How to Beat An Intermittent Fasting Plateau
Are you doing everything right but the scale just won’t budge? Have you been fasting for awhile and wonder what to do next? How the heck do you beat an intermittent fasting weight loss plateau?
There is little more frustrating when working on weight loss than seeing the same number on the scale week after week. Especially when these same plan resulted in weight loss before. It leaves you asking yourself – what went wrong and where do you go next?
What Is a Weight Loss Plateau?
Most of us know this answer but I do think it helps to be on the same page. 2 days with the same number on the scale is not a plateau. 2 weeks with the same number on the scale IS a plateau.
We all seem to have natural set-points, or plateaus, that the weight just sticks at no matter what we do. It is very frustrating when you are working diligently at weight loss. And that can be good and bad. Sometimes a plateau may be where you want to maintain your weight. That’s good – it helps to cut back on the fluctuation. Most of the time, though, we hate them.
Why Do We Plateau?
There are many theories on this and no definitive answer. The most common answers come from 2 different camps. One is negative and the other positive. You pick which one you like:
- Your Body Actually Wants You to Be Fat – This plateau theory stems from the fact that our bodies are ingrained to keep us alive alive. Crazy, huh. And fat keeps us alive. When we lose weight, our bodies get scared and start to actively work against us to get back to your higher set point. Your basal metabolic rate slows and you conserve energy and you get more hungry. This makes weight loss more difficult. Ouch. Scientifically this one makes sense but I actually prefer the next theory …
- Your Diet and Your Body Are In Sync – Your plateau is the result of your diet and your weight reaching a point where they are equal. You have now reached exactly where your body wants to be in order to maintain this weight. If you are ready for weight maintenance, great. If not, you will need to change something to lose more.
My Own Intermittent Fasting Plateau
In my own 24 hour intermittent fasting routine, I experienced the dreaded plateau myself. I was fasting for 24 hours 3 days a week and had been for a few months at the time. I was losing nicely and then I hit the plateau.
Like so many, I was tempted to try a longer fast. If you aren’t losing, then going longer with eating makes sense right? Instead, I decided to take a closer look at my eating behaviors.
I recognized that the longer I fasted, the less hungry I was becoming. Fasting days were easier and I was eating less and less. My meals were smaller and, when eating only once day, my intake was very small. I was likely consuming about 400 calories on my fasting days.
In reviewing this, I decided to resist the natural urge to fast longer. I actually started adding lunch to my fasting days again. And after a few days, I broke through that plateau and started losing weight.
And that’s why I know that the answer to a plateau is not the same for everyone.
Questions to Ask Yourself with An Intermittent Fasting Plateau:
When determining how to beat this plateau, I want you to start by asking yourself a few simple questions:
- Am I truly sticking to my plan? So, we all think of a plateau as a failure. Your body just hates you and wants to be fat, right? But we often get a little complacent after some time of dieting. Review your plan and your compliance with it. Are you REALLY sticking with it?
- Have some foods snuck back in? My husband is the king of this. He will start Day 1 only to report that he ate McDonalds again. Next day he’s starting Day 1 again. It’s not really a weight loss plateau if you are not sticking with set program. Unless you are practicing the McDonalds diet.
- Have your portion sizes increased? One of the biggest questions with intermittent fasting has always been if people would consume significantly more with the meals they eat after fasting. And the studies say No. In my experience, people usually get less hungry the more they fast. It is possible, though, that you are eating more during meal time. Take a look at your habits.
- Can you increase/decrease exercise? This is one of the trickier areas with intermittent fasting. As a Doctor, I should fib and tell you that I exercised every day while losing weight. That is not true. I rarely exercised. For me, a plateau could be passed by simply adding a 30-minute walk daily. Some people overexercise, especially on fasting days, and need to cut back. If you are doing a 2 hour workout and fasting, you may need to actually decrease that to lose weight.
- Should you change your fasting schedule? My favorite thing about fasting is the flexibility. As I said above, when we reach a plateau we all think LONGER. Fast longer. And that may be what you need. A physician friend of mine reported she broke through a month long plateau by doing a 5 day fast. That’s really long. But it worked.
How Should You Adjust Your Fast to Break a Plateau?
I would not recommend going from a 16-hour daily fast to a 5 day fast. You will feel awful and that could be dangerous medically. If you are already doing a 24 hour, consider throwing in a 30 hour or 48 hour fast once a week. If you are doing 30 hour fasts, consider changing to the 8 hour eating schedule for a few weeks.
Make sure to weigh daily to monitor your results. If it is not working, change it up again. Journalling your diet can also be very helpful to make sure you are being honest about the cause of your plateau. And make sure to include EVERYTHING you eat. If you were my husband, that would include the McDonalds.
Simple Solution: The dreaded weight loss plateau is inevitable. The nice thing about intermittent fasting is the flexibility to change your eating schedule to beat it. And make sure that your old eating habits aren’t creeping back in by journaling for success.
For more Blog Posts on Intermittent Fasting, check out:
I love this Podcast by Dr. Katrina Ubell on breaking through a plateau, check it out: https://katrinaubellmd.com/ep-48-what-to-do-if-you-hit-a-weight-loss-plateau/