One of the great rewards of losing weight is getting on the scale and watching the needle drop steadily. So it’s irritating when it doesn’t budge for a few days, weeks, or even a month. You’ve hit a plateau. And that’s exactly the way it’s supposed to be.
This is the body’s natural reaction to doing the right thing; there’s a biological reason for it. That biological reason centers on your basal metabolic rate, or BMR. BMR is the amount of energy it takes to keep your body warm, your heart pumping, and your lungs breathing. And it accounts for the majority of all energy you burn. When you were heavier, it took more energy to run your body at idle. Now that you’re lighter, your body needs less energy a result of your success so far, not the personal failure it can feel like.
1. Muscle Through
Your BMR also slows as you get older because, left to its own devices, the body sheds muscle mass as it ages, replacing it with fat. And a pound of muscle burns about six calories an hour, while a pound of fat burns only one.
Increasing muscle mass is critical. Add strength exercises three days a week for three months and drop to two days when the scale starts to move downward.
2. Add More to Everything
You don’t need to join a gym to move more every day. Did you know, for example, that you get up out of a chair 42–50 times a day? That’s an opportunity to add muscle. All you have to do is not use your arms.
If you do that, you will do more than 40 reps a day of a great strengthening exercise for the
large leg muscles.
Do calf raises while standing at the sink. If you have six or fewer grocery bags, leave the cart in
the supermarket split the weight evenly between hands, and carry the bags to your car.
3. Return to the Journal
There’s a reason dietitians recommend food journals: They work. And there’s a reason dietitians don’t rely on them for the long term: They’re time-consuming, so most people don’t stick with them.
But to get through a plateau, you need to dust yours off even if only for a week or so to find out if you’re eating too little. For most women, that means fewer than 1,200 calories per day.
If you get below that level, your body goes into conservation mode and lowers its BMR. Dip too far below and you go into starvation mode which significantly dampens BMR as your body’s survival mechanisms kick in.
4. Walk It Off
Your body uses muscle memory to become highly efficient at regular activities—it’s why you can tie a braid blindfolded and why your exercise routine isn’t working anymore for weight loss. What helped you lose those initial pounds won’t necessarily help you lose the remaining ones.
By adding interval moves, your body will chew through more calories during the walk and elevate your BMR for up to 14 hours after for an additional burn of about 200 calories.
Simply add bursts of speed. For a 30-minute walk, spend 15 minutes alternating between 30 seconds of walking as fast as you can and 60 seconds of walking at your regular pace.
The key to going faster is shorter, quicker steps.