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On A Diet Plateau? Try This

It always seems to happen: we start a diet and a good exercise regimen, and the weight comes off. Then all of a sudden, we reach this plateau, and the scale refuses to budge.

The Early Show medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay explains it's all about a healthy balance. You need to balance the amount of calories you consume with the calories you burn by exercising.

When you start exercising and watching your calorie intake, your body will shed the pounds quite easily. But once the body becomes adjusted to the low-calorie diet and exercise regimen, the metabolism may slow down. This is what happens when you reach a plateau.

This can often be very discouraging, but Dr. Senay says don't let it get you down.

Aside from staying motivated, there are a few ways to keep the numbers on that scale going down.

The following are Dr. Senay's suggestions:

Keep A Food Diary - A lot of us underestimate the amount of food we eat each day. By keeping a close record of every single morsel eaten over say, the course of a week, it will help you gain a better insight into your eating habits, your patterns and your calorie intake. Looking over the diary, actually reading your diet on paper, you may realize you are eating too many chocolate chip cookies and not enough fruit, and it can serve as a motivator to eat healthier.

Watch Your Calorie Intake - Foods that are low-fat doesn't necessarily mean low-calorie. Stay away from calorie-dense foods such as cake, cookies, mayonnaise, and butter. A lot of our favorite snacks are usually rich in calories, but there are alternatives, like fruits and vegetables.

It's also important to remember that too few calories are not good either. Less than 1200 calories a day will leave you feeling hungry, which can lead to overeating, and also make it difficult for your body to get the proper nutrients. Along these same lines, do not skip meals. Skipping meals slows down your body's metabolism, which can lead to weight gain. It also can lead to overeating and excessive snacking between meals.

Use A Pedometer - A pedometer is a great tool to carry around with you, because it measures the number of steps you take throughout the course of the day. We all know walking is one of the best forms of exercise, and this device will help you judge how much walking you're doing. Look to reach about 10,000 steps a day, which equals about 4 miles, depending on your stride.

Increase The Intensity And Duration Of Exercise - As you continue on with your exercise regimen, build up the duration. Aim to accumulate 60 minutes of exercise over a course of day. Your body will burn more calories. Some people find it easier to increase duration by breaking the exercise routine into several short periods throughout the day. Increasing the intensity can be helpful because a high intensity level will burn more calories.

Now, if your efforts to lose weight and keep it off have reached a standstill, it may be related to a medical condition.

For example, if you have an under-active thyroid, then that can sometimes play a role in your inability to lose weight. Conditions like diabetes, especially if the disease requires insulin, can also play a role. Certain medications, especially ones that contain steroids, can sometimes inhibit weight loss. And depression can have an effect on your motivation. People who are depressed often turn to fatty, high-calorie foods as a source of comfort.

Finally, pain, like osteoarthritis, can sometimes affect your ability to exercise frequently or at a high intensity level.

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