Weight-loss plateau: How to beat the diet plateau?

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  • Are you struggling to shift the last few pounds and feel like you have hit a weight-loss plateau? If your weight loss has ground to a halt, try these tricks and watch those remaining pounds melt away.

    Eating right, exercising regularly, but still not noticing the results you’ve enjoyed previously? You may have hit the dreaded weight-loss plateau.

    What is a weight-loss plateau?

    ‘Sadly, you’re not imagining it – the diet plateau really is “a thing”’ says Shann Nix Jones, nutritional therapist and director of Chuckling Goat.

    ‘Research from the Queensland University of Technology confirms that our bodies have strong mechanisms to defend against attempts to lose weight, but very weak mechanisms to prevent weight gain. This results in the “plateau effect”, in which weight loss from exercise and calorie restrictions stops at a certain point,’ she explains.

    So how do we go about eliminating those last stubborn pounds? The experts reveal their tips…

    weight-loss plateau

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    How do you get past a weight-loss plateau?

    Adjust your calorie intake

    Terri-Ann, founder of Terri-Ann’s Diet Plans says: ‘It’s important to remember that as your weight decreases, your calorie requirements also reduce. The calorie intake that enabled you to lose weight when you were two stone heavier may not allow a weight loss at your new weight.

    ‘You may need to re-adjust your food intake and look for ways to increase your calorie deficit. If you find it difficult to see what changes you can make, write down what you eat and drink in a daily food diary. This highlights where extra calories are creeping in or it may prevent you from having treats if you know you have to write them down.’

    Workout outside

    Beating your weight loss plateau could be as easy as taking an early morning walk or trying an outdoor evening workout when it’s cooler.

    Dr Sally Norton, NHS health and weight loss consultant surgeon says: ‘Exercising in colder weather seems to boost brown fat, which burns, rather than stores, energy.

    ‘But beware – it is possible to overdo exercise and hitting a weight loss plateau isn’t necessarily a reason to exercise more. Too much can leave us tired and hungry and at risk of undoing all our good work on the weight loss front by tucking into extra food later.’

    Aim for 30 minutes of exercise per day.

    Build muscle, burn calories

    ‘Did you know that the amount of calories we burn each day is not really about how much we move? It’s mainly down to the basic processes essential for life (such as breathing) known as basal metabolic rate (BMR),’ Dr Sally says.

    One way to increase your BMR is to build muscle. ‘This is because muscle burns more energy than fat – that means we can lose weight even when sitting on the sofa after a workout – which has got to be good!’ says Dr Sally.

    So, rather than slaving away on a treadmill, aim for resistance exercises for strength, fitness and balance that use weights, resistance bands or your own body weight (such as push ups) to build muscle. This is a great way to speed up your metabolism and combat your weight-loss plateau.

    Weight loss plateau

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    Shorten your workouts

    Stephen Pasterino, founder of fitness program P.volve: ‘If you have time for a 45 minute workout, try to do it in 35 minutes with no breaks. This constant movement is a form of cardio I have used for years, thus why I rarely tell my clients to do cardio classes like spinning or running; you can get your heart rate up by just keeping your body moving with low impact exercises.

    ‘This concept of cardio pushes your body to the next level and taps into deeper aerobic muscular systems that require a much higher output of exertion – in less time – taking your body to the next level.’

    Drink kefir

    Shann Nix Jones, nutritional therapist and director of Chuckling Goat: ‘Scientists have found that for some people, specific gut bacteria may be responsible for their inability to lose weight, despite adherence to strict diet plans and exercise regimens.

    ‘The good news here is that since the problem lies in the gut bacteria, the solution can be found there as well! Your gut microbiome is easily altered by adding a powerful probiotic like kefir. Researchers also found that women who consumed a probiotic lost more weight than the control group, and kept it off longer.’

    Weight-loss plateau

    Credit: Getty

    ‘Eat the rainbow’

    Hannah Braye nutritional therapist at Bio-Kult says: ‘One theory behind the weight-loss plateau is that the body may be reluctant to give up its fat tissue as a protective measure, as this is where toxins, which could be potentially damaging to other cells of the body, are stored.

    ‘Therefore, supporting detoxification systems during weight loss is particularly important. Eating plenty of fibre and antioxidants from a range of brightly coloured vegetables and drinking water is recommended for this purpose, to help prevent cellular damage and keep bowel movements (a primary detoxification route) regular.’


    ‘Research has found it can burn up 350 calories a day. Fidgeting while you’re watching TV, sat at your desk or eating dinner are all ways to burn extra calories. Try tapping your foot, shaking your leg or always getting up and down to burn extra calories.’