Reaching your goal weight can be a challenge. You started your journey extremely motivated as you watched the pounds drop off, then suddenly you plateaued. The scale won’t budge, you still haven’t reached your goal weight and you’re frustrated as to what to do next. Don’t fret, there are many ways to get yourself back on track.
Start by reassessing your habits. Recognize what food-related habits might be an issue, then start problem-solving to address them. Make sure that you are keeping track of your daily calories — how many calories are you consuming and how many are you burning? Also, consider changing up your workout routine; it’s a great way to challenge and re-motivate yourself.
Are you getting enough sleep every night? Lack of sleep can lead to less drive and motivation toward your weight loss goals. “Numerous studies have shown a link between quality Zs and maintaining a healthy weight,” says Cori Cohen, RDN. “Tweak your routine so that you can reap the benefits of a solid 7-8 hours of slumber. Notice the difference in your food cravings and appetite when you get a quality night’s sleep versus a few restless hours. It is likely to amaze you!”
“Healthy sustainable weight loss takes time, and just because you do not see the scale move one week does not mean it won’t the next,” says Cohen. Get back on track toward achieving your weight loss goals with these tips on how to pull out of a weight loss rut.
If you've never considered keeping a food journal before or haven't updated yours in a while, now is a good time to do so. “Keeping a record of when, what, and how much you are eating and drinking can help you re-evaluate your choices,” Michelle Hyman, MS, RD says. “You may realize some old, unhealthy habits have returned. You can keep records the old-fashioned pen-and-paper way, use a smart phone app, or just snap pictures of your meals and snacks and review the pictures every few days.”
Recognize what food-related habits might be an issue, then start problem-solving to address them. “For example, have you been skipping breakfast and then overeating at lunch? If so, think about why you've been skipping breakfast,” Hyman says. “If you are short on time, consider making breakfast the night before or look up five-minute-or-less options you can make the morning of.”
“Many times new dieters don’t examine their macronutrients, especially protein,” David Ezell, clinical director of Darien Wellness and creator and host of the podcast The Weighting, says. “Protein feeds muscle, and the preservation of muscle is a challenge for people cutting weight? Why? Muscle, even at rest, burns calories. So more muscle equals more caloric loss, even when the body is not in motion.”
Hyman says that you should start getting more accurate with your portion sizes. “Simple ways to do this are by purchasing a food scale and/or measuring cups,” she says. “You may think you're only eating 1 cup of cereal or 1 cup of pasta, but you may be eating more than that.”
“As hearty as your meals might be, there are times when you really need a snack to tide you over,” Caleb Backe, health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics, says. “So if you take the time to plan in advance, you’ll be reaching for freshly cut fruits and veggies or some low-fat yogurt to snack on instead of the muffins calling your name from the kitchen in your office.”
Have you hit a plateau? Fad diets tend to be temporary, and some are harmful to the body. Fiber is crucial for the body’s overall health; it plays an important role in our digestive system and has the ability to help you lose weight. Some foods that contain fiber include apples, green beans, strawberries, chickpeas, black beans, brown rice, oatmeal and avocado.
“Weeks on end of dieting, especially calorie restricted diets, will cause the body to go into starvation mode, and it will protect the fat on your body,” Ezell says. “If you are plateauing take a week off and up your calories by 25 percent. Your body will relax, and fat burning will resume (this also great for your mental health as well to indulge a bit).”
“We humans tend to like the idea of eating, and there’s little that’s more exciting than a heaping plate of some yummy food,” says Backe. “Instead of using your standard large dinner plates, start using an appetizer plate instead. This way you’ll still get the visual satisfaction of having a full portion while cutting down on your calorie intake.”
Many times, we confuse hunger with thirst. “Therefore, it's a good idea to keep a water bottle close by and sip it throughout the day so that you are less prone to snacking unnecessarily,” Caleb Backe says. “Drinking H2O also helps you burn up to 200 calories a day by boosting your metabolism.”
