Pounds that are practically falling off! Boosted energy! Better-fitting pants! During the first few weeks (or even months) of your weight loss journey you’ve got results, results, and more results to show for all your hard work. Then suddenly it happens… the scale stalls and you’re stuck. When this happens, you’ve hit what diet and exercise experts call a weight loss plateau.
1. Reassess Your Caloric Needs
“In order to overcome a weight loss plateau, you’ll likely need to adjust your calorie intake,” registered dietitian Leah Kaufman, MS, RD, CDE, CDN tells us. “As you lose weight, your body requires fewer calories for maintenance. If you’re taking in as many calories on day 60 of your diet as you did on day 1, you won’t be able to lose weight. Although you may have been losing weight previously on your current intake, you may need to eat less to achieve a larger caloric deficit.” One way Kaufman recommends figuring out exactly how many calories you need is by taking a metabolic test.
2. Cheat On Your Diet
Cheating is not typically condoned, but when it comes to losing weight, breaking the rules may be the key to success. “When you hit a plateau, take a carb-rich free meal, otherwise known as a cheat meal or a refeed meal. After a few days, things should start to progress again,” says personal trainer and co-founder of Excelerate Wellness Victoria Viola. “When we lose weight, we inevitability also lose fat. And the less fat you have, the less leptin (the ‘satiety hormone’) you’ll produce, which tells the brain to conserve calories to prevent starving.
3. Cut Back On Salt
You know that sugar, your other white granular nemesis, can lead to weight gain. But how about salt? It’s complicated. Short term, a high-salt diet can result in a higher number on the scale because salt leads to water retention in the body, explains Tony Castillo, MS, RDN, LDN, nutrition consultant for RSP Nutrition says. That said, water weight and fat weight are not the same and salt only directly causes the former.
4. Don’t Skip Meals
Like picking a fight to test someone’s resolve in their own beliefs, eating regularly to lose weight may seem a bit counterintuitive—but it works. “Many people think that if they skip a meal it will help them lose weight, but that’s simply not true,” registered dietitian and personal trainer Jim White, RD, ACSM, owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios tells us.
5. Eat Protein Regularly
You need to eat protein if you want to lose weight. When you consider the nutrient’s stellar skill set, it makes sense: Protein can boost metabolism and even help the body retain its muscle while scorching fat. Protein-rich foods also suppress ghrelin, which is a hormone secreted by the stomach that stimulates appetite, explains registered dietitian Gina Hassick, RD, LDN, CDE, who suggests including a lean source of the nutrient with each meal.