Updated: Apr 2
As a Trainer and a Health Coach, I know how people tend to struggle with the last few kilos when losing weight. And there is good reason for this, so I've written this quick reference to help you bust through and prevent stubborn weight loss plateaus.
When you first kick off a weight loss program, no matter how you choose to do it, you are in effect shocking the body with unexpected levels of physical activity, dietary shifts, and calorie restrictions. You may have led a sedentary lifestyle for a short or long while. Maybe you've followed a poor diet made up of overly processed foods for longer than you'd care to admit. Either way, starting to eat clean and get active is going to be a bit of jolt to the system. And this is why people start off strong and see such impressive results.
Where it starts to fall down is after the body has adapted to the new stimulus placed upon it. The workouts, the calorie restrictions and change in diet quickly become the new normal, and the body adjusts accordingly. This can surprisingly happen in as little as 10 days!
Why? Well, what was once a huge physical effort is becoming easier for you now. It takes less energy than it did at first to an entire survive that body pump class, a brutal PT session or several round of intervals. But that's not all. What was once a diet made up of empty calories is now nutrient dense macros. What was once a sedentary lifestyle, is now peppered with regular physical activity.
When you change your diet to whole, nutritious dense foods, you change everything. Add in physical activity and you have a proven recipe for success. But only for a short while. Then you need to kick it up a notch again, shock that body, and keep shocking it to see continued changes and force further adaptation. This is the secret formula to effective and lasting weight loss.
So if you have been following Weight Watchers, Keto or another diet plan, and getting to the gym every day but you have noticed that your weight loss results have stalled, now you know why. Your body adapted to the initial changes you placed on it but these are no longer a challenge. Its progress, so be proud. You are fitter than you were, and healthier, but you need to keep going. There are also several other factors that can interfere or better support your efforts. Make sure you are doing all of the things listed below, and if not, make them part of your daily routine this coming week.
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1. Destress And Weigh Less
When your body is under stress, it goes into “fight or flight mode”, which if this becomes a regular occurance, can be detrimental to your overall health. This survival state, triggers many reactions in how our body functions and the hormones released.
When the body becomes stressed, it releases a hormone called cortisol. This hormone is meant to naturally drain away, but as emotional and mental stressors remains constant, the cortisol levels in your body rise which can trigger the body hold fat more around our essential organs and pack weight on around the belly and torso. It is a primal protective measure, but more often than not, our body is not under threat, we are just stressed and exhausted. The good news it that when you properly address stress , those stubborn last kilos can suddenly fall away. Learning to manage your stress levels is important – even just take a moment in your day for three deep calming breaths.
If this sounds like you, managing your stress will go a long way in helping you bust through a weight loss plateau and lose those last stubborn kilos. For clients who really struggle with stress related cortisol issues (myself included as a mum of five with two special needs kids), I recommend these two supplements as part of your stress management.
2. How Your Beauty Sleep Aids Weight Loss
In addition to managing stress, a healthy weight loss plan needs to include sleep. Yes, that's right. While you catch some beauty sleep, your body is deep repair mode and undergoes essential hormonal shifts.
Did you know? Human growth hormones (HGH) are released during sleep, and are responsible for building lean muscle, helping you burn fat and balancing your two hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin Even one late night of broken sleep with baby keeping us up can throw these processes right off. Chronic sleep deprivation just throws an even bigger spanner in the mix. I guarantee you this is why, for many new mothers, it's so hard to budge that baby weight. Yes, I have been there!
I mentioned that you have two hunger hormones. Leptin is a hormone, made by fat cells, that decreases your appetite. Ghrelin is a hormone that increases appetite, and also plays a role in body weight. Even just one night of poor sleep can leave these two competing with each other and sending mixed messages to the brain (and stomach). This is why after a late night you can feel unusually peckish the next day. Sleep is just as important as healthy eating, hydration and exercise. Do all that you can to ensure a good 6-8 hours per night.
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3. Why You Need An Afterburn Effect
Are you working out effectively or missing a key component of a fat burning exercise program? Aerobic exercise burns fat, but only while you’re doing that exercise. However, if you add resistance with body weight or weights, you carry on burning fat after you leave the gym.
Why? After a weight session your body has to work to rebuild the muscle you’ve just challenged, torn and stressed out during your workout. You will have also taxed your body's energy stores and increased your muscles' demand for oxygen. This when your metabolism really fires up.
Your body uses oxygen to produce the fuel needed for your muscles to cope with physical strain (exercise) and working out. The body also uses stored energy sources like fat that don't require extra oxygen to help fuel muscle activity and demand. What all this means is that long after you've left the gym, your body is converting stored energy into fuel for those worn-out and torn muscles. So, if you train strategically, you can burn even more calories after you have already completed your workout.
4. Your Recovery Matters
All too often, people rush through their workouts, but I’m always trying to get my clients to slow down. During a training session don’t be afraid of your rest period – that’s where the magic happens!
