Why is losing that last two kilos so difficult? You may have hit a road block called the weight loss plateau
Well-begun might be half- done but if your agenda is slimming, remember that finishing what you’ve started is much tougher. With body image and health consciousness being worldwide trends, there are countless people trying to lose weight and maintain their optimum weight, either for cosmetic and /or health reasons. And most people will tell the toughest part is losing those last two inches, or sloughing off those last couple of kilos.
When you begin a weight-loss programme, you will notice a gradual reduction in weight. Those inches drop off, current clothes begin to hang loose and those body-hugging, figure-flattering outfits you might have fantasized about seem within reach. You also feel lighter and healthier. Most important, your self-esteem and self-confidence rise as you are buoyed by the initial success. And then, in many cases, just when you are beginning to congratulate your-self, your vehicle runs aground. For a few weeks or so, you encounter no weight loss, no change at all. You might not have missed a day of dieting or a step of your fitness regimen but you can’t seem to break out of the no-visible results phase.
In technical terms, this is called a weight-loss plateau: The period when you are still doing what you were initially (diet and exercise) but the weighing scale doesn’t show any change, nor do the inches seem to be falling away.
It can be frustrating and then, demotivating. Some just lose heart and given up. Explains Pune-based software engineer Rajesh Saxena, who hadn’t heard of the term ‘weight-loss plateau’: “I had a goal of losing about five-six inches around my waist, but after the first four inches which I lost rapidly, I kind of lost motivation since my progress became very slow. Anyway, I reckoned that what I had lost was good enough, so that’s where I am for the past two years”.
For others, however, reconciliation may not be that easy. Gynecologist Dr Madhuri Polapragada had set a goal of 13-kg loss. She managed the first nine pretty fine with a well-worked out combination of dieting and exercise. Then the weight loss plateau got to her and demotivated, she gave up. Months later, she is still there: “I feel elated about my nine-kg victory, but the inability to lose those last few kg still irks me. Especially since I know the medical reasons.”
What are those reasons? To understand that, a little technical backgrounder first. For the layman, weight is simply what his weighing scale tells him. For the experts, weight is about body composition. There are certain major components of the body that are significant in your weight: water, muscle (lean mass), and fat (fat mass). The one that really matters here is fat, what you are supposed to lose. Though some water does get lost in the process, it should not be the target. And muscle mass? Never. As director, National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, Dr B. Siva Kumar, explains: “In programmed weight loss, the target should be loss of fat and not water or muscle. Many lose the battle because they have actually lost water and not much fat. And water is easy to regain, so they might even end up regaining weight, in what is known as the rebound phenomenon: here you finally end up with more weight than you started. Again, the muscle mass should not be compromised since that can have harmful health consequences.
Weight-loss experts say this plateau occurs because your body believes there is a feminine, since the signs indicate loss of food. So the body has slowed down your metabolism in order to conserve calories. The solution: speed up your metabolism by increasing activity levels. For instance, if you’ve been exercising for 20 minutes each day, increase that to 25-30 minutes. In short, your fitness routine must be intensified. For more specific solutions, check with your physician, weight-loss specialist, or personal-fitness experts. Or a yoga expert, since simple yoga poses boost your energy and stimulate metabolism. Yoga also helps determine your dosha type and thus what kinds of weight loss treatments are suited for your mental, psychological and physical type.
The plateau may also happen because your body simply wants a rest to get used to the sudden reduction in calories.
So, it is vital to check your calorie intake: since may deter fail to eat enough, this triggers the plateau effects for the same reason as above. So eat some fruits or salads (every three hours for women and five for men): this reassures your body that enough food is available and facilitates calorie-expenditure. This expenditure translates into fat loss. Or may be your need a specific diet-plan for which a nutritionist is the best guide.
Dr Siva Kumar points out a significant aspect in programmed weight loss or slimming: the goal should be to achieve a Body Mass Index (BMI), which is ideal for that individual. The goal should not be an arbitrarily fixed that-many-kg or this-many-inches. And, in order to achieve this BMI perfect for you, you will have to lose a certain number of kgs or inches.
So, in case your weight-loss is plateauing, it is probable that your body is reaching that ideal BMI position and hence resists further loss, since, otherwise, the body’s integrity/ adaptation levels might be compromised. In a sense, explains Dr Siva Kumar, the plateau is not always a case for panic.
However, if the reason is something else: loss of water for example, you have to take care. “Here, in order to counter weight-loss plateau, you have to loss weight in a certain programmed way so you lose weight by burning calories and losing fat rather than just water. Thus, a critical measure is the BMI or Body Mass Index.”
But how do you know which of these is happening? You can check your BMI: it can be got by comparing you height against weight. Or you can visit a general practitioner or any weight-loser expert, who can do a body-composition analysis for you and let you know the exact picture. If your fat percentage is high, increase your activity so you burn more of that fat. If it isn’t and your body is resisting further weight loss because it has neared its ideal BMI, then you needn’t worry so much.”
Will power seems all-important. A big dose of determination should see you through!
- First thing to remember, your weight fluctuates normally, to some extent, whether or not you are on a weight-loss programme.
- The closer you get to your target weight, the harder it is to lose weight.
- After an initial period of success, you will probably encounter a tapering off or period of no results. This occurs usually a month after starting a weight-loss programme and occurs periodically thereafter.
- There are some physical reasons for this, so don’t panic.
- Weight-loss goals should be made in keeping with the ideal BMI for that individual. Since targets have to be individualized, two people on a slimming programme might need to shed totally different amounts of weight in order to achieve their personal BMI levels.
- If you are losing weight you have put on in the past, it is important to know your body composition before the weight-gain happened.
- Weight-loss plateaus might not always be need for panic or disappointment, your body might be telling you the fat percentage is just right for the muscle mass you have. In other words, you are on the verge of reaching your optimum weight.
Calculating Your BMI
- Your Body Mass Index (BMI) is the most accurate indicator of healthy weight. It is calculated by dividing your weight (In kilos) by your height squared (in metres).
- BMI = Weight (in kilos)/ Height (in meters) x Height (in meters)
- Below 18.5: Underweight
- Between 18.5 and 24.9: Normal
- Between 25 and 29.9: Overweight
- 30 & more: Odese.