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How to maintain your weight loss long term

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What is a weight loss plateau? 

On the way to reaching your weight loss goal, you might find that your weight loss has slowed or even stopped. This is commonly called a ‘weight loss plateau’. After a while your body can adapt itself to your current weight loss programme and will have learned to cope with the same energy demands while burning fewer calories. This doesn’t mean you have to give up, it’s a good time to have a look at your routine and see if you can make any changes.

Here’s some top tips from the NHS* you could try:

  • Double checking your portion sizes and calories. According to the NHS one of the most common reasons for your weight loss slowing is because your calorie count might have increased. Make sure to double check your calorie count is accurate.
  • Increase your exercise level or try something new. If you’ve been doing the same exercise routine for a while, your body might have adapted to it which means doing it will burn fewer calories. You might find trying a new activity could help. New activities can work different muscles which your body won’t have adapted to it yet.
  • Make sure you’re doing strengthening exercises. Muscles are good at burning calories, so regular muscle training can help give your weight loss a boost.

We answer your frequently asked questions about weight loss: 

 

What happens when you reach your goal?

If you’ve managed to hit your target weight loss goal, well done! Make sure you take the time to reflect on how far you’ve come, the benefits you have noticed, and the lifestyle changes you’ve made.  

So, what now? Here are a few top tips to help you stick to the healthy lifestyle changes you’ve made**:

  • Plan ahead: make sure you maintain your new eating habits even if your routine changes by planning ahead, this helps protect you against slip ups.
  • Keep it interesting: we all get used to our routines, and this can make it easier to slip back into old habits. If you feel yourself doing this, try out some new healthy recipes or add a new exercise into your regime
  • Set yourself a new goal: setting yourself a new challenge can help keep you motivated.

What to eat now?

As a rough guide, the average man will need about 2,500 calories and the average woman needs about 2,000 calories to maintain their weight. This will change depending on a variety of factors, including how much exercise you do. You could use the NHS’ BMI calculator to check whether your daily calorie target is still appropriate.

How long does a weight plateau last?

If you’re experiencing a plateau it’s your body’s way of telling you that you’re no longer burning more energy than you’re eating. There is no one single length of weight loss plateau, it’s entirely dependent on the person. For some it lasts weeks whereas others can be experiencing it for months. In general, a plateau will continue until you decide to make some adjustments, such as:

  • Trying a new physical activity – this will encourage your body to work new muscles, and the new experience may reinvigorate your motivation.
  • Checking your calories – perhaps the amount you’re eating has slowly crept up again.
  • Stepping up the effort – if you’ve made your previous goal of running 5k, why not aim for 10k? It’s all about pushing boundaries.

With that being said, don’t be disheartened with a weight loss plateau. Becoming healthier is not all about weight loss, and if you feel discouraged you may be tempted to give up on all your hard work. Try to stick with your plan and make adjustments where necessary.

What causes a weight-loss plateau?

A few weeks after you first start losing weight you may notice your weight loss begin to even out, otherwise known as a plateau. A plateau occurs when your body is burning the same number of calories as you’re eating, which is also a sign that you’re burning muscle as well as fat. An overall decline in muscle contributes to a slower metabolism as muscles help increase the rate at which you burn calories and therefore will slower your weight loss. 

Best way to get out of a weight loss plateau

If you’re looking to lose weight but find yourself in a weight loss plateau, the best thing to do is to identify whether the problem is with your current diet or your exercise plan. If you’re exercising regularly but are eating more calories than you burn, you may want to consider a change to your meal plan. Use the NHS calorie counter to help assist you.

If you’re eating a healthy amount, do not seek to reduce this. Instead, consider increasing your activity levels. You can do this by scheduling in an extra gym session, upping the intensity of exercise, or simply choosing to walk or cycle to work instead of using public transport. Once you start burning more calories than you’re consuming, your weight loss pace will gradually begin to return.

How to prevent weight loss plateau

Weight loss plateaus are normal but completely avoidable. It's important to remember the following things when beginning a weight loss journey:

  1. Be realistic – the NHS advise that safe weight loss is anywhere between 0.5-1kg per week. Do not restrict your diet or increase your exercise to such an extent that you risk burning out and giving up too soon.
  2. Healthy eating plan – plan meals according to your exercise plan. Ensure they are high in fibre, contain plenty of fruits and vegetables and are low in fat. Use the free NHS 12-week weight loss plan for more information on what you should eat and portion control. Keeping a food diary is an excellent way of tracking your behaviours.
  3. Get active – physical activity does not have to take place in a gym. Get creative with your workouts and try to include as much movement to your day as possible. Choosing an enjoyable sport such as football or swimming can make you more likely to stick to your exercise regime and avoid a weight loss plateau.

Weight loss service

References

*NHS - NHS Weight Loss Plan Week 11
**NHS - NHS Weight Loss Plan Week 12
www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/weight-loss-plateau/art-20044615
https://assets.nhs.uk/tools/download-panels/data/weight-loss/pdf/wlp11.pdf