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."
3. Try to de-stress
Women who followed a 1,200-calorie-a-day diet, according to a study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, produced more cortisol, the stress hormone, and reported higher levels of stress. A study published in the journal Obesity also found that prolonged exposure to cortisol can actually lead to weight gain—or, if you’re actively trying to lose weight, it can at least stall your progress.
Try some de-stressing techniques like yoga or meditation. It’s also important for you to be aware that weight-loss plateaus do exist, and to cut yourself some slack when they happen, Dr. LePort says. If you know you tend to get stressed out when things don’t go your way, you can try adding regular self-care activities.