Almost anyone who’s tried to lose weight knows how frustrating it can be when the weight loss slows and eventually reaches a plateau. Dr David Ashton of Healthier Weight on how to keep your weight loss going.
There’s a lot of misunderstanding as to why this happens, most of which stems from a confused idea of what the term metabolic rate means. So let’s try and clear up the confusion. The term resting metabolic rate (RMR) simply refers to the number of calories a day you need to maintain your current body weight.
Various factors can influence RMR, including age and gender—but body weight is the most important. In short, the heavier you are, the more calories you need to maintain your weight.
Now we can understand the plateau effect. Suppose that at your present weight you have an RMR of 2,500 calories, and you then start a 1,000-calories-a-day diet. This means you save 1,500 calories each day—which is what we call the energy deficit.
A daily energy deficit of 1,500 calories is 10,500 a week and because a pound of fat equates to 3,500 calories, it leads to a weekly weight loss of three pounds. But of course, as you lose weight, there will be a corresponding reduction in your RMR. Assume that, as a result of your weight loss, your RMR has fallen to 1,500.
If you stay on the 1,000-calories diet, you now have an energy deficit of only 500 a day (or 3,500 per week) which equates to a weekly loss of a pound. Then, if you lose more weight and your RMR falls to 1,250, your energy deficit is just 250 calories, or half a pound of fat a week. The initial weight loss of three pounds per week has fallen to half a pound.
The trick is to increase physical activity as your weight comes down: the additional calorie expenditure will compensate for the narrowing of the energy deficit. It’s the bit that most people forget, but it’s crucial to getting rid of those last few stubborn pounds—and keeping them off.
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