Hitting a weight loss plateau can be tough. Feeling like you’re doing everything right and still not seeing your body change is frustrating – especially if you’d been previously losing weight.
But don’t fear, there are reasons for it – not least that your body doesn’t really want you to lose weight. When you cut back on calories, sometimes your body’s response is to retain weight in order to protect against what it may perceive as ‘deprivation’.
“Your body will then make you feel hungry because it thinks something is wrong and wants you to gain that weight back,” says Peter LePort, MD, a bariatric surgeon and medical director of MemorialCare Surgical Weight Loss Center at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California.
Also, when you start losing weight (muscle or fat), your body’s metabolic rate slows down, which means your body starts burning calories at a lower rate, too.
Frustratingly enough, there is also a ‘set point‘ at which your body does not want to lose any more weight, says Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, an instructor of medicine and paediatrics at Harvard Medical School and obesity medicine physician at Massachusetts General Hospital. “You might notice that, no matter what you try, you are always within five to ten pounds of a baseline weight,” she says. “When you attempt to lose weight, the body aims to defend its set point, via the brain, to keep you in a certain range.”
1. Dial your workouts down a notch
If you’re experiencing exhaustion while trying to lose weight, that could be a sign that your workouts are actually too intense. “Often, people try to ramp up their physical activity to levels that are not easy to maintain,” says Dr. Stanford. “While they may get some short-term benefit with regards to weight loss, this may be difficult to maintain which will lead to weight regain.”
One study published in the journal Current Biology found that more exercise does not equal more calories burned; instead, those who exercised moderately used the same amount of energy as those who slaved away at the gym. The best route? Stick to the NHS’ recommendation of least two and a half hours (or 150 minutes) per week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, as well as strength training at least two days per week that work each of the major muscles – legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms.