• Home
  • Blog
  • How to Break Through a Weight Loss Plateau to Reach Your Goals

How to Break Through a Weight Loss Plateau to Reach Your Goals

The dreaded weight loss plateau. You stand on the scale and nothing has changed for a while. What gives?! You’ve been losing steadily for weeks or even months and haven’t strayed far from balanced eating habits, sticking to your calories, and being physically active but can’t seem to get the scale to shift. It happens to all of us in the weight loss process at one point or another. This article will break down the ins and outs of weight loss plateaus and the need to knows behind them to get the scale moving once again.

While this is common when losing weight, it doesn’t mean it isn’t frustrating. Now that we’ve talked about what a weight loss plateau is, let’s dive into the reasons they might happen.

When you first begin your weight loss journey many of us usually decrease our calories to create a calorie deficit. Basically, you’re aiming to burn more calories throughout the day than you take in to encourage weight loss. It’s been thought that as you lose weight your metabolism slows. A smaller you, means a lower resting metabolism (or lower calorie needs to keep you functioning). You also lose some muscle mass as you lose weight which can have an effect on this as well. The solution here isn’t necessarily to continue cutting your calories (we’ll get those in a bit). If your calories are too low, your body will actually defend itself against weight loss by adapting its metabolism to prevent it. One study, however, showed that while your metabolism certainly changes while you lose weight, this isn’t always the reason for a weight loss plateau. 

You might experience hormonal fluctuations that result in a weight loss plateau. When cutting calories to a certain point, the body starts to ramp up its defenses even more. Hormones like ghrelin, leptin, and insulin increase hunger and promote fat storage creating a perfect storm for weight gain and much (much) slower weight loss. Stress hormones like cortisol might also play a role in your weight loss plateau. While you might be fully aware of the mental pressure you’re under, your body is undergoing some physiological pressure make it harder to lose weight. Other hormones, such as estrogen and thyroid stimulating hormone, can play a role. If you think these might be impacting you make sure to talk with your doctor. 

Another reason, and possibly the most common reason, is that we simply get comfortable with our eating and take a step back from monitoring not only our calories but our portions and our choices. Sticking to a diet lower in calories for an extended period of time can be tough and once you feel like you’ve gotten the hang of it you put down the food logging and the measuring. You might have started to let in more nibbles of this or extras of that sneak into your diet without realizing it. This closes the calorie deficit gap and results in weight maintenance rather than weight loss, especially if a decrease in physical activity coincides along with it. Obviously we don’t want you to feel like you have to measure and log forever. After all this is about a lifestyle change that goes deeper than that. But to get to your weight loss goals, these are actions that can prove to be immensely helpful.  

Now that we’ve reviewed some common weight loss plateau contributors, let’s talk about some potential solutions to help you get past your weight loss plateau.

The dreaded weight loss plateau. You stand on the scale and nothing has changed for a while. What gives?! You’ve been losing steadily for weeks or even months and haven’t strayed far from balanced eating habits, sticking to your calories, and being physically active but can’t seem to get the scale to shift. It happens to all of us in the weight loss process at one point or another. This article will break down the ins and outs of weight loss plateaus and the need to knows behind them to get the scale moving once again.

Group of people at the gym

1. Stay hydrated

Drinking more water might seem like a less obvious weight loss plateau strategy than cutting back on calories or hitting the gym, but it’s a crucial component to losing weight and your health in general. There are many benefits to minimizing other drinks and replacing them with an extra glass of water or two. For example, water get give the sensation of feeling full resulting it helping you to manage your appetite. It can also help you manage your calories. Think about this. If just regular 1 soda (or sweetened tea) per day finds its way back into the mix you could be adding anywhere between 140 and 230 extra calories into your diet without fully realizing it. Drinking more water has also been theorized through research to increase metabolism and promote fat loss. 

2. Track your food intake

When losing weight, self-monitoring is an important step towards working past a weight loss plateau. More often than not, we tend to underestimate our intake of calories and put our calorie deficit for weight loss in jeopardy. In fact, you could be overshooting your calories much more than you’d think. One study found that women estimated that they ate about 1,500 calories each day but were really consuming about 2,300 calories, while men estimated that they ate about 2,000 calories but were eating closer to 3,000 calories every day. Not only can logging your food help on getting in the right amount of calories to promote weight loss but it can also help you assess your diet more clearly and objectively. You might notice eating patterns that you wouldn’t have otherwise seen that could also be contributing to your weight loss plateau. Pretty cool, no?

3. Increase exercise intensity or duration

Another way to get past a weight loss plateau is to up the ante on your workout routine. Increasing the intensity and/or duration can help widen your calorie deficit to help you get back to losing weight without having to put a huge dent in your food intake. A high-intensity interval training workout can increase intensity and calorie burn without you having to spend hours in the gym or on the walking trail. This type of high intensity workout also promotes the preservation (and building) of muscle mass which can boost metabolism to get you through your plateau. Those looking for a lower intensity workout out might increase their duration instead and aim for 300 minutes of moderate activity rather than 150 minutes. Check out these Best Exercises to Lose Weight Fast and find something that might work for you! 

4. Manage your stress

Stress can wreak havoc on our minds and bodies. When it comes to weight loss, stress could be one of the several things that stops it in its tracks. Over the years more and more research has shown cortisol’s role in hindering fat loss and promoting weight gain in both men and women. Stress might also trigger behaviors and cravings that lead us to eat more and want to be less active. A 2016 study also showed how stress can slow metabolism which encourages your weight loss plateau even more. There are so many different stress management strategies out there that it can be hard to know where to start. You might try: deep breathing techniques, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, soothing yoga. You could also try treating yourself to a massage, working in more sleep, or scheduling in time for a hobby or activity you enjoy. What it comes down to, is even a little self-care and “you time” can go a long way when it comes to stress and weight loss.  

5. Eat more veggies

We talked about logging food or starting a food journal to more closely monitor calories and choices but let’s get specific here and talk about vegetables. Vegetables can be an incredibly helpful addition to your diet when you are working to get back a weight loss plateau. They are fibrous which makes them filling, low in calories, and high in nutrients. They might also help when it comes to feeling satiated after a meal and reduce the urge to eat other foods lower in nutritious value but much higher in calories. When working to lose weight, those are basically the processed foods we want to steer clear of since they can wreck a calorie deficit when enjoyed over an extended time. Vegetables and other foods for weight loss help you manage your calories without feeling deprived at meal time. 

For more ways to break through a weight loss plateau and reach your goals, start your 14-day Noom trial today!