You did it! You took control of your health. You started an exercise program and began paying attention to your diet. You're seeing results, you're getting stronger, and you've dialed in your nutrition. Then something happens. You stop seeing results, and can even appear to be moving backward. You've hit a plateau. It happens to everyone at some point in nearly every endeavor, especially in the journey of health.
Don't worry, there are ways to address this phenomenon. Your body has been adapting for the entirety of your life. This is why exercise and proper nutrition work. You send a message to your body that this is what you need to get better at (working out, certain calorie threshold, sleep schedule, etc...) Your central nervous system takes it upon itself to adapt the body's functions to be more efficient at handling the stresses you put yourself through. So your body, at this point, has adapted so well that you have leveled off in your progress. We call this a plateau. The time has come to send the body a new signal, a new stimulus, to advance the adaptation. There are a number of ways to send this new signal to the CNS, the central nervous system.
1) If you've been in a caloric deficit, maybe you need to pull back a little more. If you're hovering around 1200 calories daily, this approach will not be for you, as you don't want to dip below the 1200-calorie threshold. But if you have the space, pull back another 100-200 calories per day
2) Switch up your programming-a personal trainer is the perfect option for this! Our bodies are always searching for homeostasis and are good at adapting to stresses placed upon them. This happens with exercise, too. Your body has gotten efficient at doing your exercises and is in need of a new stimulus. A trainer can safely push you beyond your normal threshold and is equipped with many different modalities. If you're doing dumbbell training, switch to suspension training. If you're using machines, try out the kettlebells. You're bound to see results because your body now has to learn to adapt to a new signal it's receiving.
3) How's your sleep? Getting consistent, good-quality quality is crucial to health. If your sleep is lacking, it can have negative effects on nearly every function of the body. You make poor diet decisions, you don't fully recover from exercise, your cognitive performance drops and your metabolism won't function properly. Make sure the sleep you're getting is of great quality and quantity.
4) Use some NEAT! NEAT stands for non exercise activity thermogenesis. Sounds fancy but it means doing things like gardening, going for a walk, using the stairs instead of an elevator. These activities can add up when you're looking to burn more calories without cramming another workout into your day.
These tips can help you begin the process of getting you out of a health plateau. Making subtle changes to your routine, over time, can have a large impact on your results. Reflect on your situation and try to figure out what it may be that is causing your plateau. From there, choose the course of action that might best address what it is you think is causing this plateau. The journey to health is a long and winding road. Persistence is always rewarded on this journey. Bon voyage!