One of the biggest frustrations in the weight loss journey is when you feel like you’re doing everything right, and your progress stalls. 😠 Weight loss plateaus are to be expected along the way – losing fat is never linear. But if you are staying stuck for a long time, take a look at these helpful tips to break your weight loss plateau:
The Zero Sum Trap
We see this one all the time — a client will be eating very well most days of the week. Then for a day or two, there’s a “cheat day”, or the dietary awareness lightens up a little on the weekends. Now, there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself to some of your favorite foods or drinks here and there. But the Zero Sum Trap is easy to fall into:
Let’s say you’ve had a great week of nutrition and exercise, then you go out to eat on Saturday and loosen up – you have an appetizer, a couple cocktails, and a few bites of dessert. Sunday brunch includes a couple muffins you wouldn’t ordinarily eat if you weren’t out.
Monday you get on the scale, and you haven’t lost a pound. Dammit, you’ve been so good all week! Why is nothing working?
Here’s what happened:
During the week, your exercise and smart nutrition adjustments have accumulated, say, a 700-calorie deficit from Monday until Friday. Great work! Fat lost.
But those little “overages” on the weekend probably added up to 700 calories extra. So your average loss for the week is zero, even though you were “good” almost every day.
The key to beating the zero sum trap is to make sure that your overages and indulgences don’t equal out your calorie loss from earlier in the week.
So by all means, treat yourself here and there. But make sure that you put some mitigations and guidelines around your indulgences so that your net for the week is still less.
This way, you can literally have your cake and still lose weight!
But you have to make sure the week’s net result is still a calorie deficit. Don’t let the extras completely cancel out all your hard work the rest of the time.
As personal trainers and nutrition coaches, it’s pretty common for us to hear from folks who call us for help because they are reasonably active, but they’re not making any progress. Now don’t get me wrong, any exercise is better than no exercise. But if all you’re doing is cardio (walking or jogging, elliptical or treadmill, Peloton bike, etc.), you’re missing out on the most important kind of exercise: strength training.
Muscle is what burns fat. Strength training not only builds fat-burning muscle, but it also gives your metabolism an “afterburn” effect that keeps your metabolism elevated for several hours after your workout is over. Cardio exercise doesn’t do that.
Nutrition coaching can involve lots of different techniques. But a common problem that we see when people start, is that their macronutrient ratios are out of whack.
Macronutrients (“macros” for short) are Protein, Carbohydrate, and Dietary Fat – the three components of food that have calories (we’re not including alcohol).
When people are stuck at a weight loss plateau, often adjusting the proportions of proteins, carbs, and fat in the weekly diet can make the difference.
(If you’re examining your own macros without a coach, take a look at your protein-to-carb ratio first. That’s a common problem spot.)
Thyroid: Friend or Foe in Your Weight Loss Journey?
If you feel like you’re doing everything right – eating clean, hitting the gym – but the weight just won’t budge? Sometimes, the culprit causing your weight loss plateau could be hiding inside your own body: your thyroid. This butterfly-shaped gland nestled in your neck plays a crucial role in metabolism. So, if your thyroid isn’t acting right, your weight loss progress can quickly go off track.
Think of your metabolism as your body’s furnace. Your thyroid gland controls the thermostat, releasing hormones that regulate this internal burning of calories. But just like any thermostat, things can malfunction. Two main thyroid issues impact weight:
- Hypothyroidism: When your thyroid becomes sluggish, it doesn’t produce enough hormones, slowing down your metabolism. This often leads to unexplained weight gain, fatigue, and feeling constantly cold. It’s like turning down the furnace temperature – your body burns fewer calories, making it harder to lose weight or even maintain your current weight.
- Hyperthyroidism: On the other hand, an overactive thyroid produces too much hormone, cranking up the metabolic furnace. This can lead to unintended weight loss, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping.
But the thyroid-weight loss connection isn’t always straightforward. While these issues can significantly impact your weight, they’re not the only factors. Other lifestyle choices and even your environment can influence your thyroid function:
- Stress: Chronic stress can disrupt hormone production, including thyroid hormones. Practice relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation. Investigate some professional therapy for mental health.
- Iodine Deficiency: Iodine is essential for thyroid hormone production. Ensure you’re getting enough through iodized salt or seafood.
- Selenium: This mineral is vital for proper thyroid function.
- Gut Health: Emerging research suggests gut bacteria may play a role in thyroid function. Aim for a diverse, fiber-rich diet to support a healthy gut microbiome. Include Greek yogurt and a probiotic supplement.
Spotting the Signs:
So, how do you know if your thyroid is throwing your weight loss off kilter? While weight changes are a red flag, other symptoms can signal trouble:
- Hypothyroidism: Fatigue, hair loss, feeling cold, irregular periods, constipation.
- Hyperthyroidism: Anxiety, rapid heartbeat, tremors, sleep problems, diarrhea.
If you suspect a thyroid issue, don’t self-diagnose! Talk to your doctor. They can order blood tests to assess thyroid hormone levels and determine the best course of action. Different tests measure different things, so your doctor will choose the most appropriate one based on your symptoms.
- TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone): This primary test measures how well your pituitary gland (which controls the thyroid) is functioning.
- T4 (Free Thyroxine): This measures the main thyroid hormone available to your body.
- T3 (Free Triiodothyronine): This measures the active form of T4, which directly impacts metabolism.
Weight loss plateaus are to be expected along the way. But if you find your fat loss stalled for an extended period of time, look into the above ways to break those frustrating plateaus. And if you’d like a hand to make the process easier and more fun, just drop us a note. We’ve got Nashville’s most experienced, motivated personal trainers and nutrition counselors ready for you!