I wasn’t completely shocked when I heard that the 3,500 calorie rule was bogus. That’s the rule we learned where if we cut our calories by 500 per day than we will lose 1-2 pounds per week.
Have you done that before? Lose a ton of weight the first month and then the weight loss tapers off. In other words we hit the infamous plateau. Motivation goes out the door and the weight starts to creep back on again.
I’ve experienced this myself countless times and finally we have some science and answers to help overcome this challenge.
Before I get to that, I would love to remind you of two offerings!
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Okay, now on to the juicy stuff!
So why is it that we hit a plateau even when we are cutting our calories 500/day? Shouldn’t we still be losing as long as we’re cutting? What’s the deal?
While at the IDEA fitness conference in LA we heard from some of the top leaders in the industry and I attended a talk on the rethinking the 3,500 calorie rule.
4 factors come into play. Here’s the deal:
- The Body Becomes Energy Efficient
As the body may start to lose weight it is also adapting to its new workout. Have you ever worked out with someone heavier then you? Perhaps you do the same workout on a treadmill and notice that they burn more calories?! The body works harder when there is more weight. As you lose weight, the body becomes more energy efficient.
People often say to me, “you’re so lucky, you get to workout all the time.” You would think, but because I workout so much, my body is used to my workout schedule. It’s become energy efficient. In order for me to see any weight loss, I have to add in additional workouts. Yikes!
Solution: As tempting as it is to go all out on exercise, start off with small steps. If you’ve been inactive for awhile it’s best to set achievable and reasonable goals for yourself. For those of you that are active already, consider adding more HIIT training or take more breaks with Restorative Movement. The key here is having variety.
- Water Loss Vs. Fat Loss
It’s so easy to get excited about that initial weight loss that first month. Cutting 500 calories/day was no problem. In fact, the first week you lost 5 pounds! Keep that up and by the end of the month you’ll lose 20 pounds……right? Sorry. Before you get your hopes up, let’s look at what’s happening here.
When we restrict our diet by 500 calories/day, what we really lose that first month when we step on the scale is (from largest to smallest):
- Water (mostly)
- Carbohydrates (some)
- Protein (some)
- Fat (least)
Studies showed that it actually took less than 500 calories/day to lose fat. It was more like cutting back 250 calories/day. That’s almost a whole other small meal for some women! What studies also showed was that when we decrease our calories gradually, we actually lose more fat than water!
Solution: Gradually decrease your calories. Start by making small changes like making more meals from home, cuting back on snacking (especially late at night), or cutting back on alcohol. Stick with that simple change until you notice a plateau again. Then cut back another 50-100 calories.
- Put Some Muscle On That Beautiful Body!
Another way to avoid the weight loss plateau without crazy calorie restriction is to increase muscle mass. Our Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) is the amount of energy (or calories) we burn at rest. When we build muscle, we increase our RMR. That means we become a constant fat burning machine!
“But what if I get bulky?” Women don’t get bulky like men do. We just don’t have the same amount of testosterone. What appears as bulk or weight gain, is merely the transitional phase when muscle and fat are temporarily cohabitating. It doesn’t take long before that muscle starts to burn the fat and then all of a sudden you shrink! The problem is that many women stop their weight training when they notice their thighs getting “bigger.” Keep training and you’ll eventually lean out.
Solution: Start incorporating more strength training into your routine. The weight training room and yoga studio are also great places I like to strength train. If I can’t make it there, I use the Uplift DVD. If you’re new to exercise or looking to improve your results, try hiring a personal trainer.
4. For Every Action there is a Reaction
Bottom line, the human body is extremely adaptable. It is constantly working towards bringing us back into homeostasis. It fights against calorie restriction because of the need to survive. So the more calories we restrict, the more the body will attempt to keep fat on.
Learn to work with your body and not against it. For some reason, there is a belief that the more we restrict, the better the reward. Not necessarily true especially in the case of fat loss.
Each body is unique and requires your attention. Because of this, losing fat isn’t always simple science. You have to be the person in charge…..the scientist. It’s a little bit of trial and error so be gentle and slow. This is a journey and know that as long as you continue to honor your highest self with uplifting choices then you are always on the right path.