Let's be practical. Those 10 - 60 second rests between exercises are essential. I know it might feel like you are being slack taking a mini rest in between sets, but by the 8th set of intervals, you’re going to be loving those 30 secs! It is in this recovery period (however brief) that your body is adapting, adjusting and recalibrating to perform its best for you. When you take a breather, you are allowing the return flow of oxygen to your muscles and regaining strength so then you get the most out of working through each rep and sets. A rest period allows you to persevere and see a hard sesh through from start to finish. But it just doesn't end there.
Recovery isn't just during a gym sessions, it is also necessary afterwards. Every athlete has rest days and these are essential for the body to respond, repair and rebuild muscle, plus adapt to the physical stresses being placed in it. Overtraining is a real problem, and taking a day to recover will do you more good than forging on through the lactic build up and pain. Be gentle with yourself and use the rest day to practise self care and other ways to improve your health and wellness.
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RELATED: Check this out post, This Is Why You're Gaining Weight & How To Stop It
5. Ditch The Bathroom Scales
The scales can be useful but are not always a good indicator of your fitness gains. This is because, even if you’re gaining muscle and losing fat, you can still weigh the same amount, or more.
If there is one thing I wish people would avoid, it is the scales. While tracking your body weight is useful for motivation and documenting your journey, the numbers on the scale are not always an accurate reading on your weight loss progress. This is because muscle weighs more than body fat. As you build muscle, you will gain kilos. However, you are also boosting your metabolism to feed those new muscles and thus burning off old body fat as you go. For a time you may indeed see the numbers stall or rise, but do not be discouraged. We don't walk around wearing our bathroom scales or advertising the number of kilos we weigh, what matter is how we feel in our skin and our overall health.
There are more accurate ways to track progress, like using a measuring tape and documenting your waist, legs, arms and hip measurements at fortnightly intervals. Photos are exceptionally motivating and help us actually see the difference we may not notice within ourselves. In fact, other people will notice your progress before you will take notice, and this can be the best way to prove that you have made some gains (or losses). It is also helpful for some to find a pair of jeans or favourite dress that you can’t fit into, and then seeing where you’re at after two to three months of lifestyle changes and training.
6. Understand That Everything Adds Up
Who hasn't had times where they feel their efforts don't amount to much. Funny enough, this is usually at a critical point in fitness or weight loss, where the efforts made to date are about to reward you but our motivations has started wane.
Successful weight loss and fitness is an accumulative effect of your day-to-day habits and patterns. You are forcing adaption whether it is through caloric deficits or physical demand, or both. The weight took time to accumulate and will take a little longer to reduce and eliminate. Building your fitness takes time and can unfortunately be lost rather quickly, so staying the course and trusting the process is critical.
You know, its funny. Clients will often say things like, ‘I only have two glasses of wine in the evening, I've given up so much already,’ and they will wonder why their weight loss has started to stall. But that’s still 14 glasses of wine a week, and if you’re struggling to lose the extra layer, could that be a contributing factor? Wine contains on average between 120-160 calories per glass. Double that per day and you'd be consuming an extra 240-280 calories a day that are not contributing to your weight loss or fitness success. These are the little things to be mindful of that do make a difference the loss or gain of one or two kilos over time.
7. Your Mindset Is The Key
Understand that during hectic times, it is far better to exercise two or three days a week and be satisfied with that effort, rather than be putting added pressure on yourself to workout every single day.
All too often we can put undue pressure on ourselves to acheive everything on our To Do's list, especially as women and Mums. But the thing is, this is actually counterproductive and ends up holding you back in more ways than one. You can't always make time for everything. Sometimes we need to prioritise, and this might mean sacrificing your workout for baby or some other family responsibility. Maintaining a positive mindset around this, is key.
Just like exercise trains your muscles, we need to train our brains and strengthen our mindset around our health and self care. A positive mindset will see you through the worse times and challenges in life, and this includes dropping the ball with your fitness. You need to be strong enough to forgive yourself and then find something that you CAN do to keep up with things or maintain your gains. A walk while baby sleeps in the pram is better than sitting at home chidding yourself you skipped the gym or bootcamp this morning. Keep positive and always ask yourself, "Yeah, so that happened, but now what can I still do?"
What new ways can you find for fitness today? Where are there hidden opportunities in your day you may not have noticed or explored before? Who do you need to ask for support so you can make it all happen?
A positive mindset will keep you asking questions like these no matter the circumstances. if you have found yourself stuck, go grab a green tea and consider the above questions. You can apply them to just about anything, not just workouts. Try it!
RELATED: Check out this post, The Real Woman's Guide To Summer Weight Loss
So if you have found that your weight loss efforts have stalled, review these points to see what needs tweaking.
HEALTH COACH TIP: Try adding the above suggestions to your current lifestyle. I always recommend that clients choose physical activities that they actually enjoy doing. This gives you more chance of sticking with it and seeing success.
Put it into action. ...what are you going to try from this article?
Wishing you health + happiness,
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