Ever heard of the stubborn last 5, 10 or 15 pounds? It’s not uncommon to hit a weight loss plateau after some initial success with dieting and exercising.
“The most common reason why weight loss plateaus happen is people get comfortable,” says Whittney Thoman, a senior exercise physiologist at MD Anderson’s Cancer Prevention Center. “But you don’t have to change your routine. You just have to challenge it.”
As you lose weight, your metabolism – the speed at which you burn calories – declines. That’s in part because once you’ve lost weight you also use less resistance when you exercise, says Thoman.
For example, if a 200-pound man walks three times a week, he’ll burn a certain number of calories. Through diet and exercise he loses 50 pounds and now weighs 150 pounds. Now, when he walks, he burns fewer calories because he’s carrying 50 pounds less than before and his walk is less of a workout. He may have trouble losing more weight.
It’s important to keep going and push past a weight loss plateau. Maintaining a healthy weight and body mass index (BMI) are an important part of cancer prevention. Too much extra fat can increase your risk for certain types of cancer, including breast, esophageal, colon and endometrial.
Fortunately, there are ways to beat a weight loss plateau. Follow these tips to lose those last few pounds, maintain a healthy weight and lower your cancer risk.
A challenge equals a change. That change could mean more weight loss or just maintaining the initial weight loss.
Step up your workout
The exercises you initially did might be too easy for you now.
“If you’re doing the same thing every single day, your body builds up a tolerance,” Thoman says. “So you have to challenge yourself. A challenge equals a change. That change could mean more weight loss or just maintaining the initial weight loss.”
Thoman tells her patients to remember FITT (frequency, intensity, time or type). Changing any of these factors can help you see additional weight loss. If you work out three times a week, try making it four. If you walk every day, try running or adding Zumba.
You may enjoy the challenge and seeing the progress you’ve made in addition to watching those numbers drop on the scale.
When it comes to calories, think about quality as well as quantity
Make sure to eat at least 2 ½ cups of fruits and vegetables each day to get all the nutrients you need. And avoid the empty calories found in low-nutrient foods, like those with a lot of added sugar.
Make sure you’re getting enough sleep.
Getting enough sleep can give you the energy you need to stay active. But did you know the amount of sleep you get can also impact your hormone levels? This, in turn, affects your metabolism and your ability to burn calories and lose weight.
Aim for eight hours a sleep each night by keeping a consistent sleep schedule, limiting caffeine and avoiding alcohol and nicotine.