Losing weight is exciting. If you’re doing it healthily, it means you’re making better choices for your long-term health, reducing your chances of illness down the road, and probably looking and feeling loads better. Fantastic!
But what if that weight loss… just stops happening? Maybe you’ve been steadily losing weight and seeing good results from all that clean eating and exercise…
Then suddenly, the scale stops moving and the weight isn’t coming off anymore — even if you haven’t changed a thing. This is known as a weight loss plateau.
What Causes A Weight Loss Plateau?
Weight loss plateaus happen because our bodies are extremely adaptable. When we diet and reduce our caloric intake, our bodies will try to adjust- meaning it might now require fewer calories than before. Also, hormones, stress, and a plethora of other factors play into the weight loss game.
Really frustrating, right? But don’t worry- hope is not lost! Plateauing just means you need to change things up a little and trick your body into nudging that scale further towards your goal. Easy peasy.
The secret is trial and error, so we’ve compiled 15 top-notch, evidence-based methods for breaking through a weight loss plateau with flying colors:
#1 Reassess Your Calorie Needs
As your body loses weight, it requires fewer calories for fuel and to maintain that weight loss. The more weight you lose, the more important it is to reassess just how many calories you need per day.
If you can, getting your basal metabolic rate (BMR), the amount of calories your body needs at rest, tested (you can do this at a gym or your doctor/dietitian’s office) is a great way to figure out how many calories your body needs while at rest. MyFitnessPal also has a BMR calculator, but fitness tracker calculators are not always accurate.
Another option is decreasing your daily calories by 100-200 calories at a time to see if the scale starts to budge more. Don’t go below 1,200 calories for an extended period of time, as this can make your body think it’s starving and hold onto calories instead, creating the opposite effect.
#2 Track Everything for 3 Days.
Keep track of your food intake, exercise, and water intake each day. You might think this is overkill if you’re already aware of what you’re eating, but our memories are poor. Research has shown that most people underestimate how much they eat every day .
For example, a study done on a group of obese people found that participants were self-reporting their daily calories at less than 1,200 calories, while researchers found they were actually eating almost twice that amount on average . Yikes!
Thankfully, you can avoid the same mistakes by tracking your food intake immediately. Track both calories and your macronutrients: protein, carbs, and fat. Phone apps, such as MyFitnessPal, make it easy. If you haven’t been tracking already this might just do the trick and help you break through your weight loss plateau.
#3 Get More Shut-Eye
Are you getting your 7-9 hours every night? For most people, that answer is a resounding ‘no.’ Getting enough sleep can be tough. We all have busy lives and it’s hard to wind down in time each night. But to be healthy, making sleep a priority is a MUST!
Getting a full night’s sleep resets your hormones, helping you lose body fat. Lacking sleep even a little bit over time increases levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which causes fat gain- especially around the midsection.
Plus, a sleep-deprived body is more likely to lack energy, have a slower metabolism, and have cravings for very unhealthy foods. This makes preparing healthy meals and keeping up with workouts much harder.
#4 Watch Your Sugar Intake
Decreasing your sugar intake can lead to very quick weight loss, and cutting out any sugar you’re still eating can help with a plateau.
Be conscious of added sugars and high-calorie sweeteners. Even if you’re already eating pretty clean, companies can be really sneaky and add sugar to unexpected foods (such as pasta sauce, bread, or pre-made items) making them easy to miss.
Look out for common sweetener names like corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, fructose, dextrose, glucose, fruit juice concentrate, lactose, invert sugar, maple syrup, and honey- just to name a few. These add extra calories but very little, if any, nutrition.
If you’ve already cut down on your processed sugar, be sure you’re not eating too many concentrated natural sugars, such as dried fruits, which are calorie dense and add up fast.
#5 Upgrade Your Food
The more whole foods your diet has, the better. If you’re still consuming processed foods and experiencing a plateau, try upgrading your foods more:
- Think whole foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, high-quality animal protein, whole grains, and good fats like nuts and seeds. These are high in fiber and nutrients your body needs to thrive.
