Weight loss is exciting when you’re actually losing weight. It’s easier to make it to the gym and make the healthier lunch choice when you’re seeing the number on the scale go down and your clothes are fitting better. The not-so-fun downside is the first few pounds are the easiest to lose. At some point, most people hit a plateau. The workouts and meals that got you from point A to point B might not get you to point C. So you start taking appetite-suppressing Liquid Chlorophyll ($10), you buy a fancy, body-toning Ubarre ($185), and you start eating more veggies, but still no change. When that happens, it’s time to reevaluate and consult the experts. We asked celeb trainer Patrick Murphy to fill us on why plateaus happen and how to break through them.
Scroll through to find out where you’re going wrong and what you can do about it!
Yes, it’s wonderful when the 12 reps that used to kill you become less excruciating and actually doable. But once you’ve congratulated yourself and acknowledged your accomplishment, you should be on to the next. Murphy says adaptations occur all the time, and when your body and mind are on autopilot plateaus happen. You’ve got to mix things up. You should be uncomfortable with an exercise. “The challenge of it will change your body and pop you out of that plateau,” Murphy says. He suggests modifying your rep tempos (think variations like three counts to lower down in a push-up and one count to press up), changing the number of reps and sets, shortening your rest periods, incorporating more full-body moves, and adding circuits to your routine.
“Our cardio-respiratory systems need to be trained in three main phases—just like all of the other muscles in our bodies—stabilization, strength, and power,” Murphy says. “Most of us already train in stabilization mode, which is nice and moderate throughout the workout—perfect for recovery days.” But when you feel yourself hitting a plateau, it’s time to really get into strength (those serious intervals) and power (interval within an interval training—pushing your heartbeat to 90-96% of your max). Murphy’s best advice? Get out of breath and (again) get uncomfortable.
Your body needs a wide variety of foods. Eating the same foods day after day (i.e. the same breakfast, alternating only two lunches and dinners etc.) may not be working for you any more. Change up your meals so you don’t get bored, and start a food journal—better yet, keep a food photo journal. “Log everything you consume,” Murphy says. “You’ll start to notice what foods cause bloat, water retention, and weight gain.” You’ll also notice patterns in your diet, and you’ll be able to identify when and where you’re going wrong. “I find that many people who start a food log realize that they eat out way too often, which guarantees too many calories consumed, too many calories in sugars, unhealthy fats, and excess salt. MSG and artificial flavoring will also stave off weight loss.”
To help break through a plateau, Murphy recommends drinking 100 ounces of water daily, grocery shopping every five days, and implementing a diet of whole foods. “Stay away from highly refined, processed foods like pasta, breads, juices, added sugar products, and all flour products as much as possible,” Murphy says. “Instead, eat whole grains, fruit, lean proteins, nuts, seeds, all greens, all veggies, and eat out as minimally as possible.”
Have you ever hit a weight loss plateau? What changes did you make to break through it? Share your tips below!