*Let me start this off by reminding you I am NOT a doctor or a nutritionist. This is just a collection of my thoughts and experiences mixed with a little bit of science.*
Recently, I lost some weight. Close to ten kilograms. It took me a while to get going, but when I did, I loved it. I counted my macros for every meal and within a fortnight, people were starting to notice changes in me. I was delighted with how my clothes fit, how I felt, and how I looked. I knew I had more weight to lose, but I felt happy with my progress.
At around the eight kgs mark, things started to slow down. I became a little worried that I was stuck, but was sure I would push through the plateau and continue on my journey. The last two kilos took almost as long as the first six!
Now, almost a year later, I've been stuck on the same two to three-kilo cycle for the last six months. You know the one? Where you gain a couple, lose a couple, gain them back, lose them again... It's both very boring and, to be honest, a bit of a motivation suck.
Based on conversations with friends, I know you know what I'm talking about. I am not the only thirty-something woman struggling with this. In fact, it's a familiar story—someone diets, exercises, and loses weight. Hooray! Then the process slows down, the treat meals increase in frequency or calories, and the whole cycle grinds to an eventual stop. They lose motivation, start getting into old habits, and the kilos creep back. Or worse, they stick with it, doing the same thing day in and day out and wonder if things will ever change...
So, what can we do about it?
In an effort to learn more about my body, weight loss, and nutrition, I enrolled for my first ever MOOC. If you don't know what a MOOC is, don't panic, I didn't know either. A MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) is an online course created with the intention of border-less participation and open access online. Universities like Harvard and MIT offer them, amongst others. My MOOC came from Wageningen University in The Netherlands.
And what did I learn?
Well, when it comes to that weight loss plateau thing, the answer is so logical that it actually made my brain almost explode in its simplicity.
It takes a lot more energy to move a 100 kg body around as compared with a 90, 80, 70, or 60 kg body!
And when I say move, I don't just mean at the gym, on the running track, or in the pool. A smaller body literally requires less energy just to exist.
Here is where it gets *a little* scientific....
So, existence requires energy. By existence I mean all those processes that your body just does because they are essential for your survival; like keeping your heart beating, your brain active, and your lungs doing their breathing thing. You get the idea... This is called your base metabolic rate. Your base metabolic rate can increase if you're bigger and may decrease as your size does.
Now, exercise requires energy too. The energy that you use during exercise is obviously dependent on not just what type of exercise you're doing, but also how much you weigh. If you've hopped on a piece of exercise equipment that has asked you your weight recently, now you know why! It wants to accurately track your energy spent (AKA calories burned).
But wait, there's more. We know that in a perfect world, if energy in is less than energy out, then you should continue to lose weight, but there is another factor...
And here is where it gets *a bit more* scientific.
No matter how much you weigh, you have some fat tissue within your body. Within your fat tissue, a bunch of things hang out, including a fun hormone called Leptin.
Leptin plays an important role in appetite control, reminding your brain when you feel full, which stops you from eating more. When there is more fat tissue in your body, there is more Leptin.
As you lose fat, you also lose your constant source of Leptin or your body reacts differently to the Leptin that you release. In some circles, this is called Leptin resistance. You may feel hungry even after eating because your body thinks you're starving. Therefore, if you've lost a significant amount of fat in a short period of time, your body is working against itself, telling you that you need more energy in.
This is why a reduction in Leptin levels during weight loss is believed to be one of the reasons why people have difficulty maintaining their weight loss journey.
How do I deal with this?
I'm still on my weight loss journey and I haven't got a straight up answer to this one yet. The advice is always to ensure you're eating a well-rounded diet of nutritious, whole foods, drinking lots of water, and sleeping well. Also, don't stop moving, but consider how much stress you're putting on your body. Seven workouts a week might be too much...
Happy living, and may your Leptin always be responsive.