What to do if your weight loss has stalled
May 31, 2022

Weight loss simplified

To lose bodyweight, you need to expend more energy than you consume. You can do that by reducing how much you eat, or increasing how much physical activity you do. Our bodies don't like being in an energy deficit, and it will do whatever it can to make you eat more and do less physical activity.

As you lose weight, your body will become more efficient at doing physical activity. You will face a point where you are no longer in an energy deficit and are back at balance. The energy balance is where your weight stalls and you no longer see changes in your body. You have two options, you either eat less or move more. But before you do, here's five questions that you should ask yourself.

1. Are you adherent to your diet and training plan?

When interacting with Challengers completing the Max and Maxine Challenge, I often hear that their "nutrition is 100%". The fact is that we all under-report what we eat and over-report how much exercise we complete. The first question that you should ask yourself is if you have been sticking to your plan. Even if you had the best diet and training plan in the world, if you don't follow it, you will not see results.

If you are unsure if you've been sticking to the plan, I will recommend that you start tracking your progress. Write down the food you eat and when you eat it and log your training sessions. You may find that you are having a few Bites, Licks and Tastes, or BLT throughout the day and have not progressed your training sessions in weeks.

If you are not more than 90% adherent to your diet and training plan, I will suggest that you start by improving your adherence before you reduce your energy intake or increase your physical activity.

2. Can the lack of weight loss be explained by another factor?

We often use scale weight as a metric to track our progress. Scale weight is an easy variable to track but often does not tell the full story of our progress. There are a variety of factors that can influence your daily body weight such as:

  • Fluid intake (e.g. water)
  • Gut residue (e.g. high fibre foods still in your gut)
  • Muscle gain (or increases in glycogen stores)
  • Bowel or bladder movements

If it is clear that another factor can be influencing your progress, start by addressing that.

3. What is your current weight loss?

During a weight loss phase, we recommend that you aim for 0.5-1% of body weight loss per week. If you are losing more than 1% per week, there is a chance that you are losing body mass that is not body fat such as muscle, bone or fluid (if you are just starting a diet it is more likely to be fluid).

If you're losing 500g a week and you weigh 55kg, that is just under 1% of your body weight. If this is you, I would not recommend changing your strategy. However, if you have evidence that you are losing less than 0.5% body weight per week, then move onto the next question.

4. Is a decrease in energy intake or an increase in physical activity possible?

You may be at a point where you can no longer realistically reduce your energy intake or increase your energy expenditure. For example, you are currently so hungry that you are at a high risk of binge eating, or you are experiencing fatigue from your current physical activity levels.

If an energy decrease or physical activity increase is not possible, I will recommend that you actually take a diet break. Your prescription will be 1-2 days at about 10% higher energy intake. Some call it a refeed, others call it a cheat meal, and I will recommend that you call it a diet break so that you don't go overboard with your energy intake.

5. Are there any psychological issues?

Weight loss can come with stressors and fatigue. Before we make any changes and ultimately make it more challenging, we need to determine if there are any psychological issues.

If you are experiencing poor sleep, high-stress levels or mood swings, I will not recommend that you change your strategy.

So you've gone through and answered those questions, the last one here is:

Reduce energy intake or increase physical activity?

The decision will be totally up to you. You may enjoy doing more physical activity like cardio or you may wish to cut out the afternoon snack. Here is what I'd recommend with each option.

Reduce energy intake
Try reducing your energy intake by 5-10% for a week and reassess. The reduction could be reducing the serving size of your food, removing a serving of food such as GRAIN/DAIRY/EXTRA or replacing a meal with a Protein Shake like SuperShred (to get your protein intake with fewer calories).

Increase your physical activity
The best way to increase your physical activity is to increase your Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT). Your NEAT is your physical activity that is not formal exercise, such as your daily step count. Choosing to increase your formal exercise by adding more cardio can be a limiting factor because you will need to recover from high levels of exercise. If you choose to do formal cardio, I will recommend a low-intensity version such as cycling or the stair master.

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