(StatePoint) So, you took the leap and signed up for a weight loss program. But once you got started, it was a whole different story. While you may feel like you’re doing everything to a T, the scale is stuck and you can’t figure out why. Plateaus are a normal part of any weight loss journey, but there are many reasons for them. Check out these six reasons why the scale may be stuck:
1. Overeating. Weight loss is dependent on “calories in” being lower than “calories out.” Eating too much for your current activity level and weight could be a reason why the scale is stuck. “Meal delivery programs can help eliminate any guesswork,” says nutrition expert Chris Mohr, PhD, RD. “Plans like Nutrisystem are perfectly portioned to provide the right balance of nutrients at every meal. The program boasts SmartAdapt science, which provides personalized plans that adapt to your unique metabolism and weight loss goals and help minimize plateaus.”
2. Not Keeping Track. Overeating, skipping meals and portion control can all be eased if you get more diligent with food tracking.
Take it from the experts: According to research published in the journal “Obesity,” self-monitoring your diet is the number one predictor of weight loss success, and it takes less than 15 minutes each day.
Try tracking your diet at least 80% of the time or at least five to six days of the week. Be sure to include all eating occasions (even nibbling), portion sizes and ingredients. This way, when the scale is stuck, you can evaluate where you may be overdoing it. The NuMi app by Nutrisystem is a useful tool to keep your meal plan organized.
3. Skimping on Protein and Fiber. Try maximizing protein and fiber in your diet. “Protein helps preserve lean muscle mass while losing weight to help maintain metabolic rate. Also, protein and fiber keep you feeling full longer. What’s more, protein is more thermogenic than carbohydrates and fats -- meaning you’ll burn more calories digesting and absorbing high-protein foods. Fiber isn’t fully digested, so the calorie contribution from fiber is less than other carb sources,” adds Mohr.
4. Increasing Muscle. If you’ve been hitting the gym and putting on muscle, you might also experience a stall on the scale. Find other measures of success in the meantime. For example, your jeans may be fitting better or you may have more energy. These non-scale victories are just as valuable as a number on the scale.
5. Other Lifestyle Factors. Lack of sleep can disrupt weight loss. The National Sleep Foundation recommends sticking to a regular sleep schedule. Limit caffeine and screen-time in the hours before bed. The light emitted by screens on electronic devices reduce your body’s production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates your sleep and wake cycle, according to Harvard Health. You can also try a before bed exercise routine.
Did you know that chronic stress can halt weight loss? Address your stress with self-care. Try meditation, daily exercise and breathing techniques. You should also seek out a support system and engage in your community. Feeling overly stressed? Be sure to speak with your doctor.
6. Illness or Injury. A recent illness or injury can cause increased inflammation that results in water retention. Additionally, injury or illness can decrease daily activity and overall calories burned. Some medications may also stall weight loss. Keep in mind that your overall health should always take precedence over the number on the scale. Consult your doctor. It may mean modifying your weight loss program temporarily. This setback is not the end of your journey though. Once you’ve recovered, you should be able to start where you left off, pending your doctor’s approval.
“Ultimately, your goals should be realistic. Don’t expect the pounds to fall off instantly. Have patience and give yourself some grace. If you’re doing the work, that’s all that matters,” says Mohr.