At some point in your weight loss journey you will hit a plateau. This is especially true for those who are looking to lose those last 10 - 15 vanity pounds as your body prefers to hold on to that extra weight in case of an emergency (e.g., famine).
The key to moving past a plateau is to be honest about what is going on with both your diet and exercise routine.
The Diet. Losing weight is a numbers game (pun intended!) with the focus on creating a calorie deficit, while ensuring your deficit isn't so great that you're putting your body into starvation mode and slowing your metabolism. It's about eating the right amount of food for your own body.
It's imperative that you have the ability to accurately evaluate your diet which is why I am a BIG FAN of food journaling programs such as FitDay.com, CalorieKing.com, SparkPeople and Gyminee.com.
Food journaling programs provide you with the tools you need to evaluate your diet in detail, which makes it easier to pinpoint possible short-falls in your eating plan.
Your diet does not need to be perfect 100% of the time in order to continue to lose weight. Matter-of-fact, I subscribe to Dr. John Berardi's 10% factor. As Dr. Berardi points out, the difference in results between 90% adherence and 100% adherence is negligible.
Let's take a closer look at the 10% factor. If you eat 4 meals per day, that amounts to 28 meals per week. 10% of 28 is approximately 3 meals which means you get to eat 3 "imperfect" meals per week. These imperfect meals include both "junk food" and skipped feedings. Why skipped meals? Because severe calorie restriction slows the metabolism and leads to a reduction in your body's ability to burn calories and fat. It's as important to ensure you're not under-eating as it is to ensure you're not over-eating.
The Training Effect. The wondrous thing about the human body is its ability to adapt to physical stress. In order to change our body composition we need to continually stimulate our body and take it beyond its point of adaptation or comfort zone.
I learned this lesson the hard way, achieving limited results after spending hours in the gym doing the same cardio and strength training routine week after week. Once I started studying the physiology of exercise I came to understand that to lose weight you need to
Change your training routine every 4-weeks and,
Focus on quality, not quantity. Workouts don't need to take hours; they need to be efficient.
If you've been exercising and watching your diet for a while and aren't seeing results, it is likely due to one of the above. You need to evaluate and change your program on a regular basis to optimize results.