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Break through a weight loss plateau

Main Line Health March 29, 2018 Nutrition and Weight Management
Last Updated on July 15, 2019

You’ve been measuring your portions, hitting the gym, cutting out caffeine and sugar…but the scale just won’t budge! This can be a frustrating process, but it’s one many frustrated dieters have dealt with before.

“A weight loss plateau is common and, for many people, it can happen when they're within just a few pounds of their goal weight,” says Richard Ing, MD, director of metabolic and bariatric surgery with the Main Line Health Comprehensive Weight and Wellness Program. “There’s no specific reason why this happens, but there are steps you can take to hopefully break through it.”

Write down what you eat

You might already be keeping a food diary or journaling what you’re eating, a common technique for successful weight loss. But have you been totally honest? If you’ve been successfully losing weight for several weeks, you might have gotten comfortable with treating yourself to a few extra treats in between regular meals, like a handful of chips, snack-size chocolate or even seemingly healthy treats like fruits, veggies or mixed nuts. But these snacks can add up and—if you’re not tracking them—could be the ‘secret’ cause of weight loss hurdle.

For one week, be extra diligent about recording the foods you eat. If you do find yourself snacking more frequently than you realized, that’s okay! You might consider more time in the gym to help you move past a plateau, or restructuring your diet to include four or five small meals per day instead of three larger meals.

Step up your workout routine

When it comes to weight loss success, what you do in the gym is just as important as what you’re doing in the kitchen. But, after a few months, you might find that your usual workout routine isn’t giving you the same results that it used to.

Instead of using the same machine every day or choosing the same running route, challenge your body by trying a new fitness class or introducing your legs to some new hills. These might seem difficult at first but, because it will be a new challenge, they’ll require your body to adapt and will burn more calories.

And don’t forget about strength training, too!

“As our bodies lose weight, they shed muscle and fat—two things that help burn calories,” explains Dr. Ing. “But muscle burns more calories than fat, so it’s important to focus on building muscle for successful weight loss. Don’t be afraid to try some light strength training.”

Work some activity into your day

If ramping up workouts doesn’t sound like your style, look for opportunities to work activity into other areas of your day, instead. Take a walk during your lunch break, or keep a pair of dumbbells next to the couch and turn your commercial breaks into mini-weight training sessions.

Make time for sleep

“When you’re short on sleep, two hormones that regulate your hunger cycle are affected: ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin cues hunger, and leptin tells your body when it’s full. When you’re tired, your body produces more ghrelin and less leptin, which keeps you hungrier,” explains Dr. Ing. This can be why, when you’re in the midst of a busy week at work or traveling, you’re more likely to binge eat or snack in between meals. In addition, you might be more likely to practice unhealthy behaviors like skipping the gym or having too many drinks at happy hour.

While missing a few hours of sleep every now and then won’t throw your hormones off balance, repeatedly skimping on sleep can take a toll on your efforts and could be the reason for a plateau. Set aside time for quality sleep, and aim for about seven to eight hours per night.

Re-assess your goal

If you’ve tried all of these techniques and are still having problems losing weight, it might be time to re-think whether the weight loss goal you set is a reasonable one for you. If you’ve lost a significant amount of weight and are in a healthy range for your age and height, you may not need to lose any additional weight. An appointment with your primary care doctor can help you determine the appropriate weight for you and whether or not your goal is a healthy one.

If you’re still having trouble losing weight

If your health care provider agrees that you need to lose weight but you’re unable to lose weight with diet and exercise, know that all hope isn’t lost—there are options out there for you to still find success with weight loss.

“’Eat less and move more’ isn’t always a recipe for success,” explains Stephanie McKnight, MD, bariatrician with the Main Line Health Comprehensive Weight and Wellness Program. “Losing weight isn’t always as simple as calories in, calories out.”

Factors like genetics, age and hormones can all impact whether or not you’re having success with weight loss. So too can lifestyle and behavior factors like meal timing, food quality, disordered eating and stress. In order to find true success with weight loss, it’s important to consider all of these factors and more to find a weight loss plan that works for you.

The Main Line Health Comprehensive Weight and Wellness Program offers a variety of weight loss approaches that range from nutrition counseling and education to medication to weight loss surgery. Our care team will work with you to determine the best approach based on factors like:

  • How much weight you want to lose
  • Your current health condition
  • Your lifestyle and behaviors
  • Your own unique history of weight management
  • Genetic factors

…and anything that influences your health and well-being as it relates to having excess weight.

Through our program you’ll discover that it’s not too late for you to live the rest of your life at a healthy weight, and that you don’t have to suffer in the process. You can get started now by calling 484.476.6230 to schedule a preliminary consultation.