How to Break Weight Loss Plateau for Vegetarians
By Laura Ng
How would you feel when you keep doing the same old routine every day? You would probably get bored, right? When you feel bored, you tend to plateau and become counter-productive.
Same thing goes for losing weight. Keep eating the same stuff every day, keep doing the same workouts every day, it won't take long before you get stuck at a weight loss plateau.
"Hello everyone, I've been trying to lose weight for the past year now. While I've had some success (lost 40 pounds) I can't seem to lose the last 10 pounds to at least get below 200. It's been really disappointing to see my progress slow down so much to where it's just stopped. I go out for power walks everyday, I do some weight lifting, I try to eat low calories foods (although I hate vegetables). I don't want to count calories but this is really upsetting me." ~ Sherbie
Does the above scenario sound familiar to you? It's not a fictitious scenario, but a real situation faced by a vegetarian at Veggie Boards. In fact, this is just one of the many situations I've seen many overweight vegetarians face.
Sherbie eats mostly fruits, nuts, wholegrains and beans. The only time she ingest veggies is at dinner (but in minimal quantity). Her power-walk (aka brisk-walk or speed-walk) lasts for 20 minutes. Can you guess why she hits a weight loss plateau after successfully shedding 40 pounds?
Let's find out what we can do to help Sherbie break her weight loss plateau, and in a way, helps you get through the plateau you're facing as well.
1. Change Your Workout Routine
Sherbie does power-walking for 20 minutes every day and some weight lifting only. Are you able to see her problem?
Yes, she does the same exercises every day, no wonder she plateaus in her fat loss regimen.
If you want to get over the plateau and burn more fat, then change your exercise routine every 2 - 4 weeks. Staying on with a routine for too long makes your body feel bored. When it gets bored, it becomes counter-productive and sheds lesser and lesser fat over time. That said, make your exercise routine interesting by introducing more different workouts.
That will give your metabolism something different and new to work with every now and then, and you'll avoid the so-called weight loss plateau for good.
I had a friend who loves doing kneeling push-up for it helps to build up her triceps, chest, deltoids and serratus anterior (muscles under the armpits on the sides of the chest or simply known as "wings"). She lost 10 pounds in 3 weeks doing that. But she stops losing fat thereafter no matter how many more she does. I simply ask her to switch to sit-up, and she continues to burn fat from where she stops.
Speaking of that, changing your exercises helps you shape up and tone up even more proportionately throughout. If you do only push-up for instance, you get toner triceps, chest, wings and deltoids but the rest of your body remain untoned (they may lose some fat though). It looks kinda weird to people, don't you think?
To give you more ideas to jumpstart with, here are some bodyweight workouts you can do in the comfort of your own home — Mountain Climber, Spiderman Climb, Side Plank, Stability Ball Jackknife, Stability Ball Rollout, Lying Hip Extension, Jumping Jack, Cross-Body Mountain Climber and Push-up (you should start with kneeling pushups before advancing to standard pushups after you build up more strength in your arms).
Now, you may not like them all. If you find only few exercises you can't do for some physical reasons or you have prior injuries in certain joints or parts, that's fine. There are a lot more other exercises you can do. But if you feel silly with lots of exercises or you're plain lazy to do more, and you only want to stick to just that few, you won't go far.
Develop your interest in more exercises so you get more options to choose from. And plateau won't find you easily.
2. Switch to Interval Training
Steady-state cardio exercises (like power-walk) burn fat during its bout and the fat-burning response subsides as soon as you stop the exercises.
By contrast, interval workouts burn fat in between "active rest". "Active rest" refers to a state where you're at a relatively lower intensity for recovery before you get on back to the high-intensity level. What's even better is that your body fat continues to burn even hours after your interval workouts.
So, why choose cardio when you can get more fat loss with interval training? Here's some great ideas to help kickstart your interval exercises:
For instance, stop doing the same old constant power-walk every day. Start doing walk-jog-walk-jog to boost your metabolism a bit more. Here's how — power-walk for 12 seconds, jog for 8 seconds and back down to power-walking again. If you prefer to increase from slow to brisk walking then back to slow walking again, same 12/8 second rule apply. Keep this pattern on for as long as you can take it. You can do on a treadmill.
If you're rushed for time, 10 minutes (3 times a week) is good enough. You want faster result, make it 20 minutes a time.
You can also alternate between fast and slow push-ups to raise the intensity level. Do the same for sit-ups if that's what you like.
In other words, you're free to inject interval training in whatever exercises you're doing, so long as it alternates between low and high intensity levels. As for the number of seconds in each interval, you can follow the standard 12/8 second rule or adjust in accordance with your capability and play by your own rule.
Safety Tip: To keep yourself free from injury, please assess your own capability when increasing the intensity levels. Raise the intensity level gradually and to a comfortably high but acceptable level. Never go far beyond your capability or you can easily hurt yourself. Breaking weight loss plateau doesn't mean you have to break your muscles. Safety first.
3. Get All-Round Nutrients
Same goes for your meals. Imagine every day you eat oatmeal for breakfast, fruit salad for lunch and curried chickpeas for dinner, how many pounds do you expect to lose with that boring diet?
