Today we’re going to talk about those dreaded weight loss plateaus. What do we do about them? What should you look for? We all dread them. They are going to happen. It doesn’t matter what we’re taught. You’re going to go through plateaus. What do you look for? What can you do to break through the plateaus? At some point you need to think about whether it’s your weight maintenance. That’s a slightly different topic. We’re not going there today. I’m going to just assume that you’re not where you want to be and not where you can be. So subsequently you’re at a weight loss plateau.
What is a weight loss plateau? Sometimes we look at the scale and it hasn’t budged in three days and therefore it’s a plateau. That’s not really a plateau. A weight loss plateau is when you’re doing the right things and your weight is stuck for a few weeks. So, for two or three weeks nothing is happening. Subsequently then, yes, you can be in a weight loss plateau. Shorter than that means there can be just a lull in the action, so-to-speak. Your body adjusts. As it adjusts, it’s going to try and turn off weight loss. It doesn’t want you to lose weight. With any weight loss plan, your body is going to assume you’re in a state of deprivation. So, it doesn’t actually want you to lose weight. It wants to hang on to that energy source if you truly were in a famine.
We’re in a weight loss plateau. What is going on? What I usually do is give people questions to ask themselves about certain things. I’m going to give you this list of questions and we’re going to talk about what some of the solutions are.
Question #1—Have you actually cut your calories too low? Sometimes people do cut their calories down too low. If you cut them down too low, your body is going to go into starvation mode and you’re not going to lose weight very well. It’s hard to put an exact number on that. Potentially if you’re going lower than 1000 calories and you’re not in a medically supervised plan, that’s generally not the greatest thing. In the surgical plan right after surgery you’ll often be between 700-800 calories. Long-term that’s really not the right answer either. You want to make sure you haven’t cut calories too low.
Question #2—Are you getting enough water? This is probably one of the most common reasons I see initially in a weight loss plan and especially after surgery when things start slowing down. If you start to get a little behind in your water, the body will tend to hang on to everything-fat included. I encourage people to push the water.
Question #3-How many carbs are you really taking in? At Nusbaum Medical Center, we talk about restricting carbohydrates. Everyone is going to have a tipping point with carbohydrate. If you go above that tipping point you struggle with weight loss. Are you above your tipping point? If you don’t know what your tipping point is, it’s hard to know that answer. It is something we can figure out. It’s not necessarily easy to do. You have to write it down! That goes along with one of our solutions-Journaling! Write these things down, especially carbohydrate. If you’re going to measure one thing, count your carbs. I cannot stress that enough to all of my patients.
Question #4-Are you getting enough protein? Carbohydrate influences insulin. You want to keep your insulin level as low as possible. Insulin is a hormone we can’t survive without. You’ve got to have some but you want to survive with the absolute smallest amount possible. Insulin can cause so many problems. Weight gain is just one of them. If you’re not getting in enough protein, your body will preferentially break down lean body mass, slowing your metabolism down. Protein manipulates other hormones too. Protein is more satisfying so you stay fuller for a longer period of time. It also increases growth hormone and glucagon. Glucagon is the opposite hormone of insulin. Insulin is telling your body to store fat. Glucagon is mobilizing the fat. As adults we don’t need that much growth hormone, but we make it because we can’t survive without it. If we can optimize what we do make, it’s going to help you preserve lean body mass, keeping your metabolism higher. So you want to make sure you’re getting in enough protein.
Question #5-Is your exercise too routine? Your body will get used to whatever exercise program you’re doing. When you’re body gets used to it, it doesn’t get the same out of it as it did originally. If your exercise gets too routine you don’t get as much out of it. The real trick with exercise is you want to preserve lean body mass to keep your metabolism as high as possible. Exercise alone typically doesn’t make you lose weight, but if you can preserve or build lean body mass you’re going to increase your metabolism and keep you on a weight loss track. The flip side to your exercise routine is whether you are exercising too hard? That can also slow down weight loss. Inherently that doesn’t make sense but it actually can do that because too much exercise can cause our stress hormone, cortisol, to go way up. When cortisol levels go up, it’s hard to lose weight. It makes us resistant to weight loss. This was a survival mechanism when we were stressed. Typically our biggest stress was not being able to find food. Stress typically makes us resistant to losing weight. It leads us into the next question.
Question # 6- Are you handling your stress alright? If you’re going through a stressful event, whether it be social, work, family, or medical, if you’re not handling stress well then it could turn on the plateau.
And, finally a couple things to look at as far as asking yourself about weight loss plateaus. What about caffeine and artificial sweeteners? Inherently both of those don’t make sense in a weight loss plan of turning off weight loss. But some people are sensitive to caffeine because it will increase your stress hormone because it’s a stimulant. Increasing stress hormones can make your resistant to losing weight. You want to be cutting back or getting rid of the caffeine. Caffeine can stimulate appetite which makes it harder to stick with the plan.