- Avoid processed foods and anything with added sugars or excess salt, which can lead to bloating and water weight.
- Reduce your salt intake. Sometimes excess weight can be from the body retaining water from too much sodium. Avoiding processed foods and using spices instead of salty seasonings when cooking helps a ton.
- Eat tons of vegetables, especially leafy greens. Veggies are king and should be eaten at every meal. They’re low in calories yet high in fiber and important vitamins and minerals. Eating them helps you fill up on nutrient-dense food without intaking too many calories. So if you’ve hit a plateau, up your greens and watch your body respond positively!
**It’s almost impossible to get all of your necessary trace minerals from food. To ensure optimum nutrition while overcoming your weight loss plateau, supplement with Mimi’s Miracle Minerals!**
#6 Increase Your Fiber Intake
Besides decreasing your risk of disease and lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, eating fiber can help increase weight loss and maybe break your plateau too .
Foods with fiber help you feel full sooner and stay full longer by slowing down food movement through your digestive tract. Fibrous foods can even help decrease the amount of calories absorbed.
#7 Eat Enough Protein
Eating more protein can help you supercharge your weight loss:
- Foods rich in this nutrient suppress the hormone ghrelin and stimulate the hormone PYY, increasing fullness and satiety as well as reducing appetite .
- Protein also has the highest thermic effect of other foods, meaning it burns more calories as it’s digested. Eating it boosts calorie burning by 20-30%, over twice as much as carbs or fats .
- More protein intake can also protect the body from muscle loss that often happens during weight loss.
To benefit from the awesomeness of protein, aim to consume a protein portion about the size of your palm at each meal.
#8 Try An Apple Day
Apple days were designed for weight loss plateaus of four days or more. Not sure what an “Apple Day” is? Here’s how it works:
- You’ll eat six apples over a 24-hour period, starting at noon on one day and ending at noon the next day.
- Starting at lunchtime, eat the six apples throughout the day, spreading them out over the 24 hours until lunch the next day.
- Drink just enough water to satisfy your thirst- no need to overdo it.
- Only stick to these six apples and moderate water until lunchtime the next day. No other foods, no other beverages.
Doing an apple day can help eliminate additional water the body is holding onto while helping you bust through a frustrating plateau.
#9 Don’t Drink Your Calories (But Drink Tons of Water)
So many people are addicted to soda, alcohol, juices, and other sweetened or carbonated beverages. This is a real problem.
Think about how easy it is to drink a beverage. You don’t have to cut, prepare, or chew anything- and down it goes. Because it takes so little effort to consume, one drink is an easy and quick way to get empty calories.
The solution is simple: don’t drink any of your calories, just drink water.
**Drink lots of water. Half your bodyweight in ounces per day is ideal. So, if you weigh 150 lbs, drink 75 ounces.**
Water is calorie-free and great for you. Research has shown it can even boost metabolism as much as 30% right after drinking it . Plus, our brains often think we’re hungry when we’re actually thirsty. So get in the habit of drinking water between meals to help you keep cravings at bay and identify when you’re actually hungry.
Other reasons water is great:
- It can help flush out excess salt that may be causing you to hold onto water weight.
- Drinking plenty throughout the day and having some water before you eat can help decrease overall caloric intake.
- It can even make your workouts more effective, keeping you hydrated and energized.
The “half your body weight in ounces” concept does not include what you drink during exercise, by the way.
#10 Increase Your Mind-Body Awareness
Stress can sometimes contribute to a weight loss plateau. Not only does decreasing stress help fight cravings and decrease stress eating, it also helps your body on a deeper level.
Stress increases the levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in the body, which can boost fat storage around the stomach. This obviously makes it harder to banish that belly fat, even when you’re doing everything “right.”
Developing coping mechanisms for the stress in your life can increase your weight loss success. One of several studies on this is a good example: 34 overweight and obese women had an average weight loss of 9.7 pounds over an eight-week period after following a stress-management program .
