Frustrated woman on the scale

Most people have experienced a weight loss plateau at some point in their life. Despite eating clean and exercising consistently, the scale refuses to budge. There is often a simple explanation for these stalls in our progress. Below are seven common causes for this frustrating topic.

Your portion sizes are too large

Even ‘healthy’ foods can be calorie dense.  Nutrient-rich snacks such as almonds, avocados and dark chocolate are great additions to your diet, but they are not low in calories.  It is important to educate yourself on what the appropriate serving size is for the foods you eat.  For example, a recommended serving size of unsalted almonds is 23 almonds. This heart healthy snack contains 6 grams of protein and 3.5 grams of fiber and 160 calories.  23 almonds may seem like a filling snack, and it is, but it is easy to over-indulge if you are not being mindful.  It is a good idea to count out or measure your serving size before you start eating and put away the unused food for another time.

You aren’t getting enough sleep

Waking up an hour early to hit the gym is impressive. It shows motivation and determination.  It is important, however, to balance your workouts with the proper amount of rest.  Studies show that lack of sleep is a common cause for stalled weight loss. Our bodies rely on our circadian rhythms to keep our metabolism levels stable and functioning properly.  Disrupting these sleep/wake rhythms creates imbalance, known as chronodisruption, which can cause your body to hold onto its fat stores.  Sleep-deprivation can also lead to poor food choices. When you are over-tired, you are much more likely to grab the first food you find, which is often not the healthiest option.  Sleep equals energy.  And energy is the fuel we need to make smart choices and lead productive days.

You are limiting your exercise routine

Cardiovascular exercises such as the treadmill, elliptical machine and spinning are definite calorie burners.  But your body quickly becomes familiar with these types of exercises and will hit an exercise plateau.  Including strength training to your workouts is an essential component of weight loss. Strength training builds lean muscle mass, which works to decrease fat and increase your metabolism. Switching up your cardio routine and incorporating HIIT training (High Intensity Interval Training) into your exercise regimen is a sure fire way to hit your weight loss goals.

You are completely stressed out

Work, kids, exercise, family, friends. The daily demands of our super busy lives can take their toll on our bodies. Stress increases your body’s production of a hormone called Cortisol. When cortisol is created, it signals your body to hold on to weight and deposit more fat in your abdomen. To make matters worse, cortisol also causes your appetite to increase, especially for those unhealthy comfort foods. Finding ways to de-stress and unwind can greatly improve your weight loss journey. Learning how to breathe deeply, meditate and let go of the nagging worry surrounding the ‘what-ifs’ of life will help you to clear your mind and reach your goal weight.

Food sensitivities are derailing your progress

Food sensitivities and intolerance are different from food allergies. They occur when your digestive system cannot properly break down food. Much more common than food allergies, they can be hard to properly diagnose. Delayed symptoms such as stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea can occur a few days after eating the culprit food. Bloating in the stomach, gas and indigestion are possible clues that you may be suffering from a food sensitivity. Keeping a food journal is an excellent way to pinpoint which foods may be disagreeing with you.  Wheat, yeast, dairy and nuts are common triggers. Eliminate the possible offender from your diet and keep track of any change in symptoms.

Hormone imbalances may also be to blame for your difficulty losing weight

As we age, the levels of hormones such as Progesterone, Testosterone and DHEA that our body produces begin to decrease.  These lowered hormone levels lead to sluggishness, slowed metabolism and the inability to create and maintain muscle. Men and women alike can experience the negative effects of low Testosterone levels.

Many women also experience excess Estrogen, which can cause a slew of health problems. Getting your hormone levels properly balanced is vital to a successful weight loss plan.  Your doctor can order a simple blood test to check various hormone levels in your body.  Based on your test results, you can work with your doctor to make any necessary dietary or supplement changes that will benefit you.

You are obsessed with the number on the scale

While muscle may not technically weigh more than fat, it does look a heck of a lot different.  A well-toned woman weighing 150 pounds will look much leaner than a woman who has a higher BMI (body mass index) and weighs the same. Getting that message into your head when you step on the scale is easier said than done. Our weight fluctuates as much as four pounds at various points throughout the day. Compulsively weighing yourself every day, multiple times a day, will do nothing but drive you crazy. There are much better measures of your weight loss. Measuring the inches that you have lost is one way to keep track of your progress. Measurements are commonly taken of the bust, chest, waist and hips. It is best to have someone else take your measurements and track them on a weekly basis.

Fat calipers can also be used to track your progress. Calipers measure a person’s body fat percentages. Men are usually measured on their chest, abdomen and thigh. A woman’s measurements are typically taken on their tricep, waist and thigh. As with tape measurements, the same person should be monitoring your fat caliper tests. Looking in the mirror is another excellent gauge of your progress. Do those jeans have a little more room around the waist then they used to?  Is that frustrating bulge around your midsection much less noticeable than usual?  If you look in the mirror and are proud of what you see, embrace it. If someone gives you a compliment, accept it.

Don’t let these roadblocks derail your best efforts. Revisit your goals and be consistent in your effort and you WILL attain your weight loss goals.