Your new diet and fitness routine had you dropping pounds and looking and feeling good - until it suddenly just stopped. What to do now? Jillian sounds off on the "myth" of the weight-loss plateau and shares her strategies to get the scale moving in the right direction again!
Question #1: Are You Keeping Track of Your Daily Calories?
Truth be told, I mostly think of plateaus as a myth. My philosophy on weight-loss plateaus is that someone claiming to have hit one isn’t paying enough attention to detail. When you first start a diet and fitness program, you make drastic changes — maybe you gave up fast food, stopped drinking soda, etc., your body responded to that and initially you lost weight fast for a month or so. However, to continue losing weight, you’ll need to create a consistent calorie deficit until you reach your desired goal. This means you’ll need to start paying attention to how many calories you’re consuming and how many you’re burning. Remember, to lose one pound of fat you will need to burn roughly 3,500 calories. To lose 2 pounds a week you will have to burn 1000 more calories a day than you are consuming.
The only way to track this accurately is to count calories at every single meal. I know that it can be time-consuming and tedious, but this has been proven again and again by researchers. A study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine showed that the more regularly a dieter kept a food log, the more weight they lost. That’s another reason why I don’t want to hear that you’ve plateaued if you aren’t keeping detailed logs. Try using a tracking device / personal body monitor that can help you track how many calories you're burning in a day — PLUS, the Jillian Michaels app syncs with My Fitness Pal so you can also use that to track all of the calories you're consuming in a day.
Question #2: Are You Trying to Lose Vanity Pounds?
If you’re only trying to lose five, 10, or 15 pounds, you’re in a different place than someone who wants to drop a large amount of weight. Your body is likely not unhealthy, but you prefer a slimmer aesthetic — and this is what I refer to as vanity pounds. The human body doesn’t want to be carrying around excess weight, so it generally responds quickly and easily to diet and exercise. However, when you have a smaller amount of weight you want to lose, your body is likely already healthy, which makes it tougher to lose weight. This is because your body has evolved to hold on to a few extra pounds of body fat (especially if you are female) for survival purposes and child bearing. Our genetics haven’t caught up to the fact that food is no longer seasonally plentiful and that an abundance of calories is pretty much accessible to most at all times. Ironically, what most people in this situation do is cut more calories or increase their time at the gym, but this method will not work. All that does is trigger your body that too much energy is going out and not enough energy is going in so it slows down your metabolism and releases fat storing hormones. The best fix here is to take a few rest days, up your calories by 10% a week until you get yourself to a point where you are creating no more than a 500 calorie a day deficit. You will be amazed at how quickly your body will respond to this strategy and begin getting lean.
Question #3: Do You Need to Change Up Your Workout?
If you’re overweight (not trying to lose vanity pounds), tracking calories in and out every day, and still not shedding any weight, here’s what you need to do: Switch up your workout. Your body adapts to any type of exercise over time. The first time you run a mile, it is probably going to be rough. But by the 40th time you run a mile, it’s a lot easier, right? As you get used to a type of exercise, it becomes less challenging and, as a result, less effective. That’s why it’s so important to mix it up. Alternate the amount of weight you lift — go heavy one week with fewer reps and lighter the next with more reps. Change the type of exercise you do for each muscle. One week, do push-ups, then chest flies, then chest presses. They all work the same part of your body, but in very different ways.
Question #4: Do You Have a Hormone Imbalance?
If you’ve followed my advice up until now and nothing still has worked, there’s one last thing that might be causing your plateau: a hormone imbalance. A thyroid disorder, insulin resistance, polycystic ovary syndrome — they could all be making your body hold onto pounds. Don’t immediately assume this is the problem, but if you have truly tried everything else, it might be worth going to an endocrinologist and exploring this issue with a medical professional who can evaluate you personally.