Skip to main content
ASK AN EXPERT
Got a question about a health story in the news or a health topic? Here's your chance to get an answer. Send us your questions about general health topics, diet and fitness and mental health. If your question is chosen, it could be featured on CNN.com's health page with an answer from one of our health experts, or by a participant in the CNNhealth community.




* CNN encourages you to contribute a question. By submitting a question, you agree to the following terms found below.
You may not post any unlawful, threatening, libelous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic or other material that would violate the law. By submitting your question, you hereby give CNN the right, but not the obligation, to post, air, edit, exhibit, telecast, cablecast, webcast, re-use, publish, reproduce, use, license, print, distribute or otherwise use your questions(s) and accompanying personal identifying and other information you provide via all forms of media now known or hereafter devised, worldwide, in perpetuity. CNN Privacy Statment.
Thank you for your question!

It will be reviewed and considered for posting on CNNHealth.com. Questions and comments are moderated by CNN and will not appear until after they have been reviewed and approved. Unfortunately, because of the voume of questions we receive, not all can be posted.

Submit another question or Go back to CNNHealth.com

Read answers from our experts: Living Well | Diet & Fitness | Mental Health | Conditions

Expert Q&A

  • Share this on:
    Share
  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print

Best way to jump-start your metabolism after a plateau?

Asked by Jay, San Diego, California

Open quote
Close quote

I'm 5-foot-8 and 26 years old and started at 247 pounds and am at 203 pounds now, in about 22 weeks. I've seemed to stop losing weight when I used to average about two pounds a week. I've tried other exercises but almost to no effect. Any suggestions?

Expert Bio Picture

Diet and Fitness Expert Dr. Melina Jampolis Physician Nutrition Specialist

Expert answer

Hi, Jay. Since tomorrow is January 1, I'm sure many people will be thinking about losing weight, so I thought this was a great time to answer your question to help people work through this challenging situation rather than giving up on their weight loss goals.

Weight loss plateaus are incredibly frustrating and incredibly common. In my patients, I notice that they seem to plateau around six to eight weeks into their diets and again around four to five months, similar to your situation. Your two-pound-per-week rate of weight loss is safe and healthy, so I'm not concerned that you have lost weight too quickly, leading to a plateau. Rather, I think you need to make sure you are not falling into diet pitfalls that I see commonly in my office.

First of all, now that you weigh 44 pounds less, you need to either adjust caloric intake downward slightly or increase exercise, because overall, you are burning fewer calories because you weigh less. In addition, most people don't realize that you are burning fewer calories during exercise as well because you have less weight to carry, and you are also probably much more fit if you have been exercising all along.

To cut calories without feeling too hungry, keep a food journal for a week and try to identify eating occasions during which you could cut 50 to 100 calories without noticing much of a difference. Keeping a journal is also a good way to identify areas where an extra 50 to 100 calories may have snuck back in to your diet.

An easier way to cut calories without cutting portions is to increase the water content of foods that you eat. Try to eat non-cream-based soups, lots of non-starchy vegetables and salads (but watch the dressing and high-fat toppings), and low-fat or nonfat dairy with most meals and snacks to get adequate food volume with fewer calories. Boost the fiber content of your diet too, as fiber adds bulk with minimal calories.

I also encourage my patients to really make an effort to cut processed foods (even if they are considered "healthier," low fat, low sugar or high fiber) like baked goods, breads, desserts, crackers and packaged meals as much as possible if they hit a plateau. Stick to foods closest to their natural state like vegetables, nuts, lean protein, whole fruit, plain low-fat dairy, whole grains like barley, brown rice and quinoa, and healthy oils.

With regard to exercise, you are correct to try other exercises to boost your metabolism, but you need to make sure that the exercise is really challenging. I find that many of my patients just aren't pushing themselves enough in the gym to break through weight loss plateaus. For resistance training, the last few repetitions of each set need to be hard. And if you are doing cardio, you really need to be pushing yourself to the point that you can't easily carry on a conversation (be sure to get your doctor's clearance first) during most of your workout.

I have talked a lot about interval training in the past, and I find that it is the best way to get your overall workout to a higher intensity. A simple internal workout involves a five-minute warmup, mini sprints (30 to 60 seconds at a very challenging pace, resistance or incline followed by one or two minutes at a normal pace) for 15 to 20 minutes, and a five-minute cool-down. This allows you to work harder overall and really increase the caloric burn of each workout. If you find your energy is low during workouts, you might consider a cup of coffee (skip the cream and sugar) or green tea before your workout, as this could increase fat burning slightly and has been show to improve athletic performance.

Finally, make sure that you are getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep, as there has been considerable research in the last five years on the effect of getting too little sleep on obesity. And if the scale really refuses to budge, focus on maintaining your weight loss, as losing nearly 20% of your body weight is fantastic and will significantly improve your health in the long run.

More Q&A

  • CNN's Medical UnitCNN's medical unit brings you the best experts available to answer your questions about current events and health issues that matter most to you.
Will jogging hurt an obese person's joints?asked by: Asked by John Simmet; St. Paul, Minnesota
Is creatine a safe supplement?asked by: Asked by Ralph; New York
What foods cause flatulence?asked by: Asked by Peter; United States

CNN Comment Policy: CNN encourages you to add a comment to this discussion. You may not post any unlawful, threatening, defamatory, obscene, pornographic or other material that would violate the law. All comments should be relevant to the topic and remain respectful of other authors and commenters. You are solely responsible for your own comments, the consequences of posting those comments, and the consequences of any reliance by you on the comments of others. By submitting your comment, you hereby give CNN the right, but not the obligation, to post, air, edit, exhibit, telecast, cablecast, webcast, re-use, publish, reproduce, use, license, print, distribute or otherwise use your comment(s) and accompanying personal identifying and other information you provide via all forms of media now known or hereafter devised, worldwide, in perpetuity. CNN Privacy Statement.

The information contained on this page does not and is not intended to convey medical advice. CNN is not responsible for any actions or inaction on your part based on the information that is presented here. Please consult a physician or medical professional for personal medical advice or treatment.