By: Caroline Susie, RDN
You’re following your diet to a tee, exercising regularly, dropping pounds, and feeling more motivated than ever before.
But then something happens – your weight loss slows down or completely stops out of nowhere. What the heck happened?
This is the dreaded weight loss plateau. After that initial wave of weight loss, the scale won’t budge. It’s so frustrating, but this is a completely normal and expected part of your weight loss journey
If you’ve ever hit that weight loss wall, you’re not alone my friend. And it’s nothing you did wrong.
The good news? This plateau is temporary, and in this article, I’m going to share how to overcome weight loss plateaus once and for all.
Photo by i yunmai on Unsplash
What is a Weight Loss Plateau, and Why Does it Happen?
A weight-loss plateau is when your weight loss slows down or comes to a screeching halt. It totally sucks and can be de-motivating, but it comes with the territory.
As you lose more and more weight, your progress naturally stalls. It typically happens about six months into your weight loss journey but can happen at any time depending on the person. It can also last anywhere between one to three months.
Why do weight loss plateaus happen?
- Your body adapts to its lower weight. Because you weigh less, you don’t need as many calories to maintain your new weight. You may notice you’re still eating the same amount of calories as you have been, but your weight loss may dwindle.
- The hunger hormone ghrelin creeps up after weight loss, causing your appetite to come back with a vengeance. This can make it feel harder to stick to your healthy eating goals.
- You’re straying away from your diet or exercise plan (no shame here, it happens to the best of us!). Maybe your workout isn’t challenging you like it used to, your portions are looking bigger these days, or you’re rewarding weight loss success with food (so easy to do, but can be counterproductive!).
- You may already be at your “happy” weight and so your body is resisting further weight loss. Keep reading because I’ll be diving into what this means.
How to Get Past the Weight Loss Plateau
To move past this plateau, you can either increase the calories you burn, decrease the calories you consume, or both.
This does NOT mean resorting to an extreme weight loss diet, however. If a diet sounds too good to be true, it is (please, I am begging you, do not listen to the Kardashians or Dr. Google).
Here are 6 simple steps to take if you’ve hit a weight loss plateau.
It’s easy to underestimate how many calories you’re consuming and overestimate how many you’re burning. You may also be unknowingly overcompensating for your calorie burn and eating more than you think. In this case, getting back to tracking your daily habits can get you back on track.
Some of my clients like to use an app such as MyFitnessPal or Cronometer to track their calorie intake. But calorie-counting is not good for everyone. Simply being more mindful of portions, taking your time while eating, or logging your food/mood trends in a paper food journal can help!
- Fill up on fiber
Carbs are often the first thing people cut out of their diets when trying to lose weight. As a self-proclaimed gluten-lover and carb crusader, this deeply upsets me. And while low carb diets may help you lose weight faster in the beginning, in the long-term them they yield the same amount of weight loss as other low-calorie or low-fat diets.
So there is nothing magical or revolutionary with going low carb.
Research also shows fiber, which is present in high-carb foods, directly promotes weight loss by keeping you filled and satisfied. This is why I don’t support any diet trend that requires you limiting this glorious nutrient.
When it comes to weight loss, I like to focus on what to add, not takeaway. This is more sustainable and doesn’t lead you to want more of the exact food you’re trying to steer clear of!
Photo by Alexandra Golovac on Unsplash
- Prioritize protein
Did you know you actually burn calories just through eating? We need energy, aka calories, to digest our food.
Out of all 3 macronutrients (carbs, protein, and fat), protein requires the most energy to break down. For every 100 calories of protein, 20 to 30 of those are used to digest it! It’s also filling (bye-bye, cravings!) and helps maintain lean muscle. Muscle burns more than fat, helping you burn more calories even when you’re not even doing anything.
Don’t overdo it on protein – but prioritizing it can tip the scale in the right direction again. Good protein sources for weight loss include lean chicken breast, turkey, fish, eggs, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, beans, lentils, nuts, and tofu.
- Look beyond your plate
Beyond your diet choices, there are other factors that may be affecting your ability to lose weight such as sleep quality, stress, or a lack of self-care.
Secondly, make time for self-care. Your mental well-being always takes priority. And if you’re not practicing enough self-care, it’s easy to reward yourself with food after a stressful day when you’re not actually hungry.
Self-care doesn’t have to take a lot of time – start with getting some fresh air, saying no to unnecessary commitments, and scheduling just 10 minutes in your day for activities that bring YOU happiness.
- Add joyful movement
Movement matters in terms of burning calories, but it shouldn’t be something you dread. Don’t spend hours on the treadmill every day if you’re hating every minute of it.
Instead, find something that you look forward to and build activity into your day. This could be gardening, walking, cleaning, or something more structured like a group fitness class.
Photo by Elena Kloppenburg on Unsplash
- Reassess your weight loss goals
If you’re thinking “I’ve tried all of this but the scale still won’t budge!” your body may be trying to tell you something.
It may be that the goal weight you had in mind may not be best at this time. Your body often prefers to stay within a predetermined weight range. This is called your “set point” weight, and you may have experienced this if you’ve ever seen your weight fluctuate around the same few pounds.
It can be hard to come to terms that your weight may not be entirely in your control, and quick fix detoxes are not necessarily the answer.
If your weight loss plan is affecting your energy, happiness, and quality of life, then it may be time to reassess your goals and motivation for losing weight.
Key Takeaways – How to Overcome Weight Loss Plateaus
Remember: No weight loss journey is completely linear, and the scale is just one piece of your health picture. Don’t be afraid to accept your body at every stage of your journey. It’s also important to continually reevaluate if your weight goal is realistic and healthy.
A few non-scale victories to celebrate include better quality sleep, feeling your clothes fit better on you, or having more energy to play with your kids.
If you need support in your weight loss journey, I can help you create a realistic and healthy plan. Let’s work together!
You got this!