Weight plateau effect

During the weight loss journey, many people either struggle with maintaining the lost weight or reach what we call the plateau effect. The plateau effect is a common phase experienced by people on weight loss programs whereby the weight reduction stops and the weight remains the same for a long time, this can cause frustrations to the person trying to shed off some extra kilos, their fitness trainer and dietitian if they are seeing one. The plateau effect is caused by mostly common in people who use fad dietary programs that does not only result in body fat loss but also the lean muscle mass,  when we lose the lean muscle mass that is responsible for increasing  our metabolic rate, our metabolic rate therefore decreases the rate at which our bodies burn energy, resulting in the plateau effect. The other cause of the plateau effect could be the reduction in fat cells to an extend that signals the metabolic pathways to adjust the metabolic rate for weight maintenance. The other cause of the plateau effect is the balance between the dietary energy intake and energy expenditure, therefore one must reduce the amount of dietary energy consumed per day through portion control, increase the physical activity, or change the exercise routine, the body will start burning more energy by adapting to the new exercise routine.

How to fix it

  1. Adjust your energy intake as you lose weight

As ones weight changes , the daily energy intake must be adjusted to suit the new, your daily energy requirements become lesser and lesser when you do not adjust your energy intake, you end up eating more than you need if you don’t adjust your energy requirements. This can be done through a dietitan consultations, dietitians are registered healthcare professionals with the Health Profession council of South Africa (HPCSA) and are  experts in the field of evidence-based nutrition and can help people to lose weight in a healthier manner. The first mistake that people do when trying to lose weight is taking  any advise from any one or from the internet, forgetting that nutrition is not one size fits all, everyone has their own nutrition requirements, what might have worked for me might not work for you, and again nutrition and weight management is science not an opinion. Once your dietitian has worked out the amount of energy you need, they will then distribute the energy as the number of starch, protein and fat portion that you will need in a day.

  • Avoid fad diets

Fad diets are weight loss plans that promise weight loss plans that promise dramatic and unrealistic results through unhealthy and unbalanced diets, also known as  quick fix diets. We have different types of food groups that do not function the same in the body; starch gives you energy to  perform your body functions and daily chores, and some vitamins and minerals, vegetables give us vitamins and minerals for the immune system, protein builds your body, healthy fats are needed for hormone production and body insulation. Therefore, a Healthy weight loss plans include all the different types of food groups in moderation. If a diet plan requires you to totally omit a whole food group from your diet, chances are it is a fad diet. You can also spot a fad diet by:

  • Claims to make you lose weight at a faster rate
  • Does not require you to limit fat intake
  • Does not encourage regular exercising
  • Has testimony from “clients” and not sound scientifically proven research
  • Does not encourage balanced diets, certain food groups are limited e.g no carb/meat
  • Requires you to spend money on pills/supplements/pre-packed meals
  • Get back to the basics

Weight loss is not a once off thing but a lifestyle change, get yourself into dietary habits that are going to be sustainable for life. Because if you follow a diet program that is not sustainable, chances are when you stop following it you will reach a plateau phase or even gain back all the lost weight or more. Healthy eating involves consuming a wide variety of foods from diferrent food groups, in controlled portion sizes, this should be a primary goal for everyone trying to maintain a healthy body weight. Healthy eating consists of whole grain starches,lean meats, low fat dairy products, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables, all in one.

  • Optimise fluid intake
  • Optimal 2-2.5 L per day
  • Low water intake is linked to weight gain as, your calorie intake is higher when consuming less water
  • Even being 5% dehydrated significantly reduces energy levels, spikes cravings and slows metabolism. Drinking water with meals, helps minimize portion size
  • Do not skip meals
    • Smaller, frequent meals to keep blood sugar stable, avoid cravings and over eating with constant energy and boosting metabolism
    • Regular meals help to avoid feeling overly hungry or stuffed full
    • Eat breakfast within 1 hour of waking up daily
    • You must eat every 3 hours, this also keeps the metabolism healthy and supplies regular energy to the body
    • Set reminders if you often forget, or get a colleague to remind you
    • Plan meals and days ahead of time
    • Make extra food in the weekend or evening to take for lunch during the week
    • Eat before going into a meeting
    • Use quick meals smoothies to speed up meal times if needed