Don't always trust the scale
Just because the scale isn’t moving, it doesn’t mean that you are making zero progress toward your fitness goals and dream body. It’s easy to think you’ve hit a plateau when you don’t see additional weight loss on the scale, but that’s not always truly the case.
The scale is a poor marker of short-term progress because it doesn’t differentiate between changes in water, fat or muscle. Fluid regulation in the body is a fluid process, it is constantly changing, so one pound or kilo up or two pounds or kilos down on any given day doesn't reflect any real changes in body composition. To avoid this false plateau, and motivation killer, make sure to track your progress through several different data points, including girth -- chest, waist, arm size -- and body-fat percentage. It is possible that you can be staying the same weight, but losing inches off your waist and other areas as your body tones and tightens.
"We never use a scale by itself to measure and monitor a client’s progress," said Joe Dowdell, chief executive and founder of Peak Performance in New York City. Dowdell told me that at Peak Performance they prefer to track changes in body fat percentage via skinfold measurements or bio-electrical impedance. He’s aware that most people don’t have access to these options and said that the next best thing is using a tape measure to monitor circumference changes to the chest, waist, and arms. “A scale weight should never be used alone,” he added.
Fat loss is not linear. In other words, do not expect to lose 2 pounds (1kg) per week every single week until you reach your goal. Some weeks you lose less; some weeks you lose more. If you come up short one week, that doesn’t mean that you have hit a plateau -- it's just part of the natural process of weight loss.
Sleep to optimise fat loss
Getting adequate sleep is not your typical weight loss plateau-busting tip. But sleep is important for optimising multiple hormones, including a number of fat-loss hormones. You can unfortunately start reaping negative effects on these fat loss hormones after just one night of poor sleep. Everyone’s sleep needs are different, and increased stress will warrant you getting more sleep. But, typically, you should shoot for seven-to-nine hours of sleep each night.
"Recent research is showing that adequate sleep is important for managing a healthy body weight," said Dr. Penny Kris-Etherton, a professor of nutrition at Penn State University in the US. She said that in addition to focusing on diet and physical activity as important components to a weight management program, new research suggests that sufficient sleep also is important for promoting weight loss, and preventing weight gain.
According to the NHS -- adults need between six and nine hours of quality rest per night, in order for their bodies to function correctly.
So, if you have reached a weight loss plateau, it is important to pay attention to your sleep frequency and duration along with good nutrition and physical activity practices.
Stick to your plan
Regardless of how solid they are, your diet and exercise plans won’t work if you aren’t sticking to them. You’ve made a commitment to yourself, and now is time to come through with it. Plan and track your diet and your workout plan.
Map out your meals, snacks and workout nutrition for the week -- a grid or spreadsheet works well for this. As you eat your planned meal or snack, put a big X over it on your menu map. If you skip a meal or eat something not on your plan, circle the meal. You can also use free online eating tracker tools like MyPlate that make it easy and foolproof to plan and track your meals and calories. MyPlate will calculate and tell you how many calories you need per day to reach your fitness goals. You can also see the total number of calories, fat, carbs, and protein in every food and meal you track.
At the end of the week, count the number of meals that you ate according to your plan, divide that by the total number of meals, snacks, and exercise shakes you had planned, and multiply by 100. If you hit 90 percent or more, nice work. If you didn't hit at least 90 percent, then your efforts should be dedicated to working on your dietary plan rather than troubleshooting physiological roadblocks to your weight loss.
Now that you know the reasons why your plan is not working as well as it was in the beginning, make the necessary changes to reach your goals. Good luck!
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