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Lose the weight-loss plateau

Karen Hawthorne is a health and lifestyle writer and producer in Toronto, Canada. Her work has appeared in print and online for publications including Glow, Homemakers, BestHealthMag.ca and the National Post.

Break through the weight loss plateau

It's hot and fabulous weather for heading to the beach, but you want to stay covered up in long pants and a billowy shirt because you don't feel ready to bare it all in a swimsuit. You're not alone. Many people who are following a sound diet and fitness program hit the dreaded weight loss or fat loss plateau. Here are three reasons why your body may be stuck and tips to push through and get the hot summer bod.

Dissapointed Woman on Scale

Why do Your bodY hit a plateau?

There are times when you know exactly why you don't see the results you want to see, such as slipping back into bad eating habits or not working out consistently. (Being honest with yourself is the key here.)

But there are other times when you work hard, see results initially that taper off and leave you in a fitness holding pattern. This means you've reached a plateau, and it is easy to let the resulting frustration and self-doubt keep you holed up at home when you should be out enjoying the sunshine.

Why do fitness plateaus occur? Dan Go, a personal trainer and Go Girl Bootcamps instructor in Toronto, Canada says it comes down to these common causes.

1. You are on the wrong exercise plan

Despite initial results, hitting a weight-loss plateau may be a result of you not following the right exercise plan.

Are you are doing very light resistance training or omitting it from your program altogether because you don't want to get "buffed"? That fear could be sabotaging your fitness. "Using three-pound weights will not change anyone's body at all," Go says. He wants to dispel the myth that women will get bulky if they use heavier weights. Muscle is actually key in boosting your metabolism and burning calories.

Break through the weight-loss plateau: Incorporate weight training into your fitness plan two to three days per week. Choose weights that are challenging enough that you can perform 10 to 15 repetitions with good form but not so light that you can easily do more. Do one to three sets for each major muscle group. For best results, make an appointment with a personal trainer for a safe, effective full-body strength-training program.

Or perhaps you are doing all kinds of aerobic activity, such as step classes, spinning or running, thinking the pounds will keep melting off with all the calories you're burning. You're bound to hit a weight loss or fat loss plateau because your body is going to get efficient doing cardio and ultimately burn fewer calories. You also set yourself up for repetitive use injuries, which can result in you not being able to workout at all.

Break through the weight-loss plateau: Go recommends a "bootcamp" routine that incorporates intense bursts of interval training with simple cardio, such as jumping jacks and jogging on the spot. Then you switch to exercises that use your own body weight for resistance training, such as push-ups and "the plank" – a killer yoga and pilates move that requires you to support your weight, parallel to the floor, on your forearms and the balls of your feet while your back stays strong and flat.

2. Eating too little or too much

Another downfall is eating too little or too many calories for your body, Go says. Dieting or restricting calories is one part of the weight loss and fat loss equation but, if done to the extreme, it can actually thwart your best weight loss efforts. Your body goes into starvation mode if you're not fuelling it properly, slowing metabolism so you won't lose the fat. Conversely, if you're consuming too many calories for your exertions, the extras can wind up padding your hips and thighs. Sticking to your daily exercise regimen does not mean it's a free for all at the dinner table.

Break through the weight-loss plateau: Talk to a registered dietician or a nutritionist well-versed in sports nutrition and get on a dietary program that will feed you enough fuel to power through your workouts without feeding you too much and countering your workout efforts.

3. You have a great plan but you are just not following it

You can have the perfect plan to fit you and your lifestyle but if you don't follow it the plan becomes ineffective. You could be working out and revving up your metabolism with some excellent workouts but, if you end up eating poorly at the end of the day, you are bound to see the same body every time you look in the mirror.

Break through the plateau: Drop bad habits and adopt healthy ones. "Make small, positive changes to your lifestyle every week and laser-focus on them to make them habits," advises Go.

4. Following the same-old, same-old

After three to four weeks, your body adapts to the type of exercise program you are on – your body, essentially, becomes efficient. To keep seeing results, it is imperative that you change up your workout routine. To think about it another way, the plan that was supposed to help you burn three pounds of fat per week will only work for four weeks or so.

Break through the weight-loss plateau: The workout programs that fail the most are the ones that keep you doing the same old thing week after week after week after week and lead you to expect results. "It's like taking crazy pills," Go says. The fitness expert recommends changing up your program every four weeks so you can keep seeing results and proudly show off that new body on the beach.

More tips and tricks to lose weight and get fit

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