If you've ever tried losing weight you'll know those feelings of frustration when you've lost a few pounds and you reach a plateau. It's enough to get you hunting down your favourite snack. So are you really destined for a life of yo-yo dieting and gradually increasing girth?
Lose weight and your body releases hunger hormones making it difficult to stick to your chosen diet. Even if you do manage to persevere, your weight loss slows and eventually stops, often before you reach your ideal weight.
Although it might feel like it, your body weight is not governed by homeostasis - the strong tendency of an organism to resist change. This means that you have no excuse for giving up on your weight loss goal. It just requires a cunning plan.
The trick to breaking through that pesky plateau is to focus on losing weight in discrete steps. New research has found that having 'rest periods', during which you maintain your weight, helps you reduce the compensatory metabolic responses which can occur during continuous dieting and results in greater weight and fat loss.
Start your diet and stay on it until you stop losing weight. This might be a week, a month or three months. At this point make the switch to weight maintenance, taking care not to overeat in order to avoid rebound weight gain.
Stay on your plateau for at least two weeks and preferably longer. This gives your body time to adapt to your new lower weight and gives you time to be psychologically prepared to handle the inevitable resistance to change.
Now you are ready to restart your diet but this time you need to follow it more strictly than the first time around, either by eating a smaller volume of food or eating better. This will trigger further weight loss. Continue with your regime until you get to another plateau. Remain on it until you feel comfortable at that weight. Then repeat the process until you reach your target.
The simplest and most effective weight loss diet is high in appetite-suppressing protein and low in appetite-stimulating sugar and fat. By including moderate amounts of starchy carbs such as potatoes and pasta you prevent the food cravings that sabotage low carb diets. You can find more information, a maintenance plan and daily menus in my diet book Can I Have Chips? fill up, lose weight, feel great.
As you progress through phases of weight loss interspersed with plateaus you will eventually approach your ideal size. At this point do not contemplate reverting to your old obesogenic eating habits. You can never go back to eating the amount of food you used to enjoy, but you can have the occasional blow out as long as you keep an eye on the scales and compensate the next day.
If despite your efforts you find your weight is creeping up again, don't panic. Review your diet and make sure you really are cutting out junk foods and sugary drinks, and not imbibing too much alcohol.
Don't be tempted to choose a faddy diet which doesn't teach you new eating habits and which you can't continue for life. Any diet where you have to fixate on food, count calories, buy expensive ingredients or cook complex dishes is not going to be easy to sustain and you soon give up. It might promise a quick way to lose weight but the quicker you shed the pounds, the harder it is to adapt to your new weight and the more you risk putting it back on again plus a bit more for luck.
In the dieting game, it is reaching a healthy weight that matters not how long it takes. With a little understanding of how your body works there is no reason why this time you won't succeed.