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What Causes a Weight Loss Plateau?

Posted on February 15th, 2013 by Jeff Thiboutot M.S.

It is a frequent occurrence for many people losing weight to hit a weight loss plateau. They are losing fairly consistently for a few weeks or even a few months and then nothing. The number on the scale is no longer moving down. At first people will think, quite rationally, LOL, that the scale is broken or someone has messed with it. After the denial has pasted, there is usually some level of panic and confusion. All of this mental and emotional turmoil is really unnecessary because the cause of the plateau, i.e., lack of weight loss, is rather straight forward and well understood. Here is the magical, super-secret reason; the person is NO longer causing a discrepancy between how many calories their body burns and how many they eat. This means that you have to eat less calories and/or burn more calories by exercising more. I wish there was more to it, but that is really the crux of the problem. Because this is a common occurrence and because there are some silly ideas of why this is happening I will dive into some of the details.

As I mentioned above, to lose weight, you must burn more calories than you eat. However, as simple and true as that is, there are a few important variables that will determine how many calories your body will burn. I will not be going into all the variables that influence the intake side. Before proceeding into the fascinating world of BMR, TEE, NEAT,  EPOC, and other acronyms, which I seem to have a strong affinity for, I need to dispel a common myth about weight loss plateaus. The MYTH goes something like this;

“I don’t know what is going on, but I have not lost any weight over the past 2 weeks, even though I was losing about 2 lbs a week for a few weeks” response from a friend or “expert” (MYTH) “you are not losing weight because you are not eating enough (usually referring to the number of calories eaten), and not eaten frequently enough*, 6 times a day, so to bust through the plateau, you need to eat MORE (increase your calories) and more often”

This somewhat pervasive response is wrong, false, incorrect, not helpful, illogical and; well you get the point. The following will show why it is so.

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