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The Dreaded Weight Plateau: Why It Happens
June 13, 2011
How many of you have attempted to lose weight in the past? How many of you ever hit a “plateau” when you were actively attempting to lose weight? As if losing weight weren’t hard enough, hitting a plateau is another hassle to deal with.
What is a Weight-Loss Plateau?
Why Plateaus Happen
Of course, you want to be smart about it and lose weight in a way such that it’s healthful and that you’ll keep the weight off (which means no fad diets!). Guidelines for smart weight loss tell us that if you trim 500 calories from your daily food intake, you’ll lose approximately one pound per week. Trim 1000 calories and you’ll likely lose two pounds per week (this is called safe, gradual weight loss). You may lose more, you may lose less.
Blame It on Your BMR
But lo and behold, there’s a high probability that your weight loss can (and will) taper off at some point, even if it’s a temporary taper. Why? What many people don’t realize is that the more a person weighs, the higher his basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the rate at which one burns calories for energy to fuel all the processes that occur in the body, including breathing and digestion. As you drop weight, you also drop your BMR. It makes sense, in a way, because there’s less of you to move around. It doesn’t require as much energy to keep your body going.
Something else happens, too, when you lose weight: As you lose weight, you not only lose fat and water, you lose muscle mass, too. Muscle is a “metabolically active” tissue; it burns more calories than any other type of tissue in the body, such as fat. In fact, muscle burns calories even when you’re lounging on your couch with the remote in one hand or curled up in bed sleeping. So, muscle is a keeper. But the reality is that you do lose some muscle when you lose weight. And if you aren’t exercising as you’re losing weight, you’ll lose more muscle and less fat (this is a hard lesson to learn, for some).
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