The harm, he says, is that some people give up during a plateau and fall back into poor eating and exercise habits out of discouragement.
On a positive note, since it's best to lose weight slowly, steadily, and sensibly, plateaus can often be a body's balancing act. A plateau also can signal that a body has less fat left to lose.
Dr. Nick points out that real plateaus, when weight loss does in fact stall, are different from perceived plateaus, when a person is in denial and doesn't believe they are doing anything differently, yet the weight is not coming off.
"Honesty and accuracy are such core ingredients to healthy living for TOPS members that I have to mention them, as I frequently discover what I call a 'perceived plateau' upon deeper interaction and conversations with people who are frustrated with their weight loss," he says.
One cause of a true plateau is that the body is trying to achieve equilibrium, or homeostasis. In this state, the body wants to retain the status quo and not lose weight. Weight will resist coming off, even if the number of calories consumed and level of exercise stay the same.
Dr. Nick says that the key is to mix up your routine so the body reacts to changing signals. "Some weight-loss warriors make the mistake of expecting different results with the same routine. It's easy to get discouraged, but it's more effective to get creative," he notes.
His strategies for overcoming a weight-loss plateau include :
· Eat the same weekly amount of calories but eat less one day and more the next to make the body react differently. Also, remember to drink water to feel full and avoid problems caused by dehydration.
· Try adding a new activity to an exercise routine. It will activate more muscles and change the way the body is used. For instance, if you typically walk daily, swim or bike instead. Add high-intensity cardio intervals to a low-intensity workout. If there's a fun, new dance class to try, this is a good time.
· Switch the type of workout. For example, trade an aerobic session for a strength-training or muscle-toning class. This can increase lean muscle mass and jump-start the metabolic rate.
· Spread out daily food intake to fuel metabolism over a longer period of time. Add a few mini-meals each day, going from three meals to five, without adding calories. Make sure breakfast is a solid meal, because it results in better concentration and higher energy throughout the day.
Use patience and persistence as tools in the journey to overall wellness. Weight-loss plateaus will happen along the way - but they can be overcome.
TOPS Club Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the original, nonprofit weight-loss support and wellness education organization, was established more than 62 years ago to champion weight-loss support and success. Founded and headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, TOPS promotes successful, affordable weight management with a philosophy that combines healthy eating, regular exercise, wellness information, and support from others at weekly chapter meetings. TOPS has about 170,000 members in nearly 10,000 chapters throughout the United States and Canada.
Visitors are welcome to attend their first TOPS meeting free of charge. To find a local chapter, view www.tops.org or call (800) 932-8677.