Nothing is more frustrating than a weight loss plateau. If it seems like the needle on your scale is stuck, ask yourself these six questions to help break through a weight-loss plateau and restart your weight loss.
1. Are you eating enough?
Sounds crazy, doesn't it? After all, you have to eat less to lose weight... right? Well, not necessarily. Portion size is definitely a key ingredient in the weight loss recipe, but all too often, people make the mistake of thinking that starving themselves is the way to go.
Going too long without food or not eating enough is one of the worst decisions you can make when you're trying to lose weight because your body will basically shut down your metabolism. It reacts as if you are in danger of starving and slows down your metabolism in order to conserve energy,
If you want to lose fat, you have to approach eating strategically, and consider how your body processes food. The smartest approach is to eat breakfast as soon as you wake up and then eat a meal or snack every two to three hours until an hour before bed, so that your metabolism never slows down.
2. Are you getting enough sleep?
Sleep plays a larger role than most people realize in the keeping your metabolism functioning well. If you sleep too little (or, to a lesser extent, too much) your metabolism will not burn fat as efficiently. The ideal amount of sleep to ensure your body can burn fat at a high rate is between seven and eight hours a night. If you want to lose weight, make sleep a priority.
3. Are you stressing too much?
Your body has a built-in system to gear itself up to respond to stressful situations that dates back to the days when cavemen were hunting mastodons. When stress arises, your adrenal gland floods your body with a hormone called Cortisol, which preps your body to flee or fight by releasing sugar into your bloodstream and slowing down your metabolism.
If you've ever noticed that you crave fatty, salty and sugary foods when you're stressed, that's part of the Cortisol effect, too. And even though you're not being chased by saber tooth tigers, your body responds to modern stresses like rush hour traffic and work deadlines the same way.
Finding ways to deal with stress should be part of your weight-loss plan. Take time for yourself, away from the rat race. Go for a hike or a bike ride. Lie in a hot bath. Get a message. Meditate. Try yoga. Listen to music. Breathe deeply, count to 10 and... relax.
4. Are you eating the right way?
Most diets focus on what you eat and how much you eat, but completely overlook how you eat, and that can make all the difference in how successful you are at losing weight. The problem is that most of us eat in a way that causes blood sugar to spike. When blood sugar levels rise too quickly, your body releases the fat-storing hormone insulin.
In most cases, insulin spikes are caused by eating too many simple carbohydrates and not enough protein and complex carbohydrates.
At the same time, it's completely unrealistic to expect people to give up simple carbs altogether. I know I wouldn't want to live without potatoes, pasta, bread and wine. What we advise and show people how to do, is to strive for equal portions of fast carbs, slow carbs and protein. That's the combination that encourages your body to burn fat instead of store it.
5. Are you drinking enough water?
Water is like motor oil for your body's engine. Increasing water intake can improve metabolism so your body burns calories and fat more quickly. To get the best weight loss results, drink eight to 12 (8 oz.) glasses of water a day. This has the added benefit of preventing you from drinking beverages like soda and fruit juice, which are metabolism-killing sugar bombs.
6. Are you burning more calories than you're eating?
When we take in more calories than our bodies can use up, it turns to fat and excess weight. There are two ways to improve your ratio of calories eaten to calories burned: Eat less or exercise more; so increasing your activity level is one surefire way to kick start your metabolism and your weight loss. If you're not exercising daily, start now.
If you're already exercising, add another 10 to 15 minutes to your routine, and look for additional ways to burn calories throughout the day such as taking the stairs rather than the elevator. Little steps can add up to big results, so just stick with it, and no matter what, don't give up on yourself. Persevere and you will get past this.