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Healthline Weight Loss

What to do about a weight loss plateau?

When people follow a diet and exercise plan, they may start to lose weight at a steady rate. However, many people reach a weight loss plateau, where their weight stays the same despite dietary changes and exercise.

People can become frustrated when they hit a weight loss plateau, which can sometimes cause them to abandon their weight loss plan.

Most people are aware that weight loss requires them to burn more calories than they eat. However, many other factors also influence weight loss, including behavioral, hormonal, and environmental conditions.

Keep reading to learn more about why weight loss plateaus happen and what people can do to break through them.

Why do plateaus happen?

When a person reaches a weight loss plateau, they will no longer lose any weight, despite following a diet and fitness regimen. Research shows that weight loss plateaus happen after about 6 monthsTrusted Source of following a low calorie diet.

Doctors are unsure why weight loss plateaus occur, but some theories include:

  • the body adapts to weight loss and defends itself against further weight loss
  • people stop following their diets after a few months
  • the metabolism slows down if a person loses weight quickly

However, the researchersTrusted Source behind a study on this issue concluded that although a person’s metabolism can change as they lose weight, this does not explain why the weight loss plateau occurs. They believe that the weight loss plateau happens due to a person no longer adhering to their diet plan.

Sticking to a restrictive or low calorie diet plan every day can be challenging or, sometimes, unrealistic. Small, unconscious fluctuations in daily calories can cause early weight loss plateaus.

More research is necessary to determine why weight loss plateaus occur. Below, we cover some ways to break through them.

Start a food journal

Recording meals and snacks can be tedious, but it can provide valuable insights.
Research shows that people tend to underestimate their energy or calorie intake significantly. Once people are fully aware of their eating and drinking patterns and understand where unnecessary calories are coming from, they can make changes.
The authors of an earlier studyTrusted Source found that more than 50% of the participants underreported what they were eating. These participants had:
  • higher body mass index (BMI)
  • increased fat mass
  • more visceral fat
  • greater perceived stress levels
  • a higher percentage of energy from protein
  • lower levels of calcium, fiber, iron, vitamin B-1, and vitamin B-6
  • fewer servings of fruits and vegetables
Keeping a food diary or using a food tracker app can help people see exactly how many calories they are consuming.
Some trackers even show whether people are getting enough or too much of one particular macronutrient, such as carbohydrate or fat.
Limiting or avoiding the intake of alcohol and sugary treats can help eliminate empty calories that do not provide nutritional value.
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