How to Break Through a Plateau
My one-on-one clients often seek me out because they've suddenly stopped losing weight. Sometimes it's because their approach wasn't optimal and caused their metabolism to come to a screeching halt (typically caused by a plan that is too strict). But many people just need a little fine-tuning to get the scale moving again. If you feel like you've been on the right track and you're no longer seeing results test out these six tweaks:
Adjust your carb intake
Your body has a huge capacity to store carbohydrates. You can sock away at least 500 grams. To put that in perspective one slice of bread packs 15 grams. When you eat more carbohydrate than your body immediately needs, you store the leftovers in your carb piggy bank, known as glycogen. And, for every gram of glycogen you stockpile, you also put away about 3 to 4 grams of water. While this weight isn't body fat it does show up on the scale, and it can make you feel a little puffy. The best way to shed the excess is to cut out refined, dense carbs like white breads, pasta, and baked goods, and include more water rich and airy unprocessed "good" carbs like fresh fruits and vegetables, popcorn, and fluffy whole grains like quinoa and whole wheat couscous. More fluid or air per bite means fewer carbs, but you'll feel just as full.
Up your fiber intake
Research has shown that for every gram of fiber we eat, we eliminate about seven calories. That means if you eat 30 grams a day you'll essentially cancel out 210 calories, a savings that could result in a 20 pound weight loss in one year's time. Another study in Brazilian dieters found that over a six-month period, each addition gram of fiber resulted in an extra quarter pound of weight loss. Look for higher fiber foods within the same food groups. For example, cup for cup black beans pack 2.5 grams of fiber more than chickpeas, and barley provides 6 grams per cup compared to just 3.5 in brown rice.
Cut back on salt and sodium
Water is attracted to sodium like a magnet, so when you down a little more salt or sodium than usual, you may hang on to extra fluid. Two cups of water (16 ounces) weighs one pound, so a shift in fluid will have an immediate impact on the scale. The best way to slash sodium is to skip the saltshaker or sodium-laden seasonings and eat more fresh, unprocessed foods.
Drink more H2O
Water is an essential component of calorie burning and it helps flush out any excess sodium and fluid you may be hanging on to. Plus a recent study found that adults who simply gulped two cups of water before meals enjoyed a major weight loss benefit; they shed 40 percent more weight over a 12-week period while following a reduced calorie plan. The same group of scientists previously found that subjects who drank two cups before meals naturally consumed 75 to 90 fewer calories, an amount that could really snowball day after day.
Build more movement into your day
If you already work out, build a little extra activity into your day. Stand up and fold laundry, or iron as you watch TV, or do the dishes by hand. Just getting on your feet burns an extra 30to 40 calories per hour. At one extra hour a day that means you'll burn almost 15,000 additional calories over a year's time.
Listen to your body
Eat slowly and stop when you're full. I'm sure you've heard this before but these two strategies are key. One study found that when women were instructed to eat slower they drank more water and ate four times fewer calories per minute. During each meal try to take smaller bites, put your fork down between them, chew well, and savor your food. Pay attention and stop when you feel full, knowing you'll be eating again in another 3 to 5 hours.
The truth is it's normal for your weight to ebb and flow, so don't panic if you see slight ups and downs. Plateaus can be broken and most weight fluctuations are due to changes in water weight, stored carbohydrates, or waste that hasn't been eliminated from your body yet. Rather than getting caught up in the numbers try to focus on how you feel. If you're consistent you'll continue moving in the right direction.
Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S. Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.