New Year’s Resolution: Moving Past the Weight Loss Plateau

See what four local experts have to say about overcoming weight loss plateaus

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

apple weight lossHas your New Year’s weight loss resolution hit a plateau? Don’t worry.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who lose weight steadily with a weight management program — about one to two pounds per week — tend to keep it off successfully. One pound of body weight equals roughly 3,500 calories, so to lose weight, a body needs to negate 500 to 1,000 calories per day by eating less and burning more to achieve the goal of one to two pounds lost weekly.

If a couple weeks pass and the scale won’t budge, take heart, try these tips from area experts:

Tips from physician Tom Campbell, board-certified in family medicine at University of Rochester Medical Center:

• “Even when weight loss is highly successful, most people have a zigzag kind of pattern. They have a great couple weeks, and then don’t have a great couple weeks. They can have a month of plateau. Part of a healthy response to a plateau is it’s normal and no reason to throw in the towel. Sometimes we can’t explain it.

• “As you lose weight, the process slows down a little. You stop burning as many calories. You may need to cut your intake more or exercise more. I generally encourage to not think just about calories, but making healthful food choices, just as much or more of that food amount.

• “Sometimes, people let things sneak back into their food choices. It can even be something small, like a handful of chips here or there. Our brains are good at rationalizing things like that and we instantly forget about it.

• “Sleep is really important. Fragmented and poor sleep increase hunger hormones and can change metabolism. It clearly seems to increase hunger, insulin resistance and all of these things are bad.”

Tips from Mike Schuber, program manager, Rochester Regional Health, Wellness Center:

• “Make sure to get enough protein, fruits, and veggies — and steer clear of sugars and simple carbs.

• “Add intensity. Mix in some sprints or change up your lifting routine by changing rep or set schemes or adding a little more resistance.

• “Change exercises. Use different exercises that hit the same muscle groups.

• “Cross train. Mix it up and try some new and different training styles.

• “Vary repetitions. Maybe gradually go a little heavier and do fewer reps or change the amount of sets you do.

• “Work on weak spots. It’s time to do the exercises you always dislike and avoid.

• “Be sure to take days off. Muscles rebuild during rest, so take it easy once in a while.

Tips from Cameron Apt, senior athletic performance specialist, UR Medicine – Sports Medicine:

• “ Be consistent. Keep doing what you’re doing to get through those points.

• “Once you lose weight, the number of calories you need will change. You have to adjust it for what you weigh now.

• “What you’re eating becomes even more relevant. If you did your initial weight loss by quantity, it’s time to also look at quality. Everything you do to lose weight should become your new lifestyle.”

Tips from physician Joanne Wu, an integrative and holistic medicine and rehabilitation doctor who specializes in wellness and practices in Rochester and Buffalo:

• “Many people, when they work on weight loss, work on only one part. It should include what you eat, well being, stress management and exercise — what they do for movement.

• “Set reasonable goals and take steps toward them. If you still plateau, we look at what we can refine. A gastric sleeve procedure and a few other medical procedures may be able to help you continue your weight loss journey.

• “Don’t just look at the New Year to make short-term changes, but a long-term wellness program for mind, body and soul. You want to enhance a healthy lifestyle. If we always approach weight loss with that approach, we’re much more consistent at weight loss.”