One crazy reason you may be stuck at a weight loss plateau

by Mary C. Weaver, CSCS on October 15, 2018

Eat more to break through a weight loss plateau

Every dieter dreads a weight loss plateau. You’re chugging along, steadily taking off pounds, and then wham: nothing.

All movement of the scale simply grinds to a halt.

That can happen for a whole lot of reasons—but today I want to talk about one of the strangest ones: you’re not eating enough.

Now, this can happen when we deliberately starve ourselves, incorrectly thinking that will give us better results.

Nooooooooo!

But now and then I encounter a fat loss client who simply finds it difficult to get all her calories down.

Believe it or not, that can be a significant problem once we stop eating eating salty, fatty, sugar-laden food that

  • stimulates appetite and
  • is so dense in food energy that even small quantities provide enough fuel for a family.

Healthy stuff—lean proteins, plenty of veg and fruit, whole grains, soup and salad—tends to be more satiating. In other words, it’s filling and provides a feeling of fullness for a longer period of time than junk does.

‘Do I really have to eat so much food?’

Usually I hear about this problem when the client asks, “Do I really have to eat 1,600 calories [or whatever her individual number is] per day? I’m just not that hungry!”

The answer is yes—it’s vitally important!

I won’t repeat what I’ve said before about the dangers of cutting too many calories (see this post for a nice summary). For now I’ll just say that doing so creates a slower metabolism and is a great way to create a weight loss plateau.

Not what we want!

So when I hear this question, I generally make four recommendations, all of which will help you get off that weight loss plateau, give your body the nutrients it needs, and provide more energy to fuel your workouts.

(You *are* working out, right?)

Eat more to get off that fat loss plateau!

1. Double-check your calorie counts. We need to know exactly how much you’re really eating. If you tell me you’re consuming 1,200 calories per day and you’re not hungry, that statement might be 100 percent factual.

But it’s also very possible that you’re taking in more food than you think. We’re human. That’s what we do.

The only way to know for sure is to weigh or measure what you eat and keep a daily food and calorie journal.

2. If you find that your counts are accurate, you really truly aren’t eating enough, and are finding it hard to eat more, bump up the calorie density of your food.

The easiest way to do this is to eat more fat.

I don’t recommend you do this at the expense of protein (which I like to see at 20 percent or more of daily calories) or the carbs you need for energy (40 to 60 percent of daily calories).

And of course, I don’t want you to start attacking the onion rings and ice cream—although they’re undeniably delicious sources of fat.

Here’s what I usually recommend: nuts (about 160 to 200 calories per ounce), full-fat cheese (usually about 120 calories per ounce), full-fat dairy (e.g., 8 ounces of whole milk for 160 calories), peanut butter (95 calories per tablespoon), and olive oil (120 calories per tablespoon).

You can also add butter (102 calories per tablespoon) to your steamed vegetables, baked potato, brown rice, or whole-grain bread.

3. If there’s a healthy carbohydrate you enjoy, eat more of it!

I’m a carb lover and could easily go overboard when it comes to things like rice and fresh bread.

So choose your favorite carb, figure out how big a 200- to 300-calorie portion would be, and add it to breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

4. Don’t go too long between feedings. Instead of waiting five hours between breakfast and lunch, have a snack after two or three hours.

It doesn’t need to be large, but it should include both protein and carbohydrate.

So start eating more and blast through that fat loss plateau!

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