Progress or Plateaus

In Fitness and Physical Therapy, Physical Therapy Articles by Jeff Gilliam, PT, PhD, OCSLeave a Comment

So often we see such great progress as we begin our weight loss program, pushing onward to our goal at a jackrabbit pace, only to be met with a discouraging plateau. When plateaus are experienced, our first response should be, “Am I doing everything possible to encourage my progress? Am I following through with the program as it’s been designed”??? If our answer is “Yes!” then our next question should be, what has happened to slow my progress, and what can I do to ensure continued progress toward my goal?

During weight loss programs, momentary plateaus are an absolute. Plateaus occur as the body loses weight and no longer requires the same amount of calories to run its basic bodily functions and daily activities. No longer are you carrying around 10, 20, or 30 extra pounds during daily activities, which means fewer calories are being expended now, than when you started the program. Also, whenever you go on a caloric restricted diet, your body becomes very efficient in running its basic bodily functions, and requires fewer calories for the Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). Lastly, during weight loss programs, typically 25% of the weight loss is from lean body mass, while approximately 75% is from fat. The likelihood of muscle loss is increased when resistance training does not accompany a weight loss program. Maintaining muscle is a key to ensuring that the RMR continues to expend energy at a high rate, subsequently burning calories at a level that will allow for continued weight loss.

When plateaus arise, modifications in your program will be necessary to ensure ongoing progress. Increases in your exercise intensity/time are often required, and a close examination of your food choices may be necessary. In order to offset this trend, it may be necessary to increase your exercise output (an increase in exercise time and/or intensity) making sure resistance training is a part of your routine. Additionally, making sure your protein intakes are optimal will spare lean body mass loss during caloric restriction. The importance of protein in a weight loss program is highlighted by a recent study which found when subjects on an ad lib diet increased their protein intake to 30%, they ate 441 fewer calories each day, lost more weight, and experienced greater feelings of satiety than the lower protein group. Remember at your current weight you’re expending fewer calories at rest than when you started your weight loss journey, which means you must continue to make better food choices to encourage your body to continue to lose excess body fat.

These changes should cause your body to increase its fat burning capacity and is often affective in “recharging” the system and renewing weight loss at an acceptable level. During times in which you experience a plateau in your weight loss, strategic shifts toward better food choices and avoiding those occasional food temptations will allow you to realize ongoing progress. The use of daily exercise to boost your metabolism has been shown to be helpful in offsetting a depression in the RMR.

Remember: Plateaus are only momentary pauses in our progress that will soon be relinquished by making the appropriate adjustments in our dietary and exercise regimens.

The following two tabs change content below.
Jeff Gilliam PT PhD, OCS: is a weight loss specialist, who has studied extensively in the areas of health behavior, exercise physiology and nutritional biochemistry at the University of Florida. Jeff has taught a course at the University of Florida called ’Research Applications to Obesity and Weight Loss’. He has also taught courses for the DPT program at UF in Health Promotion and Wellness’ and ‘Evidence Based Practice III’. He has presented on a national level on topics related to diseases related to obesity and changing behavior to facilitate a healthy lifestyle. His PhD research was in the area of effective behavioral interventions for obesity and its associated diseases. He is founder of Physicians’ Choice for Weight Loss, a successful lifestyle/weight loss program, which can be found in over 50 clinics in the eastern US. He currently is clinical director of ReQuest Physical Therapy (Gainesville, Florida) and incorporates his lifestyle/weight loss program into his patients’ physical therapy to help them achieve their healthiest body weight. Jeff Gilliam is an Orthopedic Certified Specialist through the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties

Leave a Comment