Dr. Jack Rutherford

So you've been exercising and eating healthy but the weight has stopped coming off. What to do? Chances are you've hit a weight loss plateau.

Plateaus are a common element in any weight loss journey because as your body weight changes, your body adapts. Initially, you may have found the weight loss to be significant. That's likely because you're burning lots of calories just going about your day-to-day activities. But now, since some of that excess weight has been lost, it takes less energy to move your body and so you burn fewer calories.

Keep in mind that the scale isn't the best method of monitoring your weight loss because it doesn't differentiate between fat, muscle and water. Fluid levels are constantly changing, so one pound up or down on any given day may be due simply to fluid regulation.

To get an accurate picture of your body composition, you should get a body composition analysis done by a certified professional. Many gyms and spas offer this service. You can also purchase one of the many over-the-counter body fat analyzers to use at home. Once you start monitoring your body fat levels regularly, you should see some increases in muscle mass and reductions in body fat, assuming you are continuing to exercise daily and eat healthy.

If the weight still isn't coming off, there are a few other things to try to get the numbers moving in the right direction again.

Keep a food journal. Writing down everything you eat is an eye-opening experience. You may be surprised at what and how much you're actually eating. Just the act of writing a food journal can give you some additional incentive to cut the calories.

Get enough sleep. Adequate sleep is important for managing a healthy body weight. When you're sleep-deprived, you tend to eat more and experience more cravings for unhealthy foods.

Cut more calories. As your body mass drops, your need for calories also drops. That means you may need to adjust your daily caloric intake in order to lose weight. But don't go to extremes. Most experts agree that you need at least 1,200 calories a day -- less than that can leave you hungry and grumpy.

Adjust your workouts. Changing things up in your exercise routine can be effective in increasing your caloric expenditure. If all you're doing is cardio, try adding some weight training into your program. Adding lean muscle mass will help you burn more calories. If you've been walking or jogging or doing other types of continuous exercise, how about trying HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training)? HIIT delivers a higher calorie burn and keeps your metabolism revved up long after the workout is done. Keep in mind that research has shown that at people who are successful at managing their weight typically exercise for at least 60 minutes a day.

Monitor and manage your stress. Stressful situations cause the hormone cortisol to be released, which increases fat storage in the body. Stress also causes you to look for comfort foods, often not the healthiest alternatives. When you find yourself stressed, try going for a walk, listening to music, working out, meditating, talking to a friend, getting a massage, or reading a book.

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