Try out some different mind-body methods like meditation, yoga, journaling, walking, listening to music, or talking with a friend or therapist.
Our own “Meditation 101″ interview with Lon Young is well worth listening to if you are interested in starting a meditation practice.
#11 Try Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting can be a great way to bust through lagging weight loss and increase fat loss, along with other health benefits.
Intermittent fasting means fasting (not eating) for a certain period of time each day. The default is 16 hours of fasting, where you only eat in an eight-hour window each day.
For example, you could make your eating window between 12pm and 8pm or 10am and 6pm each day. What’s cool is that you can choose a window that works best for you!
Doing this can help reduce the overall calories you eat each day. It’s an effective way to increase weight loss without changing what you eat. Of course, during the fasting time, make sure you are still drinking plenty of water, it’s a food only fast, not a water fast!
#12 Upgrade Your Cardio
You can largely boost weight loss goals by taking workout time more seriously. If you aren’t already, try doing some high intensity interval training (HIIT) to get in a powerful calorie-burning workout in a shorter amount of time.
Switch up your workout styles too. Our bodies can get used to the same type of exercise, so they need to be “shocked” with different movements to get out of a plateau. Just make sure it’s an exercise you can stick with and make a habit of over time.
How do you do this? Try something new! Maybe it’s a different type of cardio at the gym or something more adventurous like hiking, boxing, tennis, basketball, or rock climbing.
If a workout buddy will motivate you, find someone accountable who likes the same exercise and schedule regular workout dates.
#13 Lift Heavier
A weight loss plateau can mean your body needs more resistance training.
Lifting weights builds lean muscle mass, which increases your body’s calorie burn even when you’re at rest, leading to more fat burning!
If you already lift weight, try increasing the weight to increase the burn. And just like with cardio, the body can get bogged down by the same workout over time—so try out different forms of lifting and resistance training to mix it up.
#14 Skip a Day (or Two) at the Gym
On the flip side of #12 and #13, if you’re already been working out hard and switching things up, you might actually need a break from the gym.
Overtraining (when the body doesn’t have enough time to recover in between exercise) can actually backfire on you. Without enough recovery, progress can stop and you can even start losing strength.
If your workouts have been harder and longer than usual recently, try giving yourself a rest day or two each week to see if it helps your plateau, especially if you’re working out every day. Just don’t use it as an excuse to quit the gym altogether — regular workouts are just as important for health and weight loss as rest days!
#15 Practice Mindful Eating
Mindless munching can cause the calories to add up without you even noticing it! Even a little here, a little there throughout the day can make a big difference.
Make a point to fully focus on your food when you eat. Notice the tastes, flavors, and textures of your food, appreciating each bite. Try to only eat if you’re sitting down and free of distractions as much as possible. This can cut down a lot on excess calories.
Final Thoughts on a Weight Loss Plateau
Here are a couple extra points to keep in mind when it comes to plateauing:
Measure More Than the Scale
The scale doesn’t tell all. If you’ve been building muscle from your exercise, your weight might stay the same or even increase, but it could be from muscle (good) rather than fat or water. To truly track progress, measure it by more than the scale:
- Notice how your clothes fit and improvements in how you feel.
- Take body measurements and notice changes in clothes sizes.
- Focus on the quality of what you eat and how much movement you get versus how much the scale changes. It can fluctuate from day to day.
These are often better indicators of progress than just your scale weight.
Sometimes the best thing to do for a weight loss plateau is wait it out.
Definitely try the tips mentioned above, but remember that patience is important too. The closer you get to your goal weight, the slower weight loss typically is because there’s less of a deficient than before.
Just remind yourself this ultimately means you are still moving forward, and a plateau does not mean your hard work hasn’t been worth it.
A lot of people don’t understand how to break a weight loss plateau and get discouraged, but don’t worry! With a few modifications you can continue seeing the results you’ve worked so hard to achieve. Try the tips above, keep powering through, and you’ll be moving forward before you know it.
Note that this information is presented as educational in nature and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure or prevent any disease.