After years of sharing my own struggles with losing almost 170 pounds, and now after working as a weight loss coach with clients facing similar struggles, I've heard or experienced pretty much every reason why people hit a weight loss plateau on the road to getting fit. While drastic changes in your daily routine–like moving from a 4th-floor walk up to an 8th floor apartment with an elevator or driving to work when you used to walk and take the train–can dramatically decrease the amount of calories per day that you burn, these are not the average person's reasons for why weight loss has come to a standstill. Nowadays, there are three very common reasons why people plateau, and of course I'm going to help you figure out what you can do if you, too, share these same struggles:
The Culprit: Smoothies. So, you've decided to supplement your weight loss efforts with a hefty "green monster" every morning. No longer will it just be oatmeal, no.. you're going to blend yourself a giant smoothie on the side, too! Great! You're adding in tons of nutrients you might not otherwise be getting.
Except… your green monster isn't just veggies. Your one smoothie has apple, banana, cherry, grapes and pineapple. What started out as a "green monster" is essentially Kool-Aid, now. Sure, it has far more to offer in terms of nutrition, but at this point, it's offering just as much sugar and, because of the absence of fiber, can be just as problematic (for many things, not just your weight). A very well intentioned effort to add something healthy to your daily diet resulted in you drinking anywhere from an additional 100-350 calories that you didn't budget for, and that can definitely slow down someone whose goal is definite fat loss.
The Solution: Balance. If you're going to insist on being a smoothie-maker, be mindful of how many calories you're adding to your day. Try to play with the portion sizes of your meals so that you can make space for that smoothie you love, or consider adding one well-chosen piece of fruit to your smoothie to offset whatever tang might be making it difficult for you to enjoy your monster.
And, if all else fails, there's nothing wrong with tossing all those veggies in a skillet and sautéing them in a stir-fry, instead. Might even be more delicious.
The Culprit: "Healthy" Snacks. You've been eating clean for months now, and you've even decided to give up snacking during that time. Cheers! Except, now, you've decided to start adding "clean" snacks, and you're snacking just as frequently as you were with the Cheetos.
Just say no!
The Solution: Moderation. Snacking is still snacking, clean or not. It's an "extra," an "added bonus," and if you haven't allotted space for it in your daily intake, then you should expect it to affect your ability to lose weight.
I’m not of the mind that you have to skip the snacks in order to achieve your goals, but you most certainly do have to find a way to make sure it fits into your daily diet. Maybe you’ll only eat it once every couple of days, or maybe you’ll run an extra mile or two to make up for it. Just make sure you fit it in mindfully.
The Culprit: Over-exercising. You've been going HAM on the cardio for months. But now, you realize – you've been doing too much. How do we know you're doing too much? You're losing muscle. A lot. And, while everyone is always so afraid of “becoming bulky” – side note, you shouldn’t worry, for numerous reasons – there’s hard math that supports the need for muscle in not only weight loss, but weight maintenance – meaning, life after you’ve reached your goal. While building muscle can be helpful in maintaining your weight, losing muscle too quickly actually drops your ability to burn calories far more than losing fat ever could.
The Solution: Weight-training. You need to ensure your workouts are balanced. Make sure that your workouts include some kind of muscle-building activity, so that you’re not losing all you’ve got. A good, high intensity interval routine always does the trick.
With a little bit of diary-keeping and a little consistency, even the worst plateau can be worked through. Just check yourself, and your body will thank you for it!
Erika Nicole Kendall is a trainer certified in women’s fitness, fitness nutrition and weight loss coaching who also chronicles her own 160-pound weight loss journey on the award winning blog, A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss. Hit her up on Twitter, or check her out on over.