Artificial sweeteners can turn off weight loss for a couple of reasons. They can make us want sweet things. We get used to the sweet taste. They tend to be so much sweeter (even 1000 times) than sugar. Artificial sweeteners have no calories but it trains us to want something sweet. It makes it harder to stick to the diet plan. Also, they can often increase insulin levels. Inherently that doesn’t make sense. The sweetness you’re tasting from the artificial sweetener make the body think that you’re getting something that has a lot of calories. It’s expecting those carbohydrate calories so the body releases insulin. Hunger and cravings will increase. Insulin tells your body to store fat. Artificial sweeteners can turn your body into fat storing mode even though there are no calories in it.
What do we actually do about this? These are questions to ask yourself once you’ve hit a plateau. What are we going to do about these things? Some of these answers I hit a little bit on during the questions themselves. What can you do?
- Write it down. Go back to journaling. It is a basic thing. If you don’t write it down, you’ll never really figure out where the problem area it. You have to write down everything. I’m referring to what you’re eating, drinking, and how much activity.
- You need to make sure you’re counting the carbohydrate, protein, and water. You want to watch all those things. If they’re all good, then we have to figure out how we work with that. Push the water. Hydration!!
- Go back to the beginning. Many people do the Jump Start diet. It’s using some of the protein meal replacement shakes. It gives you a good protein source, controlled carbohydrate, calories will be fairly low, and it gives you exact numbers so that you know exactly what happens when you have X amount of calories, carbs, and protein.
- Look at the exercise. Is it routine? Now it’s time to change gears. You really want to make sure you’re doing plenty of resistance training. You can do body weight exercises (push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, squats). You don’t necessarily need weights to do it. The best exercise for weight loss is high intensity interval training (HIIT). The best piece of exercise equipment you can have is a heart rate monitor. You’re pushing your heart rate up to near max, back and forth. Potentially you’re going into the anaerobic training where you go up to your heart rate max. You’re crossing over into anaerobic metabolism which gives you the best fitness gains. You can’t do that if you’re just starting in fitness. But if you are into fitness and you’re good at that, this is something that can really get you going and get you back on that weight loss plan.
- Something I mentioned is ratchetting down that carbohydrate and lifting up that protein. You can do it with food. Again, you have to count it.
- We can start looking at over-the-counter products. There are a lot of different things out there. Here, at Nusbaum Medical Center, we sell a variety of weight loss programs (pssst…ask about our The Genetic Diet Program) to jump start your weight loss that includes a comprehensive diet and supplement plan that assists with weight loss by boosting your metabolism and supressing your appetite. For example, green tea, an ingredient in one of our supplements, it has been shown to boost your metabolism about 4%. In a 2,000 calorie diet that’s about 80 calories. If you’re on a 1,000 calorie diet, it’s about 40 calories. It’s not really that much but enough that can help to get you back on the weight loss curve. Another ingredient in our supplements, is cayenne peppers which has also been proven through research to boost your metabolism. Additionally, there’s some evidence that probiotics can change your intestinal flora. Often it can help with weight loss. Nusbaum Medical Center’s Microbiome diet is focused on restoring gut health which has shown to result in significant weight loss.
- Make sure you’re doing the basics. Are you taking your vitamins? We often think of B-vitamins as our energy vitamins. You can either do B-vitamin injections to potentially jump start a weight loss plan or a high dose of B-6. I would encourage doing an activated form of B-6. It can bump up your metabolism some. We’re talking about 50 or 100mgs. If you’re buying B-6 by itself it’s usually 1 or 2 tablets.
- It’s kind of like an amino acid. It helps mobilize fat molecules into the mitochondria. The fat molecules are what you’re trying to get rid of. The mitochondria are your energy furnace. That’s what is actually being burned for energy and truly converted to energy. By itself it’s not energy until it’s converted to ATP. That happens in your mitochondria. Carnitine helps mobilize fatty molecules into the mitochondria. It’s like a steam engine. You’ve got to get the fuel into the furnace. Carnitine gives you a bigger shovel so it’s easier to move the fuel into the furnace. Typical you may need to take 1-2 grams of carnitine. You can find it in most health food stores.
Those are some things you can do as far as working through some weight loss plateaus. We went through a lot of information. Weight loss plateaus are very common. It happens to everybody until their finally in maintenance. So it’s literally going to happen to everybody. You want to work through it. The last thing you want to do is throw in the towel. You can go through those questions as well as the solutions that I talked about. You can also use appetite suppressants. They are carefully regulated by the FDA. But if you’re in a medical or surgical weight loss plan and are stuck or have cravings, appetite suppressants can be very helpful. They just have to be monitored very carefully. Some people are not candidates for them. Another thing that helps with cravings is chromium. It’s a mineral just like sodium and potassium. We need minerals in tiny amounts. If we take them in higher doses it can help with cravings. You can buy it at health food stores and pharmacies. You do need to take it three times a day. It will say take one a day on the bottle. That doesn’t work. You usually need to take it three times a day.
There are lots of little solutions. Hopefully something there will help you with your weight loss plateau. Work through it. If you have questions please let us know. We’re here to help. Remember-it’s your life. Make it a healthy one!