Weight Loss Myth: The Dreaded Plateau

It's easy to blame your body for stalling, but what if you are your own worst enemy?

| October 4th, 2011
Weight Loss

You've been eating healthy and exercising for a few months now and you're seeing great results. But soon your weight loss slows to a trickle, and then to a full stop.

You've plateaued. Or have you?

The widely held assumption is that the body adjusts to a caloric reduction fairly quickly, making it harder for dieters to maintain a steady weight loss, ultimately resulting in the dreaded plateau—i.e. the several-week-stretch six to eight months into your diet when the needle on your scale refuses to move and you question whether or not it's broken (or simply just plotting against you).

This is typically when you start to blame your body for adjusting to your new weight loss routine and either throw in the proverbial towel or double your efforts.

But according to new research published in The Lancet, the scale's homeostasis has less to do with your body composition and more to do with slipping into old eating and exercise habits.

QUIZ: What Are Your Eating Habits?

"It would take the body three years to reach a metabolic plateau," says lead author Dr. Kevin D. Hall from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. "If you stick to a diet exactly, you should expect your weight loss to continue for years, albeit not at the same rate."

While it's easier for our psyches to blame a waning metabolism than a lack of willpower, Hall's findings showed that most people who experience a weight loss plateau six to eight months into a diet are reverting back to pre-diet behaviors.

In fact, Hall even found that dieters begin to regress as soon as a month after they begin their diets. "When people are seeing their plateau—which is also their greatest weight loss success—their habits are practically back to where they started."

Within 10 months, not only have people come totally full circle and readopted their pre-diet habits, but they're beginning to put back on the weight they lost and, here comes the worst part, they still report that they're actually dieting.

MORE: Outsmart Your Eating Habits

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