith says. So the eight-cups-a-day rule applies only to sedentary women who weigh 128 pounds (sure as hell not me!). “If you consume an aggressive amount of fiber, another eight to 16 ounces a day is a good idea,” Dr. Smith adds. H2OMG! That amount of liquid — for me, 12 cups a day, minimum — requires serious effort. I fill up with about a liter at each meal, and I’m a peeing machine.

You Skimp on Protein
Several studies show that high-protein diets result in more pounds shed, at least initially. Protein enhances the feeling of satiety and prevents your losing muscle as you lose fat. You also have dietary thermogenesis, which is the energy you burn to process and use the food you eat, on your side. “Your body expends more energy to metabolize protein than carbs or fat,” says Cari Coulter, RD, the program director for Wellspring Weight Loss Camp in Kenosha, Wisconsin. “So higher-protein diets make you burn slightly more calories.”

So how much protein do I need a day? “It depends on your weight, but most women should get 40 to 80 grams,” Dr. Smith says. To accomplish that, I have Greek yogurt (18 grams) or a couple of eggs (13 grams) for breakfast, and I eat a few ounces of lean poultry (25 grams) or fish (22 grams) or a heaping helping of black beans (15 grams) or lentils (18 grams) at lunch and dinner. I snack on a handful of raw almonds (6 grams). As a result, I feel fuller — sometimes so full I don’t even sneak a bite of my son’s ice cream (the way I used to whether I was hungry or not) — so it’s easier to keep daily calories in check.

Your Numbers Are Off
I’ve always considered myself a math whiz, so I assumed that I had the whole calories-in, calories-out formula down pat. Here’s how I determined how many I should eat a day: I got my basal metabolic rate (BMR, or the amount of calories I need to maintain my weight) using the online calculator at fitnessmagazine.com/weight-loss/bmr, and I entered “moderate” for my activity level, because I exercise regularly. That gave me about 2,400 calories a day. Then I added whatever calories I burn during my workouts (usually about 500), according to my heart-rate monitor. That meant I could eat almost 3,000 calories a day without gaining a pound (or nearly 2,500 a day to lose a pound a week). Sure, it seemed high, but I had used a calculator. It had to be right!

Not so fast, Coulter says. “The BMR calculator already factors in the calories you burn with your workouts, so you shouldn’t add them in again,” she explains. Math club membership revoked! All this time I had thought my daily needs were 500 calories higher than they really were. No wonder I’d been maintaining instead of losing.
– via Fitness Magazine

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