BREAK THROUGH A WEIGHT LOSS PLATEAU

Some­times, de­spite your best ef­forts, the scale just stalls. That’s when these science-backed strate­gies come in. Bust through your plateau and let the slim be­gin.

Shape (Singapore) - - Front Page -

The dreaded weight loss plateau – it’s some­thing most di­eters en­counter around the six-month mark, re­search shows. You con­tinue work­ing out and eat­ing right, yet noth­ing. No more progress. Plateaus are so in­tensely frus­trat­ing that they of­ten prompt peo­ple to quit their diet al­to­gether. “You think: ‘I’m putting in all this ef­fort and not see­ing re­sults – is it even worth it?’ But you can get through it,” prom­ises Meghan Butryn, a psy­chol­ogy pro­fes­sor at Drexel Uni­ver­sity.

WHY PLATEAUS HAP­PEN

Af­ter you lose weight, your body op­er­ates more ef­fi­ciently and needs less en­ergy to do ev­ery­thing, in­clud­ing your work­outs, which means you burn fewer calo­ries. At the same time, your sys­tem is bi­o­log­i­cally pro­grammed to get you back to your for­mer, heav­ier weight – a sur­vival mech­a­nism to help pre­vent star­va­tion that is left over from pre­his­toric times, when food was scarce.

This phe­nom­e­non, called adap­tive ther­mo­ge­n­e­sis, puts the brakes on your me­tab­o­lism. A 10 per cent drop in your body weight will slow your me­tab­o­lism by as much as 25 per cent, ex­perts say. And the more you lose, the greater the ef­fect, though sci­en­tists don’t know why. In a study pub­lished in The Amer­i­can Journal of Clin­i­cal Nu­tri­tion, peo­ple who lost the most weight saw the great­est dips in their meta­bolic rates.

And that’s only part of the prob­lem. Your hor­mones are also mak­ing you hun­grier than ever, says Dr Louis Aronne, direc­tor of the Com­pre­hen­sive Weight Con­trol Cen­ter at Weill Cor­nell Medicine and the au­thor of The Change Your Bi­ol­ogy Diet.

If you shed 10 to 15 per cent of your body weight, your level of lep­tin – a hor­mone crit­i­cal for mak­ing you feel full – plum­mets by 50 per cent, con­vinc­ing your brain that you’ve lost half your body fat. “It’s like a gas gauge say­ing you’re run­ning on empty when you’re not,” Dr Aronne ex­plains. Your level of the “hunger hor­mone” ghre­lin also spikes dis­pro­por­tion­ately af­ter weight loss.

Your brain re­sponds by find­ing ways to get you to eat more, says Dale Schoeller, a pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of nu­tri­tional sciences at the Uni­ver­sity of Wis­con­sin–Madi­son.

So in­stead of mea­sur­ing ev­ery ta­ble­spoon of peanut but­ter as you did at the be­gin­ning of your diet, you start to slide. You stop mea­sur­ing and start hav­ing the oc­ca­sional cup­cake at the of­fice birth­day party. The de­cline in “diet ad­her­ence” is the big­gest con­trib­u­tor to early plateaus, ac­cord­ing to a study that he coau­thored.

“It takes a tremen­dous amount of phys­i­cal and emo­tional ef­fort to over­come all the bi­o­log­i­cal and en­vi­ron­men­tal chal­lenges to weight loss,” Meghan says. “Ini­tially, you can stick with it be­cause you see the re­sults and you get a lot of pos­i­tive re­in­force­ment. But af­ter a few weeks or months, you be­come tired and dis­cour­aged by all the work re­quired.”

But don’t give up. You can work past a plateau and be­come even stronger and more suc­cess­ful. Here’s how to do it.

Get back to ba­sics

If you used to track your food, ex­er­cise or weight, it’s time to restart that rou­tine. Log­ging meals and work­outs can help you see where you need to step up your ef­forts. If you’ve al­ready been keep­ing track of these things, take a look at your progress over time. An­a­lyse the weeks or months that you were par­tic­u­larly suc­cess­ful, fig­ure out what you were do­ing dif­fer­ently then, and go back to it.

Smart tweaks to your diet will get re­sults and help re­new your com­mit­ment.

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