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Breaking through a weight-loss plateau

Weight-loss plateaus are a common problem for dieters. Breaking through the barrier may mean making some changes to your weight-loss plan, such as eating less or exercising more.

Does this scenario sound familiar? You go on a weight-loss program, and the pounds start coming off. Then suddenly the scale seems stuck. You're still counting calories and exercising, but you're not losing any weight. You may have reached what's called a weight-loss plateau.

These plateaus are a normal part of dieting, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. But it's important not to give up on your efforts to reach a healthy weight even when your progress has stalled.

Here are five ways to help get your weight-loss efforts back on track.

1. Cut more calories

As you shed pounds, you'll need fewer calories to maintain your weight. As a result, to lose weight at the same rate you'll need to reduce your calorie intake even further.

For example, when you started your weight-loss program you might have eaten 1,800 calories a day. Now you may need to cut back to 1,600 calories a day to keep losing weight.

To cut calories from your diet, the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) recommends choosing more vegetables and fruits in place of higher-calorie foods.

According to the academy, you can do simple things to shave off calories. For instance, using smaller plates and bowls can help you eat less.

It's important to be realistic about the time it will take to reach your goal—cutting too many calories can be dangerous. Increasing your physical activity to burn calories can help you achieve a lower net calorie balance.

And working with a dietitian can help you cut calories without sacrificing nutrition.

2. Write it down

If you've been dieting for a while, you may not realize that your calorie intake has slowly crept up. Track your intake by writing down everything you eat and drink—the amount, the number of calories and the time of day you ate. This will help you understand your eating patterns and identify ways to cut calories.

3. Change your exercise routine

Try an aerobic activity that uses a different set of muscles than your usual exercise. For example, if you've been walking as your main form of exercise, switch to swimming. Swimming uses different muscles than walking, so you'll burn more calories because those muscles will have to work harder.

You might also consider interval training. After a 10-minute warm-up, AICR recommends picking up the pace for two minutes and then returning to a comfortable pace for four minutes. Then do three to five sets of these fast/slow intervals, followed by a 10-minute cool-down. The added intensity will burn more calories.

4. Add strength training

Strength training can help you build muscle mass. More muscle mass burns more calories, according to the AICR. If you're already doing strength training, try adding more weight or doing more repetitions to continue challenging your muscles.

5. Stay positive

Studies show that positive thinking helps people succeed in their weight loss, according to the AICR. Keep your goals in mind, and don't get discouraged if the weight doesn't come off as fast as it did in the beginning. Remember, even small calorie deficits eventually add up to lost pounds.

If you're having trouble staying positive, you might find it helpful to talk to someone who will encourage and support you. This could be a friend, family member or a healthcare professional.

reviewed 12/6/2019

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