Reader Question: I’ve Hit a Weight Loss Plateau, Now What?
Reader Question: After having thyroid issues, which started 3 yrs ago. Rise in blood sugar, and gaining weight just by looking at food. One day I had enough. Donated to local church food bank all food that was prepared, processed or high in sugar I got rid of everything. Started fresh and lost 43 pounds last year. Dr was amazed…wanted to know what I had done. I have remained the same can’t seem to take off the next 40 pounds. I work kind of crazy hours as a PSR. So I have a hard time eating regularly, but I still eat relatively health. I can no linger eat a lot of processed foods or quick foods, because it makes me sick, which is a good thing, but sometimes painful. I now need help eating and working towards getting the weight off. Can you help me?
Answer: It sounds like you’ve been through a lot with your health in the past few years, but look how far you’ve come! A 43 pound weight loss in one year is incredible. And you’ve kept it off, too. You should be proud of yourself for ditching the processed foods and transforming your life. You go!
Now for your question. Let’s start with a brief lesson in metabolism.
Metabolism is the amount of energy (calories) your body burns to maintain itself.
Metabolism is affected by:
Gender – you can’t change that!
Your body composition – that you can change
How much you exercise – ditto
Calorie restriction/dieting (more on this later)
Genetics – can’t change that one either
So if any of these factors change (genetics and gender won’t, obviously, but the others can), your metabolism may go up or down. Body fat percentage tends to go up as we age because we tend to work out less; the more body fat you, the fewer calories you need to take in. Since calories are energy and exercise burns energy/calories, the more you exercise the more calories you need.
Now, dieting is a trickier issue.
Early in a diet, caloric deficit results in weight loss from fat stores being burned and loss of body water from glycogen depletion. Eventually, your body notices this change in fat stores and decreases Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) to replenish lost fat. BMR might decrease by up to 45%. When the decrease in BMR = the decrease in calorie deprivation, you hit a weight plateau and stop losing weight. It sounds like that’s where you are now.
So what do you do? A few things:
1) Track what you are eating and how much you are exercising for a few days. There are lots of free apps out there for this purpose. I like My Net Diary, but use whatever is easiest for you.
2) Average your caloric input and output over the course of those days and see what you are consuming and burning on most days. This is your baseline.
3) Go to this website and create a profile: https://www.supertracker.usda.gov/CreateProfile.aspx. Once you’ve done that, it will tell you how much you should be eating of each food group each day. If you click around, you’ll even find sample meal plans. What I want you to pay attention to, however, is the amount of calories they recommend you take in versus what you are currently consuming. One primary reason we hit a weight loss plateau is because we are actually eating too little. If that is the case, then gradually up your caloric intake – with healthy foods, especially vegetables and fruit. Your weight will likely fluctuate for a few weeks, but then you should start to notice a difference. If you are eating more calories than they recommend, then the easiest way to lose weight is to exercise! Run, walk, jump on a trampoline. Just move for 30-60 min each day.
4) Last but not least, you didn’t mention what you are eating, but try to consume lots of fresh produce and whole foods. Many processed foods are not actually recognized as foods by our bodies so we keep eating more and more as our bodies are starving for nutrients. The USDA guide is not perfect, but it’s a good place to start.
If you have any more questions, please let me know! Good luck!