Firstly, what is a stall? A stall is when there is no change to both body weight and body measurements for 4 weeks or more.
Most people have been trained that they make progress only when the scale number is dropping. So, if the scale has not moved for a few days to a week, they will begin to mix things up when there is no need to do so.
For your health, stalls have to happen, they are a simple fact of life. When we choose to purposefully start burning away our fat stores, and especially if we try to force the body to go faster, the body doesn’t know that we have chosen to reduce.
Our mind knows we’ve made a change, whereas our body wants to maintain a level field at all times, to ensure we stay alive. It has no sense of time and so all is sees is a change. “Woah, what’s happening right now???” it says to itself, “There is some serious fat store depletion going on, something must be wrong! Hold stations everyone, we need to figure out what’s going on!”
When the scale not moving, two mechanisms are at play. They can happen either separately or together.
- The body’s resists change and its protective mechanisms are in full effect – it wants to keep homoeostasis.
- The body is gaining muscle mass and burning fat at an equal rate and measurements reduce.
The first mechanism causes a period of conservation, the body ramps down various mechanisms. This is so that you can stay alive as long as possible, given the current conditions. In a low calorie/low fat situation, where muscle is also being consumed due to calorie and protein deficit, this actively and permanently slows the metabolism.
However, in the case of low carb eating, where calories are not purposefully restricted and the body is not consuming its own muscle mass, all that is needed is to simply keeping doing what you are doing. This let’s the body know that calories, protein and dietary fat are plentiful. What is happening is the new normal, there is no emergency. And that it doesn’t need to horde the stores.
The body not realising there is a new normal in some people can take months. Especially if there is a great deal of muscle and bone depletion damage to heal caused by previous cycles of low fat, low protein eating. Yes, this is a hard thing to hear. But remember that every mouthful of nutritionally dense food is improving your body and your health.
The second reason only causes the scale to stop moving. In my opinion, the scale is the worst way of measuring progress. This is the main reason why I hate using the non specific word weight when what we want to drop is fat.
If the body has been previously damaged by cycles of muscle reducing low fat dieting, the body will prioritise rebuilding itself over getting generally slimmer. When given a proper amount of fat and protein, muscle gain/body repair happens. This means that whilst the body is happily burning away fat it is also adding muscle.
Yes, this gives a stall on the scale, but the body is becoming more dense and more metabolically active. Fat is is a whopping 17% less dense than muscle. This means that it takes up way more room in the body than muscles does. So, the body gets smaller whilst the scale number stays the same. This is why a tape measure or our clothes are a much better indicator of progress than the scale.
Where we have been trained to become obsessed with the scale number, we lose sight of the fact that our body is both becoming more healthy and also shrinking. The diet industry has sold us on only caring about the number on the scale. This is one of the reasons that I’m on a mission to remove the words “weight loss” from common usage.
You will be eating this way for the rest of your life, so why rush now? Your body’s homoeostasis level needs time to “catch up and reset” with where you are and where you want to be going forward. It took you many years of non-healthy eating to get fat. Being impatient with the process of reversing the damage your previous diet caused is illogical, counterproductive for your mindset and in terms of your heath, not a good thing to do to your body.
Relax and enjoy the process of getting a lean and optimal body. After all, relaxing will lower your cortisol levels and eating low carb is not exactly an arduous way of eating!