If you’ve ever tried to lose weight before (and that would be 99.99% of us, right??) then you know it’s those last few pounds that seem like they are stuck like glue to our bodies!! What gives? It’s not like those 5 or so pounds are going to rock our worlds, or that our abs need to be shredded duuuude!…but then again it’s so much more rewarding to know we met our goals completely and can enjoy the results of not giving up. There are times that we really want more results. Like for example, if you have a special event coming up; or training for an endurance event; or training to take the stage for a fitness competition or you want to rock your wedding gown! Whatever the reasons (and they are all important if they push you!), did you know that your best solution is what you would typically not do? It’s simply to EAT MORE FOOD!!!!
and a gasp was heard!
No, I haven’t lost my mind. I’m not going crazy or trying to throw you off track. It’s when we change things up again that our bodies take notice and in return, change things up. You will drop weight again. I know most people think this type of thinking is completely nuts and many are too wired into the dieting mentality to give it a go (and just keep repeating the maddening deprivation and binge cycle) but if you trust me and take this challenge for yourself, you’ll be dancing into your next success phase.
In order to help you understand what I’m saying is legit, I’m going to share with you how and why your body won’t change within the last few pounds of our target weight loss.
I have to repeat that this is for those of you who need to lose the last few pounds and not starting out or following a current plan that is working. This helps those of us who have hit a weight loss plateau while already eating at a calorie deficit and still not happy with our results.
#1: Hormones can wreak havoc on us
Hormones are whack. Seriously, I wish I had a dime for every time my (or someone’s I’m working with) hormones are responsible for an issue or struggle. When our bodies are working hard to digest and metabolize our foods, hormones are involved. They are responsible for shifts in our results depending on how much and what we are eating. This becomes a bigger issue when we continue to cut more calories in order to lose weight. It sounds pretty simple that cutting calories will lead to more weight loss, YES? But I have to tell you that it’s not that simple. And hormones are responsible.
Logically, our brains may want to lose those last pounds of YUCK sitting on our bodies but our body actually does not. Our endocrine system (hormones) don’t understand that you’re not simply dying, and it’s main purpose is to help us not die! That’s really pretty cool that our body has our back (so to say). It helps to understand these basic principles so we can confidently change up what we are doing when it’s not working any longer. When we continue to restrict calories and nutrition, our body isn’t aware how long the starvation phase will continue. As we lower our caloric intake, the hormones can start to increase our appetites (hello BINGE FEST!) to help motivate us to EAT MORE (and the choices are usually not good!) and we wonder why we turn into the HANGRY monsters! #hormones As this is happening, you know what else is going on? Our body then slows down our metabolism (uh oh!) and promotes the breakdown of lean muscle tissue in order to conserve for the emergency of keeping our body fat supplies around longer.
It sounds like the drama scene in any action packed movie; everything is working to stop the good guys goal.
Let’s talk about the hormones responsible for appetite. The first one is called, “ghrelin” and is produced in our guts. (yayyy!) This hormone promotes hunger and can increase when we are in a fasting period. The second is called, “leptin” and is produced by adipose tissue (or FAT). This hormone decreases our hunger; it shows up in fewer amounts when you have less body fat available to produce it.
When energy levels are restricted, it puts more stress on our bodies. As this happens, it increases the hormone “cortisol”. This stress hormone helps us in tough situations. Think the “fight or flight” scenarios or when we are in actual danger. (cue horror movie type music). It becomes problematic, however, when we are constantly stressed out within our daily lives. What happens? It starts to suppress the hormone “leptin” (remember that one was helping to decrease our hunger) and it also saves more body fat stores by helping our bodies to break down more muscle protein as a source for fuel.
This is exactly what we don’t want. If we don’t know what’s going on within our bodies at these stages, we actually start to harm ourselves with what we believe is helping us “lose more weight”.
Not that we need one more areas to go wrong, but super low-calorie diets and super low body fats have been shown to reduce our blood sugar-regulating hormone, “insulin”. Insulin helps to metabolize and regulate our thyroid hormones and helps to prevent muscle protein breakdown.
So when you add this all up it equals chaos going on in our endocrine system. Any questions? Beuhler?
#2: Metabolism slows down .
Let’s talk about our metabolism when we undereat. Like I said before, it seems pretty basic to think restricting more calories will simply result in more weight loss, right? WRONG! Our bodies require a specific amount of calories to just run efficiently to help in our bodily functions and in keeping us alive. #bonus This is referred to as our BASAL METABOLIC RATE, or “BMR”. It is basically like the fuel you put into your car or it won’t run. We know we burn calories when we are working out and being more active, but we also burn calories when doing anything, nothing and sleeping too!
It’s when we don’t eat enough, however, energy levels are lowered and our basal metabolic rate (BMR) does too. Why does this matter? Because it’s at this point that energy becomes less prevelant and our results slow down and eventually stall.
#3: You are not active
Your BMR is where most of your calories are burned (about 70%). The next is the daily stuff we do that seems almost boring; things like walking around, talking, crossing off tasks on your “to do” list. If you are low on calories, your body will then try to conserve energy and reduces this energy burn. Simply put; you burn less calories all the time.
Now that we know…what do we do???
As you know from above, just start to eat more. When we lower our deficit in calories, then these problems also lessen. Let’s talk about a study on women who were fed 1200 calories per day for 3 weeks. This is nearly 600 calories less than the average intake for most women. The study showed an increase in the hormone, cortisol in these women. Let’s compare another study on overweight men and women who were restricted just 200-300 calories a day less than the average daily intake. In this study, and combined with exercise, the results did not show an increase in cortisol (stress hormones). When we are eating enough to fuel our body’s needs throughout the dieting and exercise plans, we create less stress on our bodies and this makes it easier for us to maintain the caloric deficit without adding undue increases in cortisol levels.
It’s suggested at this point to increase your calories by 200-300 a day until you start to see results again. For example, if you’re following a plan that is 1,500 calories a day and not seeing the results you want, go up to about 1,700 calories and see if that creates better results. If that doesn’t work, then go up again to 1,800 calories and continue adding another 200 or so calories per week until your plateau is cracked.
When you break it down, 200-300 extra calories are not much more foods but will give you better results in the long run. It may mean adding in a piece of fruit and some raw nuts into your day. Choose the right balance of foods to keep your macros balanced as you are adding the extra calories.
The focus should be on long term results at this point and not a temporary loss (and ultimately that dreaded gain soon after). Since what you’re currently doing is no longer working, you really don’t have much more to lose (or do you??) 🙂
Have you ever gone up in your calories when you hit a plateau? If so, please share with me below! I’d love to hear your story!