Get off the plateau!

It’s kind of like running into a wall—that feeling you get when, after a few months on a weight-loss mission, you suddenly stop seeing results. This is called hitting a plateau and it is not uncommon. In fact, unless you continually update your program to reflect the changes your body has already experienced, you can almost be guaranteed to plateau at some point along your journey toward reaching your goal.

The first thing you should do upon hitting a plateau is try to determine the cause. Could you be eating more calories than you think? Could your body be so used to your workout program that you are not pushing yourself enough?

Research shows that most people under-report the number of calories they eat—it’s not that they’re lying; they just don’t know how to make an accurate assessment of how much they’re eating. And even if you’re eating fewer calories than before you lost the weight, you could be eating just enough to maintain your current weight at your current activity level. Unfortunately, people’s bodies adjust their metabolism to resist weight change. This means that you burn fewer calories when you start consuming fewer calories.

The same is true for exercise. Trying to exercise for several hours per day to burn more calories is a good way to set yourself up for failure. Not only does this type of regimen require an enormous time commitment, it is hard on the body, making you more susceptible to injury and overuse syndromes. Instead, aim for 30 – 60 minutes of moderate activity most of the days of the week and, as you improve your fitness levels, gradually increase the intensity and duration of your exercise sessions. The most effective exercise is the one you will do consistently – so choose activities that you find enjoyable. Another means for getting you off the plateau is strength training, which has been shown to be very effective in helping people manage their weight because the added muscle helps to offset the metabolism-lowering effect of dieting and losing weight. Muscle is much more metabolically active than fat; therefore, the more muscle you can add, the higher your metabolism will be.

If you’ve stopped losing weight, the key to getting off the plateau is to vary your programme. By shaking things up a bit and varying your programme by introducing some new elements, you’ll find yourself off the plateau and back on the road to progress in no time!

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