Body & Fitness

7 healthy ways to break through a weight-loss plateau

Feel like you've been working hard, eating well but all of a sudden the weight doesn't seem to be budging anymore? Here are seven expert tips to help you break through that weight loss plateau.
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You’ve completely integrated your workouts into your weekly routines, you’ve perfected the art of meal prepping, but all of a sudden the weight you’ve seen steadily melt away doesn’t seem to be budging anymore.

Our bodies are very good at adapting, so while during the first few weeks of change – if you’ve suddenly introduced regular exercise and a healthier diet – you likely saw weight drop easily off as your body adapted, however, once your body got used to the new normal, it started to get comfortable, resulting in a weight loss plateau.

So how do you get unstuck?

If you’ve suddenly hit a speed-bump in your weight-loss journey, there are a few healthy things you can try. (Image: Getty)

Certified health and wellness coach Mandi Green says there are several ways you can break through a weight loss plateau, explaining there a few questions you can ask yourself about your food, activity and work-life balance, that can help you identify where you can make small, healthy changes.

Here, Mandi shares her top seven tips to help you work through your plateau and it could be as simple as drinking more water.

1. Ditch the booze

Mandi says that although alcohol is relatively low in carbs and calories – think wine, vodka and tequila, a 2005 study published in the Critical Reviews in Clinical Laboratory Sciences journal showed that alcohol can suppress fat-burning capabilities and may lead to more fat around your belly.

While not all belly fat is necessarily bad, visceral fat – fat that is stored within the abdominal cavity – can actively increase the risk of some serious health problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart diseases and strokes, due to its proximity to your vital organs.

The study also showed the body prioritises metabolising alcohol before any food you’ve consumed, “which means that until the alcohol has burned, no other food will be,” Mandi explains.

Adding, “Because alcohol lowers your inhibitions and alters decision-making, we tend to overeat when drinking. All these things are working against your weight loss and contributing to your plateau.”

2. Cut back on carbs and add more veggies

Mandi suggests cutting back on your carb intake and instead loading up on fibre-rich veggies, making them around 75 to 80 per cent of your daily food intake.

Then, add in some protein, healthy fats such as coconut and olive oil and avocado, and round it out with smaller servings of grains like brown rice and quinoa.

Keeping your workout routine varied throughout the week can help you push through a weight-loss plateau. (Image: Getty)

3. Change up your workout

As mentioned above, your body is incredibly adaptable and can quickly adjust to new forms of exercise or a new diet if you repeat it for long enough, so the trick is to change things up, in particular, your fitness routine.

Mandi suggests a combination of strength training and cardio to “maximise your time and optimise your fat burning and muscle building.”

She says you want each workout to be just as challenging as the first workout was – even as you become stronger.

Mandi says she always suggests for her clients to go to an Orangetheory Fitness class, which is essentially a group fitness HIIT (high intensity interval training) class based around the science of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), which has been found to elevate your metabolism and help you burn calories even up to 36 hours after you complete your workout.

4. Keep a food (and feelings) journal

While you may think you’re keeping to your healthy eating regime, there may be a few extra spoonful’s of things that slip through the cracks, Mandi says.

She suggests keeping a food journal of everything you eat, but most importantly, what you’re thinking or how you’re feeling at that moment.

Mandi suggests keeping a journal of not just the food you eat, but also the emotions you’re feeling throughout the day. (Image: Getty)

“I have my clients write down what they were thinking or feeling when they went to reach for the chips or the chocolates,” Mandi explains.

“It doesn’t need to be a lot of writing, just a one-word feeling. The most typical answers I hear are: bored, stressed, frustrated, overwhelmed, sad, lonely, and felt obligated socially.”

For example, going out to eat and everyone else is eating dessert, or that they felt obligated to prepare unhealthy food because of an obligation to family.

Once written down, it can give you great insight into when and why you’re reaching for the unhealthier choices, making you aware of emotional cues, that next time you can pick up on in the moment.

5. Get seven to nine hours of shut-eye

There has been a wealth of research on sleep recently and for very good reason – it’s one of the most important factors for good health. The problem is, most of us aren’t getting enough of it.

“Lack of sleep causes your body to release extra cortisol (stress hormone), and has been proven to slow your metabolism and leave you at an increased risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome,” Mandi says.

In turn, a spike in cortisol signals to your body to conserve more energy in your waking hours therefore, your body will hang on to fat instead of using energy to burn it.

Mandi adds, “A lot of times we’ll think we’re hungry when actually we’re sleepy. This is often the culprit in the evening.”

Mandi says when working with clients she’s found that as they stop snacking at night and stick to earlier bedtimes, weight loss naturally kicks back into action.

Yup, water can help with weight-loss too. (Image: Getty)

6. Up your water intake

Not only does water help us feel fuller for longer, but it is also a natural weight loss aid, Mandi says.

In a small study conducted by Humboldt-University in Berlin and published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, it was shown that drinking just 500ml of water increases our metabolism and calorie burn by up to 30 per cent for up to 1.5 hours.

“Additionally, your body is made up of 75 per cent water,” explains Mandi.

“When you are even slightly dehydrated, your body will pull water from nonessential functions, like digestion, to utilise it for essential functions like lung, liver, heart and muscle function.

“So if you’re dehydrated, you’re not losing weight.”

7. Reduce stress or find a way to manage it

Just as a lack of sleep spikes your cortisol levels, so too does high stress, fast-paced lifestyles, which also affects your body’s ability to respond to insulin, a hormone which helps keep your body’s blood sugar levels from getting too low or too high, and uses sugar from carbohydrates (glucose) to use as energy or store for future use (as fat).

So, if you’re stressed for long periods, your body will be more likely to hold onto fat, resulting in that weight loss plateau.

Cortisol also prohibits the release of oxytocin, explains Mandi, which is the feel-good hormone that helps us shift into the ‘rest and digest’ parasympathetic nervous system.

Getting the aforementioned seven to nine hours of sleep a day, checking your work-life balance and taking time out to breath, meditate or exercise are all good ways to help manage and relieve stress.

Check your work-life balance, get plenty of rest and take time out to yourself and exercise to help manage and relieve stress. (Image: Getty)

While there are plenty of tips to help you push through a plateau, Mandi stresses that “it’s always important to remember that the best way to lose weight naturally and keep it off permanently is to inspire your body to shift metabolically by getting yourself very healthy through foods, activities, thoughts and lifestyle choices.

“Weight loss then becomes a natural result,” Mandi says.

It’s also good to keep in mind that the number on the scales (and your BMI) is not always the most accurate indicator of how ‘healthy’ you are.

As accredited dietician, eating disorder and mindful eating specialist Christina Turner told Now To Love previously, the scales can’t distinguish between fat, muscle or bone mass – so if you’ve been building up that muscle and losing fat with regular exercise, the scales could go up as muscle is denser than fat.

That’s why it’s always important to remember that as long as you’re getting plenty of movement in and eating a fresh, balanced diet and getting plenty of sleep, you’re likely already on track to a happier, healthier you.

The Ministry of Health recommends talking to your GP before undertaking any major changes to your diet.

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