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What's Up With the Weight Loss Plateau?

A common question I get is, “Doctor, I was losing weight great, then it slowed way down and stopped! I didn’t chan ge anything I was doing. What the heck is happening?"

The answer, of course, is that you have to change your plan as your body changes if you want your body to keep changing it. Say what? As your body gets lighter, the resting metabolic rate usually goes down because of 3 things:

  1. Body weight plays a large factor in determining how many calories the body burns at rest. You can see in this equation, the weight is multiplied by ten!

Mifflin St. Jeor Formulas:

Men - 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) + 5

Women - 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) – 161

2. When people lose weight and especially when they weight cycle, they may lose more skeletal muscle mass than expected, depening on how they lose weight and other factors. This means the above equation may be less accurate.

3. Metabolic adaptation to weight loss is a phenomenon in which the metabolic rate slows down even more than expected for the lowered weight. This means that someone who is "naturally" at a certain weight may have a higher metabolic rate than someone who has lost 10% of their body weight to get there. This can also make the above equation less accurate.

These plateaus tend to happen about every 5% weight loss experienced. What can you do about this to keep your journey moving?

1. Lose fat, not muscle. Do not reduce all calories equally. Be sure to get adequate protein spaced evenly throughout the day. Be sure you are actively exercising with both aerobic and resistance exercise as you lose weight.

2. Monitor your body composition. As you lose weight, check that you are losing mostly fat. You can do this with measurements, calipers, or a bio impedance analysis machine.

3. At a plateau, take inventory of everything with fresh eyes. You may need to do a food diary for a week, look at macros, medications, heart rate during training, etc. What was working before may not be the best plan now. All you need is a course correction!

Remeber, any progress toward a healthier weight helps! It is best to start your journey with a plan and then re-evaluate periodically. It is great to consult an expert along the way! Let us know if we can help.

Take Back Your Weight Loss Curve,

Valerie Hope-Slocum Sutherland, MD

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