Nutritionist and PT Katie Parsons gives advice on what to do if your weight loss efforts have started failing

With the weather around New Zealand is getting cooler and the days get shorter, it can be tough to give the same amount of effort to our health and fitness as we may have in the summer months.

While there's nothing wrong with taking the opportunity for a little rest, if you've been steadily losing weight or increasing your fitness, it can be frustrating when your efforts begin to stall or "plateau". 

We turned to Auckland personal trainer and qualified nutritionist Katie Parsons for some advice.

Parsons, who has a new fitness app being launched later this year, says there's no one-size-fits-all advice as there are "so many factors" which can lead to a plateau in weight loss, "whether that be nutrition, exercise, mental wellbeing or lifestyle-related". 

But nonetheless Parsons gave us her top three things to consider when examining your weight loss routine: 


"The most important thing to do is take a step back and look at what you are currently doing. There's a saying that goes: 'if you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always got'," Parsons told Newshub. 

She says while you might have found a training regime that got you initial results, changing it up is vital so your body doesn't become accustomed to the same movement, over and over again. 

"Have you only been doing cardio? Yoga? Or only weights? Have you progressed your exercise in terms of increasing resistance, reps, distance, new movements? If you have maintained the same routine for quite some time and stopped challenging yourself, begin to question how you can build upon your routine to give your body a jump start in making more progress," says Parsons. 

"In relation to weight loss, there are so many diet fads that appear: juice cleanses, fit teas, paleo, keto, fasting... the list goes on! But the same general rule applies: If you want to lose weight, you need to be in a calorie deficit. It does not matter if you do it through nutrition, exercise or both, if you are burning more than you are consuming you will lose weight. 

"That's not to say these 'diets' don't have individual benefits, [but] it is often misunderstood that the underlying cause of weight loss is the deficit alone." 

You therefore need to ask yourself, says Parsons, how many calories you're burning in a day versus how many you're consuming. 

"Once you know this, you can find out how much of a calorie deficit you need to be in to reach your goals." 

But be warned, this is where it can get tricky. The answer is apparently not to slash your calorie intake by half - in fact, that may do you more harm than good. 


"You need to be in a deficit to lose weight; however, being in too much of a deficit is a lot of stress on the body and can mess with your hormone balance," Parsons reveals. "This stress results in the release of a hormone called cortisol 'the stress hormone'. It can result in the urge to overeat and therefore gain weight again.

"So if you want to lose weight, you need to stress less! Focus on your mental and physical wellbeing: hydrate, sleep well, eat in a minor calorie deficit and relax. You may not get the results as fast, but you will get them in a healthy and maintainable way." 

Parsons says if you've been on a strict diet for a long time and you cannot lose any more weight no matter how hard you try, you may be in a situation where you actually need to increase your calories or eat more often to lose more fat. 

"If you are eating less than your body needs to function, your body goes into this stressed (high cortisol) state that I mentioned before and has switched into survival mode.

"Levels of another hormone, called leptin, will decrease and your body will essentially tell your brain you are starving and drive you to eat. Leptin's role is to tell the brain that your body has enough fat storage and doesn't need any more food, so regulation of this is so important."

Parsons says you can manage leptin levels by gradually increasing your calories, getting enough sleep, decreasing sugar intake and exercising regularly.

"You may have noticed some common themes here, so we can simplify all the above. Hormone regulation comes down to some basic to dos: Avoid stress and being on an extremely low-calorie meal plan, [instead] eat a high protein, high healthy fat and high vegetable diet, exercise regularly and get enough sleep. 

"Hormone health is crucial for general health and maintaining your weight loss routine."


"I will touch on one more thing, and that is your metabolism," says Parsons. "Another downside to being on an extremely low-calorie diet for extremely fast weight loss is that you risk losing a lot of lean muscle mass as well as fat - which ideally you want to maintain. 

"This is because the higher your lean muscle mass, the more calories you burn at rest; therefore, the faster your metabolism and the easier it is to maintain your weight loss in future. If your weight has yo-yoed over the years, this is something to think about." 

She says the same goes for those who go without eating for hours at a time, then binge on everything in sight. Sound familiar?

"Your body doesn't know when it will eat again, so it will try to slowly use up the calories you consume and slow your metabolism to essentially keep you alive! This leads me to my next tip: try eating at the same time each day," she recommends. 

"Your body is smart, it responds to how you treat it - so nourish yourself during the weight loss process, avoid stressing it out and you are much likely to see the results you are after."