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When your weight-loss plan loses its punch
A new perspective can help tip the scales in your favor

» A fresh look

» Listen to your body

» Turn the tables

Feast or famine: How does the plateau phenomenon occur?

Blame diet plateaus on our prehistoric ancestors. Over the centuries, man’s biology evolved to compensate for lean times—when the hunt failed or vegetation was sparse. The same instinct kicks in today when the body must adjust to a reduced calorie intake.

In response to a “famine” situation, your resting metabolic rate (the rate at which your body uses energy to function) slows, helping to preserve energy—as well as your current weight. But be patient. It’s normal for your weight to remain level before dropping again. Remember, too, that the scale can remain steady while you shed fat and build muscle.

If you’re like many people struggling to reach and maintain a healthy weight, you have a fickle relationship with your bathroom scale: on good terms some days, barely cordial the next. But what happens when, despite your best efforts, the needle always stops at the same number? Most dieters experience this “plateau,” when strategies that helped shed pounds no longer work.

If you know the feeling all too well, try a new perspective on for size.

A fresh look

Start thinking of your strategies as enjoyable activities rather than strictly weight-loss efforts. When you cycle, enjoy the scenery instead of focusing on mileage. Before you know it, you may have gone farther than you ever expected.

Listen to your body

When your plant’s soil is dry, you water it. But if you’re like many dieters, when your stomach growls, you ignore it. If you always wait until “proper” mealtimes, try something new: Satisfy your hunger no matter what time it is. Grazing on several healthy snacks a day quells your hunger so you’re less likely to overeat at regular meals.

Turn the tables

Rice, carrots and cottage cheese. Yawn. Choosing the same foods—no matter how healthy—week after week can get boring. More important, a restricted diet won’t provide the benefits of a varied one. Instead of the usual standbys, try new foods and put a twist on the old. Once a month, shop at a specialty-foods store: You may discover something healthy and delicious.

© 2014 Dowden Health Media