Most of us who have traveled down the path to achieving a fat loss goal at some point or another hit a temporary roadblock where we are suddenly unable to make further progress. We check in day after day, yet that number on the scale, our measurements and the way our clothes fit all stay the same. I’ve had a lot of experience with this, both personally and while coaching clients over the years, so I’ll share how I’ve managed to smash through those fat loss plateaus time after time.
First and foremost, it’s important we understand that our bodies are built to adapt to our environments for survival. So after a certain amount of time burning more calories than you’re taking in and/or exercising a certain way, the body will adapt to this new lifestyle to ensure you don’t eventually starve to death or cause other bodily harm.
So in order to convince the body to continue to let go of more fat and to progress physically, you need to change something you’re doing so that your body no longer recognizes a pattern. What to change and to what degree are the tricky parts.
You with me so far…? Thought so! Let’s get down to details.
Say your current fat loss routine includes the following:
- You quit drinking soda and replaced it with more water and unsweetened iced tea.
- Every morning, you walk briskly for 20 minutes
- You save red meat for special occasions and therefore have grilled chicken, fish or plant-based lunches and dinners on most days.
- You’ve switched from snacking on cookies and chips in between meals to nuts.
- Lastly, you’ve switched from eating a bowl of ice cream after dinner to enjoying a couple squares of dark chocolate.
These are all great decisions you’ve made, and as a result, you’ve shed 25 pounds of fat! The problem is, your fat loss has come to a grinding halt and it’s been two or three weeks now since you’ve made any progress.
Most people usually do one of three things at this point. They’ll either:
- Do something drastic and extreme in an attempt to keep losing weight.
- Become very discouraged and throw in the towel all together.
- Decide that what they’ve achieved is “good enough” and give up on the goal of losing that last 15.
But I’m here to tell you that none of these three decisions are necessary! Instead, this is all you need to do in order to keep your body guessing and flip that fat loss switch back to “ON”: Make small but meaningful changes to your food and activity level. For example:
- Ok, you’ve given up the soda, so how about some of the other liquid calories in your life? Vanilla lattes, we’re talking about you! Make those lattes a Saturday morning treat rather than a daily ritual and opt for drip coffee with a splash of milk the other days of the week. Also, now’s the time to be honest with yourself about how many calories you’re taking in each week via alcohol… (ahem.) Cutting back even the smallest amount can mean big changes in your waistline.
- Step up your activity by walking briskly for 25-30 minutes each evening. That’s right – an extra 5 -10 minutes each day makes a big difference! Or, switch your method of exercising all together, which, when possible, is a highly recommended way to go. Weight lifting is always a great choice.
- Your protein sources have improved so now let’s take a look at your carbs. Try enjoying starchy carbs (such as oatmeal, potatoes, bread, rice, pasta) at breakfast and lunch only and skip them at dinnertime. But don’t worry – this doesn’t mean you need to go hungry at night. Instead, replace those starches with extra vegetables, a broth-based vegetable soup or a nice, big salad with a vinaigrette dressing.
- Choose to only have one serving of nuts per day (instead of three) and eat sliced fruit, berries, 2 – 3 T. hummus plus carrots or plain sea salt popcorn as your other snacks during the day. Yes, nuts and nut butters are healthy foods, but their calories are dense, therefore eating several handfuls or spoonfuls a day can definitely result in slowed fat loss or even fat gain.
Making some or all of these adjustments can make a big impact on your results. As I mentioned earlier, the key is to make small changes, not big drastic ones. Otherwise you’ll have run out of options when you need to push through those fat loss and fitness plateaus in the future!
Lastly, I’ll end with this: the more patient you are with accomplishing fat loss and fitness goals, the more likely it is that you’ll keep off the weight in the long run. Gradual, but steady results should be the focus, all while creating new sustainable lifestyle habits.
Here’s to conquering all of your fitness goals and living the rest of your life healthfully and happily!