Diet long enough and you’re bound to hit a point where the scale gets stuck. Weight loss levels off, your motivation wanes and staying the course can be difficult. The reason behind the sludge-like slowdown: Your body has gotten used to your healthier habits and needs new challenges.
Research suggests that an initial, consistent loss during the first four to eight weeks is critical for both short-term and long-term success. In fact, what happens in the first few weeks of a weight-loss journey not only predicts the total number of pounds dieters will shed, but also whether they’ll keep it off. So losing weight quickly – at least straight out of the gate – can help dieters stay motivated.
But no matter how healthful your diet, or how much you work out, the scale will eventually reach a standstill. Instead of wallowing in a pint of ice cream, devise a plan to break through it and nudge the scale back toward its downward trend. Eight of my favorite strategies:
- Eat first. Eat within one hour of waking – even if you’re not hungry (maybe especially if you’re not hungry). Having something to chew on (literally!) can help get your metabolism going.
- Switch up your workouts. Instead of logging in your regular half-hour on the treadmill at a steady pace, try the interval option or hit the road and sprint between street signs or phone poles. Then add in some strength training. Pumping iron and performing resistance exercises increases muscle, which in turn, boosts your body’s fat burning potential.
- Eat more. While eating more when weight loss levels off may seem counterintuitive, starving yourself won’t help you shed more pounds. If you’re losing weight by reducing calories, you’re going to reach a point where you can’t decrease your calories further without sabotaging nutrients. What’s worse, when your body is consistently deprived of food, it can go into starvation mode, slowing your metabolism and making weight loss even more difficult.
- Eat more often. Instead of eating three square meals daily, eat small meals every three to four hours to keep your metabolism humming. The most effective combination for these mini-meals: a mix of protein, fiber-rich carbohydrates and healthy fats.
- Branch out. Shake things up with your food choices. Load up on different fruits and vegetables and experiment with seasonings. When it comes to satisfying your sweet tooth, keep portions small and focus on nutrient-rich choices like a small square of dark chocolate.
- Weigh yourself. Step on the scale at least once a week, first thing in the morning. That way, you’ll be able to catch yourself before you slip into a weight-gain trend.
- Don’t give up. If at first you don’t succeed, try something different. Set up your environment to support your healthy habits. After all, if your kitchen is stocked with healthful whole foods, that’s what you’ll eat! Then, review your challenges and successes and make necessary adjustments. Most important, don’t put a stop to your healthy routines once you reach your weight-loss goal. Maintenance is a key step in weight loss.
- Hold yourself accountable. Record food intake and exercise frequency and intensity using a high-tech app – or even an old school notebook. It doesn’t matter how you track your progress – or regress – as long as you have some way to measure and plan accordingly.
Weight management doesn’t have a beginning or end. Instead, it’s a daily commitment. The key, of course, is focusing on lifestyle changes rather than subscribing to a specific diet. To that end, consider these five pillars:
- Physical activity
- Environmental control
Balance in each of these pillars is necessary during active weight loss and maintenance.