[A couple of links to specific items in this post are affiliate links. Those links are marked with an asterisk (*). Click here to read my disclosure policy. ]
Since the end of April, I’ve been trying to get serious about my health and weight loss alongside my doctor who prescribed me an appetite suppressant called Phentermine. Phentermine makes it easier for me to stick to my nutrition and fitness goals. It also gives me the energy I need to get moving and crush my workout.
He instructed me to eat low-carb, and I’ve adopted a ketogenic diet (low carb, high fat). All was well and in the first month and a half I lost about 20lbs. Then, it stopped.
In fact, I had gained a few pounds despite eating 1,200 – 1,500 calories a day and working out 3x a week. It’s easy to get frustrated over this until you stop and pick apart your routine to look for answers. If you’re on a similar path, let’s take a minute to talk about it.
I’m not a weight-loss, fitness or nutrition professional by any means; but in my experience, I’ve found that the scale may not be moving because…
1 – You’re losing inches, not pounds
Muscle is more dense than fat; 5lbs of muscle occupies less space than 5lbs of fat. So if you’re losing inches and your weight is staying the same, you may conclude that you’re losing fat and gaining muscle! This makes sense in my case because I recently started adding more weight to my workouts. In the mirror, my body is changing. Taking your measurements is important.
2 – Thirsty! You’re not drinking enough water.
Water is extremely important in the weight loss game. If your body has any inkling that you’re not getting enough, it will start to retain water. Water weight and bloating is frustrating if you don’t understand what’s going on. It seems counterproductive, but you have to drink more water to lose the water weight. A rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in ounces of water. For example, if you’re 200lbs you should be drinking 100oz of water.
3 – You may be eating more than you think you are
If you guesstimate and eyeball your measurements, you’re leaving yourself a lot of room for error. When measuring my food, I use a food scale* and try to be as accurate as possible. Track everything you eat; a bite of a cookie here, a handful of grapes there. When I’m feeling lazy I avoid munching or snacking altogether which helps too, lol!
4 – You’re not burning as many calories as you think you are
This is another big one that happens quite often. I recommend investing in a heart rate monitor for an accurate caloric burn. You set these up to your height and weight. I have the Fitbit Surge* and have had it for a year, I love it. I had a Polar heart Rate monitor* before. There’s a rumor that the Fitbit watches aren’t very accurate, but after comparing the two I have I’ve come to the conclusion that it appears to be accurate for me. D0 your research and compare them if you can! The estimated calories I burn on MyFitnessPal was nowhere near the amount I was really burning, so it pays to invest in a heart rate monitor! I feel that I’m getting a more accurate idea of my workouts.
5 – You’re not eating enough
Our bodies are so nit picky, aren’t they? “Do this, not that. Wait, not that either. And don’t too much of this!” Just like with water, if our bodies sense we’re malnourished it’ll start to hang on to every calorie it can to survive. Your metabolism slows down, your brain is foggy, you’re too weak to work out. You need to eat to lose. Especially if you’re working out. Your recommended calorie intake depends on your height, weight, age and activity level. You can figure out how many calories you need to lose weight here.
6 – Your scale sucks
You could be losing, but your scale might not be calibrated correctly. I had one die on me recently, and my new scale gives me quite a different reading! My weight at the doctor’s office is similar to that of the new scale! It’s time to break up with the scale if it’s starting to hinder your progress. Trying your hardest and seeing a two pound gain at the end of the week is enough to discourage anyone. Keep pushing forward and don’t let a little gain throw you for a loop.
Sometimes, none of the above is true and our bodies are just holding on to fat for dear life for no apparent reason. In those cases, I accept that I’ve hit a plateau and I look for ways to overcome it. My body is particularly stubborn and likes to hit a wall every 5-10 pounds; I feel that I’ve become old and wise when it comes to plateau-busting knowledge.
Here are a few other things to try to overcome your plateau:
- have a cheat day
- eat completely different for a weekend
- introduce some new foods
- cycle calories
- change up your workouts
- skip a week of working out (this works best for me. Bodies are weird. I LOST FIVE POUNDS. Five.)
Our finicky bodies and our scales like to partake in tomfoolery–don’t beat yourself up about it. Take is slow, pay attention to what you’re doing, make some changes and enjoy yourself. When it comes to losing weight, the slower the better.