Losing Weight: How to Break Through a Weight-Loss Plateau

There’s nothing quite as frustrating as putting time, energy, and money into your wellness routine only to find your progress delayed. If your scale has stopped budging, try one of these strategies to help get your weight-loss journey going again.

Be mindful of your food intake

Healthy eating means cooking at home | iStock.com

Keep a food journal so you always know what you’re eating. | iStock.com

Countless studies have shown that people consistently underestimate the amount of calories they consume. The saying goes “abs are made in the kitchen,” and that couldn’t be more accurate. There are so many apps to help you track your food intake and get a better read on what you’re consuming. Note, however, that while it’s important to be mindful of how many calories you’re consuming, it’s equally important to be mindful of where those calories are coming from. Fresh produce worth 500 calories won’t be utilized by your body in the same way that 500 calories of processed foods will.

Keep track of how many calories you’re burning

man doing push-ups outside

Keep track of your efforts. | iStock.com

Just like with food, most people have a hard time estimating how many calories they burn during a workout. And, just because fitness studios purport to offer a “1,000 calorie workout” doesn’t mean that’s what you’re actually burning. Wear a tracking device/heart rate monitor. Polar makes some of the most accurate ones. Or try a studio like Orangetheory Fitness, Bari Studio, or Remorca Fitness, all of which have tracking systems to help you monitor your progress.

Change your exercise routine

a group of men exercising

Change up your routine every once in awhile. | iStock.com

Our bodies are smart, adaptable machines. When you first start an exercise routine, your body works hard to perform, but as you repeat the same motions over and over, less effort — and therefore calorie expenditure — is required to perform those same motions. Switching up your workouts will help prevent this, but that doesn’t mean you have to zigzag from running to Zumba. You can stick with what you like, just mix things up. For example, if you love bodyweight movements, try variations on basic moves, or if you’re a steady pace runner, add hill runs to your workout plan.

Choose workouts that result in an “after burn”

woman's shoes as she jumps rope

An intense jump rope workout will do the trick. | iStock.com

In fitness, “after burn” refers to the calories your body burns after your workout is complete — even if all you’re doing is sitting on the couch. Unfortunately it won’t happen with just any workout. If you focus on a steady pace of cardio or basic weight-training, start incorporating high-intensity interval training into your routine.

HITT involves alternating an all-out cardio effort (think jump squats or sprinting), with a less intense effort or rest period. Each of these bursts of activity lasts no more than one minute and the alternating pattern is generally repeated for about 10 to 45 minutes.

The excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, called EPOC, represents the increased oxygen demand the body has in the hours and days after a HIIT workout. This contributes to continued calorie and fat burning for up to 48 hours after the workout is complete. Low intensity, steady-state aerobic exercise doesn’t produce enough EPOC, which in turn doesn’t trigger the necessary hormonal response for continuous fat burning.

HITT also stimulates muscle-building hormones, which allow you to build lean mass as most of the weight loss has been shown to come from fat stores (versus steady pace cardio workouts, which may contribute to muscle loss along with fat loss).

Look at your lifestyle

a stressed man

Reduce your stress levels when possible. | iStock.com

Stress and lack of sleep are commonly associated with weight gain. It’s important to have goals in mind beyond weight loss. If you start looking at physical exercise as a mood-boosting, enjoyable activity, you’re less likely to feel the need to reward yourself with a Big Mac or some other calorie-heavy indulgence after you’ve completed your sweat session. Looking at your activities outside of the gym is also helpful. Are there any places where you can increase your physical activity? Can you take the stairs instead of an elevator? Can you walk instead of taking your car? Can you pick up your food instead of getting it delivered?