Overcoming The Weight Loss Plateau
Whether you have committed to a medical or surgical weight-loss program, at some point you may find that the excitement of your new lifestyle - and the potential it promises - has worn off. Losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight requires an intentional eating and exercise routine, and it isn't always easy.
"When you start to lose weight, physically seeing results is inspiring, and you may experience a newfound sense of energy," said Igor Wanko Mboumi, MD, bariatric surgeon at Franciscan Physician Network Weight Loss Specialists. "But as your weight loss slows and you become accustomed to these changes, your drive to lose weight often slows down - both mentally and physically. It's important to find ways to keep yourself on the path of a healthy lifestyle."
Revisit Your Motivation To Lose Weight
Before you began your weight-loss journey, you had reasons you wanted to lose weight. What were they? What goals did you set for yourself? Maybe you wanted to reach a healthy body mass index, feel energetic enough to play with your children or prevent serious medical conditions.
Have you made progress toward your goals? Reward yourself for these milestones. Enjoy a night out with friends, see a movie or plan a relaxing evening. Celebrating your success will keep you motivated.
If you haven't reached your goals, commit to them again. Share your goals with your family or friends; research shows you will be more likely to follow through. Loved ones can provide much-needed support.
Bust The Boredom
If you've been eating healthy and exercising regularly, you may be in a routine that hasn't changed for weeks or months on end. Changing up your eating and exercise plan can increase your weight-loss success and inspire you to keep going.
- Volunteer. Many groups need volunteers to help collect, sort or deliver food or gifts over the holiday season. This workout can help you feel better physically and mentally as you support others in need.
- Take a healthy cooking class. Learning to cook a variety of foods can reinvigorate your menu plan and make mealtime more enjoyable. Find new, healthy holiday recipes that you can incorporate into seasonal parties.
- Get outdoors in the chilly weather. Building a snowman or having a snowball fight with family is a great way to incorporate exercise with loved ones. Winter hikes can also burn 34 percent more calories than hiking in mild weather, because your body uses more fuel in cold temperatures.
- Ask a friend to join you for a fitness class. Whether it's once a week or daily, having an exercise partner can not only hold you accountable, but also provide companionship during your workout.
- Track your food intake. You'll be more likely to catch a habit of mindless eating if you're tracking your food. Avoid calorie-dense foods that will stretch your stomach. Instead, focus on getting enough protein to help you maintain muscle mass and improve your metabolism.
- Document your body measurements. Take two measurements each of your waist, hips, chest, torso, arms, thighs and calves. Record the average of the two measurements for each area. Measure every four weeks. If you're still exercising (and building muscle mass), you may find you're still losing inches even when your weight remains the same.
- Change your exercise routine every four to six weeks. If you've been exercising diligently and still plateau, your body has probably adapted to the exercise and no longer burns as many calories. Address this by increasing your strength training and changing your exercise routine to work different muscles. Consider high-intensity interval training, an aerobic-exercise class like Zumba or cycling.
- Drink enough water. Your body needs fluids to burn excess fat calories. Dehydration is also the number-one reason for hospital readmission after bariatric surgery. Drink at least 64 ounces of water daily.
- Get enough sleep. As you sleep, your body produces hormones that naturally boost metabolism. Sleep deprivation contributes to food cravings. Get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night.
Seek Weight Loss Help If Needed
If you are following your doctor's orders and are still experiencing mental or physical challenges with weight loss, contact your physician. Your health care team can ensure you are getting adequate nutrition and exercise, as well as watch for any signs of medical conditions that might affect your weight loss.
"During the rapid weight loss following bariatric surgery, the body will also start to lose its muscle mass if it's not maintained," explains Anna Mihelich, PA-C, a Franciscan Health certified physician assistant in Indianapolis. "Losing muscle mass decreases how fast you're able to burn energy, and eventually your fat-loss slows or stops. This is one of the most common reasons that plateaus occur."
Plateaus can last days and even weeks. If your plateau continues for six weeks, talk with your physician.