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Bust Through a Plateau with Diet and Fitness

Christina is a mom, registered nurse, and blogger. She fully admits to both a love of too much food and a love of the couch, two vices she struggles to overcome on a daily basis. In the past two years, she’s lost nearly 50 pounds through diet and exercise, some of it chronicled on her blog, Losing My Hind.

Most people who are actively trying to lose weight hit a plateau now and then. You’re working hard, losing weight as a result, and then suddenly all of that progress stops and you wonder if your scale is broken because it’s been displaying the same number for weeks.

Plateaus are often the body’s way of recalibrating and adjusting to the changes you’ve brought about. But if you’re like me, you can only handle a plateau for so long before you get a twitchy eye and the urge to throw your scale through the bathroom window. I was recently stuck at a plateau for over a month, which felt like years to me, and anyone who had to listen to me rant about it.

If a plateau has you frustrated, try some of my tips for conquering that plateau and mending the relationship with your scale again:

Check your calories – If you started shedding pounds by setting a fixed calorie goal each day, are you still using that same number of calories? As you lose weight, your body requires fewer calories to maintain its mass, meaning you have to eat fewer than before to keep losing weight. If you’re still aiming for the same number of calories you started with, it may be time to re-adjust your daily limit. Try using a calorie calculator to determine your daily calorie limit based on your current weight.

Muscle confusion – If your only workout is the same kickboxing DVD four days a week, your body will quickly adapt to this routine and give you less results for the time you’re investing. To get the maximum benefit from each sweat session, variety is key. Do a mix of cardio, strength training and stretching each week, making sure to vary your workouts to keep your muscles from getting too comfortable with the routine. If you like to run, try biking once a week, or add some yoga to your strength training sessions. A little variety may be all you need to get yourself back to a downward trend on the scale.

Stomach confusion – OK, I’ve got absolutely no science to back this one up, but if the body can become efficient at doing the same movements every day, it makes sense that it could also become efficient at the fuel you give it as well. Are you in a food rut? Change it up to give your digestive system a wake-up call! Try a day or two of high-protein, or high-fiber, or a few meals heavy on fruits and veggies.

Reduce stress – Nothing makes your body cling to every pound quite like stress. Stress hormones send out the message that your life is on the line (even if it’s just frustration at rush hour traffic), which then encourages your body to hang on to anything it might need to burn for survival, like your fat. Essentially, stress turns your body into a hoarder. If work and home won’t let you cut back on the things that stress you out, at least try to take 10 minutes each day to sit quietly, meditate, or do something you really enjoy.

Take a break – So you’ve tracked every calorie in and out, changed up your routine, and the scale still isn’t moving? Maybe it’s time to take a few days off. Just as outside stress can affect your weight, internal stress brought about from frustration and obsession over numbers can occasionally inhibit weight loss. Give yourself two or three days with no calorie counting or timed exercise. Aim to eat foods you enjoy in moderation, incorporate exercise only if it fits in with your daily activities, and get plenty of sleep. You may find the time off will surprise you with an unexpected drop on the scale!
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June 25th, 2011

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