Have you ever been in a weight loss phase and after making weeks of good progress the scales suddenly just stopped moving?
I would expect alot of you have experienced this already & for those of you who haven't it is something that you'll probably find is going to happen at some point of your weight loss journey.
So you might get, say 10 weeks down the line & have been consistently losing 0.5kg every week and then you jump on the scales & for a couple of weeks nothing happens or changes. You're in limbo land & it's not a good place to be because you'll be sat there thinking;
"What on earth? Nothing's changed, why have I just suddenly stopped making progress?"
And that's the headscratcher. The good news is that your body's not broken or stopped working properly & this is a natural part of most weight loss journeys. I sense you breathing a deep sigh of relief!
Of course, it's frustrating when progress stops & you feel like you're no longer moving forward but it's really important that you understand WHY this has happened. This is a natural part of the weight loss process as your metabolic rate will adapt to your weight loss. So say for instance, that I put myself on a deficit of 1500 calories. In 10 weeks time, those 1500 calories are no longer going to be a deficit as my body is now lighter.
The less bodyweight you carry the fewer calories your body requires to generate your activity. Someone who weighs 90kg is going to be using a lot more energy (calories) than someone who weighs 55kg. So that 1500 that was originally a deficit will probably no longer be a deficit for me because my body has adapted metabolically by losing weight to those calories & I now require less energy.
In the first few weeks, or first few months, or even maybe for the first year, you might find that your rate of progression is pretty quick. But then how much you lose starts to slow down. People say all the time to me, I've got a weight loss goal of X. I've been there before but I couldn't get any lighter than that so I know I can't lose more than that.
And that's just your belief and your experience from previous. You can get yourself lighter 100% because we know weight loss is a scientific approach. It's not magic. It's not like your body gets to a certain point then says,
"I'm not going to lose any more weight, this is as low as I can get", but we do need to consider this process of metabolic adaptation and homeostasis to understand why this has happened.
Homeostasis is your body's way of keeping everything balanced. So when you lose weight to start with the alarm response will go off from both your brain & body. Your body senses a change happening & to maintain the status quo your body will resist further change. Usually, this is a positive thing as it keeps everything balanced but when we're discussing weight loss it's as if your body has had a big shock and is responding to that by resisting further change. This is why it can also be hard to maintain your weight sometimes after weight loss.
Your body has got used to being at a set weight so it takes time to allow your body to adapt to this change & be able to keep balance. And this is why focusing on gradual weight loss over a longer period of time is so important as it's physiologically going to be easier to sustain. Your body will understand that you've lost weight & slowly adapt to the change so that you can stay there. This is another reason why FAD diets or severe diets don't work as they don't give your body sufficient time to adapt & be able to sustain the change.
Being aware of your body trying to resist this change is also really important as alot of the time weight management will be centred around habits & behaviours you've had for a long period of time and the bodys got used to.
The other thing you also need to be aware of is that as you lose weight & reduce your body weight your body will naturally be inclined to do less. I've spoken about NEAT before which is your daily activity from exercise to walking, to mucking out & fidgeting & naturally your body will do less as you don't have as much energy in the tank. These human bodies are incredibly clever machines! So you have to be aware of this & keep your NEAT & activity as high as it was before. As your weight drops you're naturally going to have less energy & when you're in a deficit you're giving your body less calories than it needs to sustain so awareness here is really important.
The answer here is just making sure you keep activity & steps as high as they were before. You might even feel your body wanting to do less or feeling more tired than normal. So like I gave the example at the start of a 1500 calorie deficit that would initially be, say like a 30% deficit, but then at some point that is no longer going to be enough of a deficit for your body. That is known as the metabolic adaptation I was talking about.
So if you do find that you hit a plateau or progress starts to stall, remember that it's not going to be likely due to your environment or that you're doing anything wrong it's simply science & your body is trying to maintain balance & has said;
"Hang on a minute guys, we've lost a lot of weight. Do we want to lose more?"
It's as if your body is presenting a challenge to make sure you keep the balance. It's easy to think that it's you or something's not working or you tell yourself you can't get below a certain number on the scales or clothes size but that's completely your internal self-beliefs.
This is simply a normal, natural part of the process when you're losing weight or trying to maintain. So if this happens to you hopefully you now understand why it's happened & what's going on physiologically. That's why it's also important to do things like weekly updates on your weight loss using metrics and the scales to keep data on how you're progressing so you know if a plateau has occurred.
In most cases the answer is pretty simple & it's a case of re-adjusting your calories to meet your new, lower bodyweight. Also consider how much energy you're expending through activity like exercise, steps & your day to day movement & if you find your calories don't change hugely then try to increase your activity a little more. Something as simple as a 5% increase in activity can have a huge effect. There are many calorie calculators you can use for free online & you just need to make sure you're being realistic with how active you are.
I'd always suggest you slightly under-estimate your activity levels & likelihood is when you're looking at things like your step count there are probably going to be a few riding steps in there & equally if you over-estimate your activity your calorie intake will be higher & therefore weight loss progress slower.
So don't let yourself get deflated or disheartened if this happens. Just accept it. You now know it's part of the process and the science behind it. Recalculate your calories, consider your activity levels & adjust and then you'll keep moving forward.
I hope this helps you to understand the process of weight loss & keeping progress happening but also maintaining your bodyweight for the long term. If you have any questions please do feel free to reach out.