Nothing is more frustrating while dieting than when you suddenly stop losing weight.
Have you ever experienced this scenario? You’re doing the work, the weight is coming off, your pants are getting loose, and then your progress comes to a screeching halt. No matter what you do, the scale just won’t budge.
What the heck? Why did your body stop cooperating?
People generally view weight loss as a good thing. The brain, however – not so much.
While you simply want to fit back into your skinny jeans, your brain interprets weight loss as a possible emergency situation, as though the food supply might be running out.
And your brain is much more interested in keeping you alive than in your waist circumference or how sexy you look in a swimsuit.
Eating Fewer Calories Will Suddenly Stop Weight Loss
The most common method of weight loss in the modern world is calorie counting (eating less).
Experts will tell you that eliminating 500 calories per day from your diet will result in about 1 pound of weight loss per week.
At least in theory.
Calorie counting, while being the absolute least effective form of long-term weight loss, does indeed work at first. However, very few people actually reach their goal this way.
This is partly because, as the body realizes you’re eating less, your metabolism slows down and the number of calories you’re burning is reduced.
♦ In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, exercise did not prevent dramatic slowing of metabolism when subjects were restricting calories (5).
Why does this happen? Because the body sees calorie restriction as starvation and begins to fight back to save itself (6).
Basically, the body hates calorie counting and defends itself as a means of survival.
What’s Worse Than A Sudden Halt In Weight Loss?
If there is anything worse than when you suddenly stop losing weight, its the weight loss rebound effect.
Consider this scenario.
You cut back to 1,200 calories per day for a week.
The brain’s normal response to this is to make you ravenously hungry. But you stay strong and fight the urge to eat, encouraging yourself that you want to lose this weight!
The body adjusts to the lack of food by slowing your metabolism, reducing the number of calories it burns for energy, and continues to bombard you with hunger signals.
You become irritable, sluggish, and mentally drained as your body conserves power.
Finally Sunday arrives and all you want to do is be lazy and watch movies all day. You decide you’re not cooking, so someone suggests ordering a pizza for dinner, and you figure that since you’ve been so committed all week that you DESERVE TO EAT!
So you flood your body with bread and cheese at 400 calories per slice, bread sticks, and soda. And that was just lunch.
What just happened? Well, not only did you just consume more calories than you’ll burn (which will be stored as fat), but since the body has gone into survival mode, the calories you do burn will be done so at a much slower and less efficient manner.
The result is even more fat storage.
This is the rebound effect and the reason why dieters often gain back more weight than they lose.
Leptin, Muscle Mass, and Metabolism
Leptin is the body’s own natural appetite suppressant.
It’s a hormone released by fat cells that tells you when you’re full and should stop eating.
The more fat that is stored in your fat cells, the more leptin your fat cells produce, and the less you should eat.
Again, at least in theory.
It would stand to reason, therefore, that overweight people should eat less since they’ll have higher levels of leptin telling them that they’re full, but obese people have actually shown a degree of “leptin resistance” (7) which makes them “blind” to the leptin signal.
♦ To make matters worse, thyroid function also decreases as the body goes into survival mode (11), and difficulty losing weight is a common side-effect of depressed thyroid function.
In the end, metabolism is ultimately determined by your muscle mass.
More muscle = higher metabolism.
♦ Unfortunately, calorie restriction and/or long cardio sessions (the typical approach to weight loss) often results in loss of muscle mass (12).
This is because both reducing calories and extended periods of cardiovascular exercise are interpreted by the body as stress.
Stress causes an increase in cortisol production, cortisol breaks down muscle, and less muscle equals slower metabolism.
How To Get Back On Track If You Suddenly Stop Losing Weight
Now that we’ve identified the biological reasons why dieters suddenly stop losing weight, what can we do about it?
1. Stop dieting! Eat differently, not less.
If you’re overeating, the first step is certainly to get your food intake under control.
However, when it comes to weight loss, real food (food from the Earth) is your savior.
There is little success to be had from diet foods that come in wrappers and boxes.
Furthermore, shakes made with chemicals and fake sugars do more harm than good.
Leptin resistance is your worst enemy if you want to lose weight for good!
2. Eat Plants and Animals
I am aware that grains are made from the Earth, but once they’re processed and refined, they’re no longer real food.
Refined carbohydrates (actually, carbohydrates in general) result in the SMALLEST release of natural appetite suppressants by the body. This is why fruit and bowls of pasta don’t fill you up for long.
Protein causes the BIGGEST release of appetite suppressants, as well as improves leptin sensitivity (16), followed by healthy fat.
For this reason, concentrate your diet on whole fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, eggs, and (some) nuts.
3. Build More Muscle
You can spend an hour on the treadmill and raise your metabolism for a few hours, or you can pack on a pound of muscle and raise your metabolism 24 hours a day.
Do you want to burn fat while you sleep? Who wouldn’t?!
♦ Proper exercise has also been shown to reduce leptin resistance (17), resulting in a greater ability to control appetite and hunger.
Strength training is the best way to do this – meaning exercise that makes you stronger.
Examples are weight training, kettlebell routines, bodyweight exercise, plyometrics, isometrics, and workouts like them.
4. Get Proper Rest
Poor sleep is one of the most often overlooked sources of health problems and can sabotage weight loss efforts all on its own.
This is because lack of proper rest triggers the stress response, which results in a flood of hormones that increase inflammation, break down muscle, and slow metabolism.
5. Focus On Healthy Living
There is no magic or miracles to weight loss.
It isn’t an issue of calories. It’s an issue of hormones, and the best way to achieve the kind of hormone balance needed for weight loss is to live well – to live naturally.
Focus on healthy living and weight loss will be a delightful side-effect.
*None of what you read on this website should be considered medical advice. If you make any changes to your life or health regimen because of something you read here, please do so under the guidance of a licensed health professional.