6 Ways to Break a Weight Loss Stall

6 Tips That Can Get You Back on Track

Girl and weight loss
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It is a situation that most people on a low-carb diet can identify with: after a period of progressive weight loss, you suddenly hit a plateau and find yourself no longer losing shedding the pounds like you used to. Alternately, you may be on a maintenance diet and, upon stepping on the bathroom scale, find that you've shot up a couple of pounds.

While there may be some physiological explanations for this, particularly in the early stages of a diet, it may also be due to certain bad habits that have crept in or steps in your weight loss plan that you failed to take.

The first thing to do is not panic. Weight fluctuates; it happens to all of us. However, if a month goes by and your weight is still fluctuating—or has altogether stalled—there are some steps you can take to get back on track.

Avoid the Carb Creep

Even a committed dieter can sometimes let carbs creep back into the diet without even realizing it. It may because you have stopped counting carbs and are winging it. Or, you may have overindulged a bit and convinced yourself that you can make it up elsewhere.

While most low-carb plans, like the Atkins Diet and South Beach Diet, encourage you to increase your carbohydrate intake after the induction phase, this doesn't mean you can be any less diligent. You still need to follow the guidelines and, if anything, be even more aware of the carbs you are consuming.

To ensure you are within your recommended daily carb intake:

  • Keep a record of everything you eat in a daily journal (and don't leave anything out).
  • Use a carb counter book, mobile app, or website to help calculate your intake.
  • Measure your food as much as reasonably possible.
  • Watch your portions. It is easy to get carried away with foods that have "just a little carbohydrate."

If needed, you may want to consider going back to the induction phase and starting all over again. There's no shame in rebooting a diet plan if it allows you to learn from your mistakes.

Eat According to Your Hunger

While the first week or two of a low-carb diet can be challenging, the food cravings you experience will eventually abate as your body adapts to the lower intake of carbs. By this stage, if you are eating the right amount of carbs, you will no longer have extreme cravings but will instead go through normal patterns of hunger and satiation.

It is then that you will need to eat according to your hunger, and not by rote.

Eating when you are not hungry only adds carbs that you may not need. On the other hand, ignoring your hunger will almost invariably lead you to overeat. As such, it is far better to let your hunger signals direct your eating rather than routine.

With that being said, do not eat three hours before bedtime when your body is less able to burn energy. The same applies to alcohol. At night, your basal metabolic rate (the rate by which you burn calories at rest) can often slow to a point where even a small snack can trigger weight gain.

Exercise

Whether you like it or not, you cannot sustain weight loss without exercise. While you can certainly shed the early pounds with diet alone, you will be unlikely to maintain the loss if you remain sedentary. This is why most people who diet either yo-yo or end up gaining all of the weight back.

When you lose weight, your basal metabolic rate will decrease due to the reduction of food intake. When this happens, you will burn calories slower. If you just sit around, you will almost invariably hit a stall as your readjusted metabolism barely meets the demands of the foods you're consuming.

One way to combat this is with regular exercise, ideally with some strength training. Building lean muscle creates stores for energy which the body can fill during rest. Even if you're experiencing fatigue, exercise will trigger the release of hormones, such as endorphins, to enhance mood, mental acuity, and energy levels.

Strive for Ketosis

A ketogenic diet is one designed to achieve ketosis, the state where your body is burning more fat and less sugar for energy. The diet is based on an increased intake of healthy fats and a reduction of carbohydrates.

In order to reach this state, you may need to cut carbs back dramatically. The amount can vary from person to person. For some, ketosis can be achieved by eating 100 carbs per day. Others require Atkins induction levels.

To find out what's right for you, speak with a qualified nutritionist. Home blood meters are available to measure ketones (byproducts of fat metabolism), while at-home urine test strips can give you a general idea of where you stand.

Try a Fat Fast

Many low-carb dieters have found that the Atkins Fat Fast is a great way to break a weight loss stall. It is a three- to five-day plan in which you are restricted to only 1,000 calories daily, 80 to 90 percent of which is comprised of fat.

The Atkins Fat Fast effectively jump-starts the body into ketosis by minimizing the carb intake and loading your body with healthy fats from foods such as avocados, macadamia nuts, and cream cheese.

While effective, the diet should not be used for more than five days. Doing so can begin to deplete your mineral stores and lead to lean muscles loss and other complications.

Weigh Yourself Strategically

Generally speaking, weighing yourself every day is not a good idea. It will not only drive you crazy if you experience a fluctuation and do little to improve your outcomes. Successful weight loss is invariably a slow-and-steady process, and, as such, it is far better to weight yourself weekly or to get a better sense of your weight loss trend.

The one exception may be during a weight stall. If you are on a diet and have plateaued for more than a month, weighing yourself daily may provide you insights as to why this is happening (particularly if you keep a food journal) or motivate you to take other measures, such as exercise, to get yourself back on the track.

You should also consider getting a scale that tracks body fat as well as weight. Even though the calculation may not be strictly accurate, it can give you a good idea as to whether you are heading in the right direction. In some cases, you may find that your weight is stalling because you are losing fat and gaining muscle. That would be considered a good thing whether or not actual pounds have been shed.