Are you looking for a more potent jump start? “Try a 14-day real food detox! This means replacing all processed foods (those that come in cans, boxes or bags and have a long list of ingredients) with whole unprocessed foods like fresh fruits and veggies (frozen works too as long as there are no added ingredients), raw nuts and seeds, lentils or beans, fish, eggs and other quality proteins,” Cohen says.
“Drinking chamomile tea is a natural and enjoyable way to fight bloating and water retention,” says Samantha Morrison, health and wellness expert for Glacier Wellness. “In general, tea relaxes the GI muscles, which promotes the digestive system to release gas and unnecessary waste, ultimately eliminating stomach cramps and bloating.” Tea is also a highly effective diuretic, which triggers the urinary system to get rid of extra fluids and salt, she adds.
Are you tired of doing the same workout routine every day? Switching it up is a great way to challenge and re-motivate yourself. Not only will your body get used to the same workout day after day, leading to fewer calories burned, but doing the same exercise daily will make you more prone to injury.
“Sometimes we can get used to doing the same type of exercise, for the same amount of time, and the same number of days per week,” Hyman says. “As long as you're medically cleared for it, try something different, such as adding a few extra minutes, increasing the resistance or amount of weight you are using.”
“Weight-bearing exercise will build muscle mass, and increased muscle mass will burn more fat,” Ezell says. “Remember, it’s fat loss that you are after, not weight loss.” Additional benefits of weight-bearing exercises include improvement of coordination, flexibility and balance.
Increase your daily steps. “Working out is great but if you are barely moving for the rest of the week/day it is time to step it up (literally),” Cohen says. “Download a free app to track your steps and set a daily goal for yourself. Make the goal realistic — for example if you are currently averaging 4,000 daily steps start by setting a goal of 6,000.” Getting those additional 2,000 steps can be as simple as taking stairs versus the elevator or taking a few laps around the house after dinner, she adds.
“This IF (Intermittent Fasting) strategy in which you consume all of your food for the day in an 8-hour span (such as 12–8 p.m.) has been gaining popularity amongst those looking to lean out,” says Cohen. “While more research in humans is warranted, preliminary studies indicate IF’s ability to change hormone levels that boost metabolic rate and lead to more efficient fat burning.” Cohen says to “keep in mind that one of the main reasons this method works is because it leads to overall calorie reduction. So, if you binge on sweets and other treats for eight hours straight it probably won’t lead to weight loss.”
“It is easy to get discouraged when you feel like you are putting in a lot of time and effort to meet your goals, but you aren't seeing the results you want,” Hyman says. “Think of how far you've come. It is always better to maintain your weight than it is to give up, resume previous unhealthy habits, and start re-gaining weight.”
One of the easiest ways to maintain a healthy diet is to figure out a plan that won't leave you hungry or craving more. “Too many people get stuck in thinking that dieting means sacrificing. In reality, there's no reason you can't create a diet which supplements your favorite unhealthy foods for healthier alternatives,” Morrison says. “In the end, you are more significantly more likely to lose weight and not hate every minute of it.”
Backe says that “oftentimes we eat because we want to, but we don’t actually stop to think about if we need to or not. As you eat, consider if you’re really hungry or if you’re eating just because you’re bored, upset, etc.” You’ll quickly realize just how many calories you’re consuming that you don’t actually need, and this is a great first step in losing weight, he adds.
Are you an avid runner? If so, you may find it difficult to keep your mind occupied and away from the pain and intensity of your workout. “One of the easiest ways to mitigate this problem is to explore,” Morrison says. “Find new and interesting places to run and you’ll discover more than you ever imagined, effectively distracting you from the difficulty of your workout.”
Hyman says that you should think about what helped you lose weight in the past. “If it worked for you in the past, there's a good likelihood it will work for you now,” she says. “Were you snacking on fruit instead of trendy packaged ’healthy’ snacks or were you eating much more vegetables than you're eating now?” For more inspiration to reach your health goals, consider trying one of these trendy new workouts for 2019.
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