I suppose Sherbie doesn't vary much in her food choices.
Changing the meal plans a bit here and there is not enough. Get creative and start eating more varieties of food. For example, today you make protein smoothie for breakfast, tomorrow morning it becomes oatmeal with raisins, then day after rainbow salad becomes your breakfast. Do the same for your lunch and dinner.
In short, change your vegetarian meal plan to stimulate the "senses" of your fat-burning system.
Tip: It's tiring to think of so many different recipes for every day. Do it every other day then. Even so, your brain may burn out and run out of ideas coming up with new recipes sooner or later. As such, you may want to grab this plant-based recipe combo where you get to have hundreds of delicious fat-busting recipes to work with and rotate. You can now free your mind for other tasks.
4. Vegetable, Vegetable, Vegetable
My emphasis on the word "vegetable" is not without reason. Check out those who are seriously overweight, you'll realize that their meals are seriously deprived of vegetables.
In general, when your calorie-in equals to your calorie-out, you lose nothing, you gain nothing. Sherbie is eating great with fruits, nuts, wholegrains and beans, but she ingests too little vegetable because she hates it.
If she can increase her veggie intake in her vegetarian diet, she'll be able to overcome her weight loss plateau effortlessly. That's because most vegetables require your body to use more energy to break it down than the caloric content of the vegetable itself, thus achieving a calorie deficit.
Among her food choices, grains and nuts carry relatively high calories. For example, in 100 grams of almond, it scores as high as 575 calories, whereas a 100-gram typical raw carrot contains only 41 calories.
I hit weight loss plateau when I was losing weight as a vegetarian then. My boyfriend (then) told me to up my veggie intake (I didn't like veggies either) and my midsection just shrunk all by itself over 2 - 4 weeks and my pants apparently became less tight.
But that doesn't mean you should avoid eating nuts and grains (keep in mind that grains are acidic, so eat in moderation) in your vegetarian weight loss diet. All you do is raise your vegetable portion while reducing your nuts and grains portion to strike a balance.
Oh, besides the negative-calorie effect I told you just now, the high-fiber content in vegetables will make you feel full easily so you won't get into trouble with binge eating. They help increase your bowel movements for daily detox too. A cleanse body will burn fat efficiently and effectively.
How to get around with eating veggies when you simply don't like it?
Just blend them together with your favorite fruits into smoothie in a 3:2 ratio (fruit to vegetable). This way you won't likely notice the presence of veggies but yet get to absorb the key nutrients from veggies and take your metabolism to the next level for more fat burning as a vegetarian.
Once you become more accustomed to the taste and texture of vegetables, you may like to raise the ratio to 1:1 or 2:3 to control your calorie intake since fruits contain relatively higher calorie.
You can apply this technique on your children if they don't like to munch on vegetables too.
5. "Intervalize" Your Calorie Intake
Sherbie refuses to count calories.
Honestly and admittedly, it may sound silly at first to count calories for every meal, every day. But if you don't do that, you won't have a concrete idea of how much calorie you have consumed for the day. And you won't know how to "intervalize" your calorie intake to break weight loss plateau.
When you keep eating a fixed amount of calories, your body will auto-adjust to burn just that amount, nothing more, nothing less. To overcome this "defect", you got to vary your calorie intake.
Assuming you need about 1500 Cals a day. Take it for 2 days, then on day 3 switch to a relatively lower calorie meal, say 1350 Cals. And on day 4, go up to 1450 Cals for 1 day then drop the calorie again to 1400, increase and decrease and so on... let your body guess forever how much to burn and you'll burn more body fat faster this way.
You may at times, unwittingly go slightly above (don't let it go too high) your calorie needs per day. That's fine because it falls within the "low-high-low..." pattern. You'll nonetheless shed fat eventually.
Such fat-burning principle applied in diet works just like interval training (that I mentioned early on) — low-high-low..., which explains why people who uses this tactic never gripe a word about hitting weight loss plateau.
Warning: When controlling calorie intake, never consume less than 85% of your total daily calorie needs as a safety measure.
Tip: How long do you need to count calories? For as long as you're in a weight loss regimen if you want to get the best result. People generally get discouraged after one or two weeks of counting calories. If your regimen lasts for months, it may drive you nuts. As such, if you want to keep your fat loss free from counting calories, go get a good vegetarian weight loss meal plan with calorie counts and macronutritional facts done for you in each and every meal.
Do NOT Change These...
As you can see thus far, the crux of overcoming fat loss plateau is to apply changes and add varieties to your food and exercises. But you should never change the below good habits if you've been sticking to them until now. Preserve these good habits for they complement extremely well with the tips for getting over a weight loss plateau.
- Eat more smaller meals per day.
- Eat at regular timings.
- Never skip meals, especially breakfast.
- No processed food, or keep it minimal where possible.
- Keep your body hydrated.
- No high-sugar beverages.
- Sleep well.
- No smoking.
- No alcohol.
- No drugs.
If you have not picked up these good habits, do so now. Keep the good habits, kick the bad habits. And you'll experience incredible changes to your size and most importantly, your health.