Have you reached a weight loss plateau?

"I had the fleeting thought, 'Well, if I'm not going to /*lose weight*/ anyway, then I'm going to Ben and Jerry's,'" said Aury Wellington, who hit a diet plateau.

In September, Aury started a diet and exercise program with great results. She lost 39 pounds in four months, but then she hit the dreaded plateau.

"I was working out and still being good with the diet, and nothing was happening," said Aury.

Dietitian Ashley Koff says plateaus are frustrating, but a whole lot is actually happening inside your body.

"You may be losing fat and gaining lean body mass. So, you might see that you're dropping half a clothing size, but you'll say that I'm at the exact same weight that I was at before," said Koff.

Koff is coaching Wellington through her year-long stint as /*Shape Magazine*/'s weight loss diary writer. The dietician says the plateau is about your body getting settled at a new weight. After weeks of seeing the scale move, it is normal to reach a spot where weight stops dropping.

"Maybe the body has gotten tired of the food, but maybe it's gotten tired of the exercise," said Koff. "If we make changes in each of those places, then we're going to see a net positive result in terms of moving forward."

Another plateau problem is stress, which inhibits digestion and stores fat. But, drastic dieting isn't the answer either.

Instinctively, when we hit a plateau, one of the first things we do is restrict our calories even more. Experts say cutting calories like that can be a big mistake; especially if calories are cut lower than 1400 per day.

"When we cut from 1200 to a 1000 there, suddenly the body goes into to depravation mode. It goes into 'I'm going to store because I might not be getting food for a while,'" said Koff.

That storage mode reduces muscle mass, which then slows metabolism.

While many drastically diet, Fitness Trainer Monica Tarkowska Carter says most of us don't even come close to training too much.

"You need to challenge your cardio vascular system and you need to challenge your muscles to work harder than what they are used to doing," said Carter.

Carter says leave your comfort zone and mix it up. Use heavier weight and change the cardio program, which are two important ways to bust that plateau.

Aury tweaked her running program and lost three pounds last week. You'll find her story in the January edition of Shape Magazine



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