Breaking Through Weight Loss Plateaus
When an individual’s rate of weight loss slows or stalls for an extended time despite making no significant changes in their weight loss plan, they are experiencing a weight loss plateau.
Everyone who loses significant weight over a period of time will inevitably face a weight loss plateau. This can feel discouraging, making it difficult to stay motivated.
Contributing factors may include poor sleep, inadequate nutrition, metabolic adaptation, and hormonal imbalance; but generally plateaus are temporary and pass within a week or two. Most industry experts now understand the plateau effect is the result of your body defending what it considers your “Set Point”.
Set Point Theory
Your body has a “programmed” range for weight and composition that it will constantly seek to defend. This is your “set point” and we believe it’s influenced by many things; habits, hormones, genetics, and brain chemistry, as well as how long you have been at your current weight.
If your weight suddenly drops, your body will fight to bring it back up, and vice versa. Your body will adjust (by using hormones and chemical cues), speeding up or slowing down your metabolism in an attempt to keep your weight at or near this target. This is good news if you’re trying to maintain this “set point,” but not so much when you’re trying to lose weight!
George L Blackburn, MD, Phd, pioneer in medical weight management, published a book on this topic:
Brief Summary: Dr. Blackburn suggests that losing 10% of your body mass is about the limit of short term sustainable weight loss. But, after 6 months or more of maintaining the loss, Blackburn’s theory is your set point will drop to your new lower weight, allowing you to renew your weight loss efforts with better outcomes. Main take-away: Work with your body, not against it.
Scenario 1) Picture a pole fixed in the ground. Now imagine a long elastic band secures you to the pole. No matter which direction you head, you will reach a point where your progress stops and you get pulled back toward the pole.
Scenario 2) Now, instead of a pole in the ground, let’s say the elastic band connects you to a heavy cart that weighs hundreds of pounds. If you pull hard enough you can actually move the cart, but you have to work really hard and you can only move it a little before the tension of the elastic band pulls you off balance and all progress halts.
When you hit a weight loss plateau it feels like the first scenario, but the second scenario with the cart is probably a better description. Bear with me as I extend this metaphor…
A steady, constant pull is the most efficient way to move the heavy cart. You could try pulling like crazy in short bursts, but you’re going to tire quickly and give up.
In your weight loss journey, getting through a weight loss plateau is just like pulling that cart. You need to continue doing the things that have brought you success. Keep doing the next right thing over and over and your weight loss will resume.