10 Ways to Break Your Plateau

(or how to start losing weight again)

No one likes being stuck…and when we are stuck, we can’t wait to get unstuck!  When this happens with patients, I always go back to the behavioral lifestyle modifications first.  Often I find that the aspects of stress levels and sleep are suffering and are going unnoticed.  But assuming that your food and movement / exercise is dialed in …and assuming that you ARE doing all that you need to do in the world of behavioral lifestyle modifications:  (sleep / movement/ food / stress/ community) here are 10 helpful and practical options to break your plateau.

  1. Track what you are doing.

I often hear from patients that things were going really well in the beginning.  Then after about 4-6 weeks everything stopped, or worse yet there was a regain of the weight loss.  Usually around the 4 week mark habits that are built should begin to stick…but sometimes the thrill of success or overconfidence from success leads to a wondering from the path that lead us to success.  I recommend tracking your food for one week.  This can be easily done with many apps.  My favorites are MyFitnessPal, MyMacros and LoseIt.  After a week of tracking, we can often find out where we are being lax in our discipline.

  1. Tighten your ratios

This advice goes hand in hand with #1.  When we track our food it is important to understand the ratios of our macronutrients.  Different plans use different ratios, but it is important to stay consistent with them.  Mediterranean plans use 40% Carbohydrates / 30% Protein / 30% Fat while Ketogenic plans use 5-10% Carbohydrates / 25-30% Protein / 65-75% Fat…and the higher the fat the better.  Tightening up these ratios will help.  Also keeping all your meals within these ratios (rather than playing catch up at the end of the day) is another helpful tip.

  1. Switch things up

Our bodies adapt to many of the changes we give it.  In the end, our bodies are designed to survive (not look good!).  If you have been on one particular plan for a while it is reasonable to try something different if you are not succeeding with that plan anymore.  If you have been on a Mediterranean plan, why not try a Ketogenic plan for a while.  Likewise, if you have been on a Ketogenic plan for a while, adding back in carbohydrates (in a systematic pattern known as “Reverse Dieting”) can also be helpful to start the metabolic system losing again

  1. Add in Meal Replacements

Inconsistency in eating and poor nutrition can contribute to weight regain.  Getting back this consistency can be done with meal replacements.  It is important that you choose a meal replacement that has the macronutrient ratio consistent with your plan.  It is also important that you choose a high quality meal replacement for optimum nutrition in the plan.  Food is usually best, but sometimes our schedule does not allow us to have the consistency that is best for our plan.  Meal replacements help bridge the gap when there is one.  Meal replacements also help us trigger hunger at the right times so when it is time to return to food, it is easier.

  1. Cycle your Carbs

Another interesting trick is to create sensitivity (and slight confusion) to your storage hormones.  You can do this by changing your eating plans within the same week.  Adding higher levels of carbohydrates in some days (up to 55%) and then lowering them on other days (down to 10%) can create sensitivity in your body’s insulin while as the same building glycogen stores within muscle tissue.  This type of system works best with resistance training and interval training.  In the case of carbohydrate cycling, the best results are gained from choosing high carbohydrate days on your work out days and choosing low carbohydrate days for your rest or aerobic days.

  1. Intermittent Fasting

This plan sounds more difficult that it really is.  For those unfamiliar with it, intermittent fasting consists of a period within 24 hours of fasting followed by a period of eating.  Classic teaching is 16 hours of fasting followed by 8 hours of eating.  In the time of fasting, no calories are consumed.  However water, black coffee and tea are acceptable…in fact they are highly recommended to endure the fasting period.  In addition, the addition of some salt (preferably Himalayan or Truffle Salt due to the variety of minerals) is very helpful to balance electrolytes and suppress hunger in the fasting time.   After the 16 hours (or more) the dietary plan chosen by the individual is continued for the 8 hours (or less) making up the 24 hour day.  Intermittent fasting encourages you to eat fewer calories for the entire day.  In addition, there is evidence it helps with hormone balance a slightly assists with boosting metabolism.  It is an effective tool to lose weight and restart the weight loss journey.

  1. Reassess your supplements

Certain supplements assist with weight loss as well as stabilizing glucose levels when a food plan is in place.  Adding these in can be helpful to return and reengage with the discipline necessary to stay with a food plan.  Some of my favorites are as follows

    1. 5 HTP: This often helps with mood and sugar cravings
    2. Chromium/Vanadium: These are insulin sensitizers and glucose disposal agents that assist with indiscretions in the diet plan
    3. Cinnamon: This helps lower blood sugar and stabilize it
    4. Probiotics: These are a billion friends (gut bacteria) to help with your plan. They can assist with digestion, metabolism and immunity.
    5. Fiber: This not only helps with fullness, but insoluble fiber is the food source for your gut’s bacteria…and your bacteria as stated can assist with weight loss
  1. Check your Levels and Labs

Sometimes imbalances are beneath the surface…and it is worth checking them.  Digestive disorders and hormone imbalances are usually at the top of this list.   If things are not going according to plan, getting a comprehensive lab assessment is a good option.  Beyond this, checking your gastrointestinal track for enzyme and bacterial balance is a great additional step.  Lastly, some genetic disorders can create imbalance in a person…getting a personal genetic profile done can help direct your functional medicine provider in reaching your goals faster.

  1. Go West young man (or woman) !

Sometimes when frustration kicks in, we just need a helping hand.  In circumstances like these, it is reasonable to get some assistance from a functional medicine professional.  There are many prescription medications available that can help alter hunger mechanism, craving as well as mood and behaviors that are destructive and counterproductive.  Getting a jump start on things can break the negative cycle and help people see that losing weight is achievable through behavior and lifestyle changes.  Most prescription medications affect and alter brain chemistry and gut chemistry…so it is important to ask your medical professional about side effects.  Using medications, just by the nature of Western medication, often come with side effect, so be prepared if you decide to go this route to break your plateau and get you losing weight again.

  1. Hormones and Peptides

Hormones are powerful biologics that alter many things in our body.  After a careful assessment and reassessment, sometimes it is time to alter aspects of insulin, thyroid, testosterone and estrogen.  When these factors are imbalanced, there can be great upheaval in the system, including weight gain.  Assessing your level and returning them back to normal is critical.  Sometimes, when behavioral modifications are not enough, the addition of exogenous hormones can be very helpful.

In addition, new methods of using peptides are revolutionizing the world of health care.  From athletic performance to improving metabolic conditions, these small chains of amino acids have a power impact on many conditions.  But do your homework…many peptide suppliers have poor quality peptides and few professionals know the details in how to use them.  Before you enter into the world of hormones or peptides, make sure your functional medicine provider is well versed in both of these fields and approaches.


Return to NECFM blog home page . . .