There comes a point in every weight loss journey that we all dread. A weight plateau. No matter how dedicated you have been to your nutrition plan and workout schedule, it’s almost inevitable.
And guess what? A weight plateau is totally normal, and temporary. It’s actually a sign that what you’re doing is working. There’s actually science behind it (*breathes sigh of relief*). Your body hates change, including weight loss. It will pull out all the stops (slowing your metabolism and increasing your hunger) to keep you at the weight you are now – as soon as it senses something is awry. Your initial weight loss will happen, then your body thinks, “Hey – what’s going on here? Is there trouble? We need to conserve!”
As I’ve been on my own personal wellness journey this past year, I have come across the dreaded plateau. And in my job as a wellness coach, I have seen this in my clients time and time again. I wrote a Facebook post awhile back about my plateau, and one of my friends enlightened me on the set-point theory of weight loss.
Knowing about the set-point theory will change the way you handle weight loss forever.
Essentially, your body is pretty darn incredible – in case you didn’t know already. It has a self-preservation mode that can best be described as primal. When you restrict calories too much, or lose a significant amount of weight, your body thinks something is wrong. It starts thinking, “Is this a famine? Is food scarce?” And then it begins to hold on to every last calorie and pound.
Your scale won’t budge. You’ve hit the dreaded plateau.
Do a quick calculation the next time you hit a plateau. I’m willing to bet that it will be around the same time you lose 10% of your body weight – because that’s what triggers the plateau most of the time. As soon as you hit that 10% mark, your body starts to preserve itself.
I hit a plateau last summer, and it was endlessly frustrating. I couldn’t figure out what was happening, or why. I was still exercising six days a week, eating healthy foods in proper portions – everything I had done to lose the weight in the first place. But, it just wasn’t working anymore.
Do you know the most demotivating thing in the world? Working so hard and not seeing any results. You start to question everything and wonder if it’s even worth it anymore. I thought, “If I’m not seeing any results and I’m working this hard, I might as well just have a few donuts every day, because then I still won’t see results, but at least I will have donuts.” A tempting train of thought, indeed.
Then I learned about the set-point theory and realized the plateau hit when I lost 10% of my body weight.
But guess what? You can change your set point. It is not permanent.
Do you hear angels singing? Because I do!
Typically, if you continue your wellness routine – exercise, healthy eating, proper portions – and push through the weight plateau for about six months months, your body resets its set point.
So, if you keep at it for about six months, your body’s set point is “re-set” at your 10% lower weight, and then you can lose another 10% before this phenomenon happens again.
A plateau isn’t permanent. It’s not a sign that you’re failing, or that your routine isn’t working anymore. It’s H.A.R.D. to stay motivated when the scale isn’t budging. But keeping the set point theory in mind is a huge encouragement for me, and more often than not, allows me to keep my brain in the right mindset.
For more of my personal column, Heather Gets Healthy, click here.