Does this sound like you?
You wake up and decide you want to change your habits so you make a plan to hit the gym and eat better on a consistent basis. After a couple weeks your body starts changing. You get stronger, the scale is moving, your clothes fit looser, and you are crazy motivated day in and out to eat good and lift all the weights. Things continue to change until one day everything stops. You stop making gains in the gym, the scale stops trending downward, and your motivation is below average. You have officially plateaued. You start trying other things. You tack on a sixth day at the gym and cut out one of your snacks to lower calories even more but still after weeks nothing happens.
The first thing we want to do is eat even less and workout way more DO NOT FALL INTO THIS TRAP! Your body probably needs the complete opposite.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- When was the last time you took a solid week off from the gym? Or better yet, have you ever taken a week off?
- How long have you been dieting? When was the last time you enjoyed a meal out or off plan? If it has been longer than 12 weeks then it’s time for a break.
- Do you have a goal? It can be easy to lose motivation if we do not have an end goal we are pushing towards.
If you have never taken a week away from the gym stop what you are doing and take a 5-7 day hiatus. Our bodies need a week away from the gym every few months to allow for complete recovery. Our brains can also benefit from the week away. The first few days of the week it will be hard to stay out of the gym. Instead of pacing back and forth through the halls of your house get productive. Take care of any errands you have been putting off, go for a walk, try a yoga class, do something you have been wanting to do but have put off because of the gym. This can be a great way to start incorporating stretch and other recovery techniques. A week away doesn’t mean you have to sit on the couch all day (but it is totally okay if that is what your body needs). By the time the week is over your brain and body will be itching and ready to get back in the gym!
If you have been dieting for 12 weeks (3 months) or more it is time for a BREAK! A break from dieting is not only beneficial for your weight loss down the road but also for your mental health. It can be exhausting to be in a constant diet mentally by giving yourself a break you allow your brain to reset and refocus on your goals.
Why do we sometimes see the scale stop moving down or even start moving in the wrong direction even though we are eating less and less? Metabolic adaptation. Typically after about 3 months, the body will catch on to the fact that food is low and therefore will begin to hold onto whatever it can by slowing down our metabolism to run more efficiently (aka those 1200 calories you have been eating are now what your body needs for maintenance and no longer weight-loss). Push any further by reducing calories more and our bodies can actually start to gain weight as a push back!
What should you do? There are several options. You can take a break from tracking your calories/food for 1-2 weeks, this is known as a diet break, or bring those calories up and maintain for at least 1-3 months before another fat loss phase. If you have never done either before or are new to dieting I suggest hiring someone (like your local nutritionist 😉 ) to help you do this properly.
Lastly, do you have a goal? It is much easier to stay motivated when you have a goal in mind. Pick something attainable in 6 months to 1 year. It can be anything gym or weight related. Do you want to add 25 pounds to your squat? Lose the last 15 pounds? It can also be more general. Do you want to rock that bikini from your wedding by the time summer comes around? Do you have a wedding coming up in a few months you want to look drop dead for?
Find something that fuels you and use it!!