Weight Loss Plateaus: Main Causes and Top 12 Solutions

What is a weight loss plateau?

You have started a weight loss plan and have been following it for some time and you could not be more pleased with the results. You look better, feel better, and even have more confidence in yourself. All those things have made you that much more determined to reach your weight loss goals.

There is only one problem and it’s a big one; even though you’re eating and physical activity routines have not changed, you have suddenly stopped losing any weight at all. It can be a very frustrating experience to say the least. A weight loss plateau is a time period in which your body stops losing weight despite your diet and exercise efforts.  

Does that mean that your results have been hindered and you should quit your efforts? Of course not!   

Possible causes for weight loss plateaus

It is important to understand why you may have hit a weight loss plateau in the first place. Prior to finding some solutions for your weight loss plateau, here are some vital facts on weight loss plateaus that you need to know:

Weight loss plateaus are extremely common. If you don’t notice a weight loss plateau as you get to your ideal weight, you should feel extremely lucky. Weight loss plateaus are expected as you continue to lose weight. Your body is resistant to being changed. Many people who get to their ideal weight have had as many as 2-3 weight loss plateaus during that period of time. If changing your body were that simple, everyone would have a normal weight.

The more weight you lose, the harder it is to lose weight. It all comes down to mathematics. If you weigh a lot, losing a pound or so of fat is just a small percentage of your body weight. As you approach your ideal weight, a pound lost is a lesser percentage of your total body weight.

As you diet and exercise to lose weight, your body initially gets a nice boost in metabolism in order to start compensating for the loss of calorie intake. Over time, this compensation will slow down because you have lost fat and possibly lost some muscle too, as this can happen when you diet and do not perform some type of weight training exercise. A slower metabolism means less weight loss.

Losing weight becomes more difficult the closer you get to your ideal goal. Not only does your body work harder to keep your fat stores the thinner you become, the pace of weight loss is slower. The fact is that the ability to lose more fat goes down, as you get closer to your body weight. The most common weight loss plateaus occur at around 20-22 percent body fat, decreasing to around 12 percent body fat, as you get closer to your goal.

Mindless Cheating. Is it possible that you are allowing yourself to cheat a little bit on your diet now that you are bubbling over in confidence in your ability to lose weight and not even noticing that you are cheating more than you think?

Top 12 Solutions to Weight Loss Plateaus 

  • Push past the plateau by challenging the body.

Try getting on the treadmill every day for about thirty minutes and do some intense brisk walking. With time, your body gets too used to the same routine and you become less efficient at sticking with your goals. Try varying your physical activity so you can push the envelope to get past your weight loss plateau.

In your treadmill session, for example, try pushing up the incline or speed up for a little while to get your muscles really going. Keep at this higher intensity for a couple of minutes and then go back to what you are comfortable with, this type of High Intensity Interval Training is highly effective in keeping the body guessing, challenged and burning fat.

Make sure you include strength training, such as weight lifting, in your routine. Having more muscle on you will help you burn more calories so you’ll start losing weight again. The truth is that the body always strives to adapt, and once it does, it no longer needs to work so you must demand it to do so to go to the next level.

  • Step away.

If you keep weighing yourself and obsessing over the stuck scale, this will cause you stress and stress plays a key role in weight gain. Stress releases a hormone called cortisol, which is a major culprit in storing fat. So stop weighing yourself. Stay on track with your program, relax, and just let it go. If you continue to do what you need to, eventually you will start to see results again.

  • Take a closer look at your weight loss habits.

If you have lost weight and then hit a plateau, you may not understand why because you have not changed your eating or your physical routine at all. Or have you?

Sometimes you need to take a closer look at your habits that helped you lose weight and look for subtle changes in them. It could be something as simple as adding sweetened beverages back into your diet again or allowing yourself to eat larger portions of food than you were eating before. Maybe you have skipped more workouts than you thought lately?

Identifying any and all subtle ways in which you may have slipped in your weight loss plan and correcting them could be the key to helping you begin to drop those unwanted pounds again.

  • Don’t underestimate the calorie content of any food you eat.

This is a common error that can lead to a weight loss plateau. Make sure to identify the correct calorie count of everything you eat, and make sure to be sure the actual portions for those counts. If you are eating too many calories, this may be because of emotional triggers. Try tracking your feelings with the time of day and write down your feelings in order to discover those emotions and problem times that can cause you to eat too much.

Recognize what triggers you to eat and look for healthier foods to satisfy your appetite. At least find foods that help you deal with your emotions that don’t cause you to gain weight. Keep track of your progress and reward yourself with something you really like to do in order to pay yourself back for all the hard work you’ve put in.

  • The scale is not your only progress assessment tool.

Do you lift weights or perform any type of muscle building exercises? Did you know that muscle weighs more than fat? This is the reason that gym people and personal trainers rarely rely on the scale, but instead use a fat caliper to measure their body fat percentage. This is what concerns them much more than weight because a 250-pound man that is all muscle, could be 50 pounds overweight according to the governmental health guidelines, but if all that “excess” weight is muscle, and not fat then in reality is he is very healthy.

Use a tape measure to measure your waist, chest, and other parts of the body. Check how your clothes feel, are they loose? Use a fat caliper instead of just using the scale. All of these options will provide you with a much more realistic picture of the results of your efforts.

  • Watch portions.

Remain consistent with portion control to avoid accidently eating more calories than you need. This is why it is extremely important to consistently measure, and weigh your portions in the same ways that you usually do.

  • Eat lots of protein.

Studies show that eating a low carb, high protein diet can help control your hunger. High protein foods work by keeping the hormone ghrelin in check, which is a hormone secreted by the stomach that cause hunger. Carbs promote hunger, while protein satisfies it and keeps you full longer. Consuming high protein foods will decrease the level of ghrelin significantly, helping to keep hunger pangs under control.

  • Eat more vegetables.

Fill up on vegetables because they are chock-full of nutrients and low in calories. Try starting a meal with a bowl of broth or a vegetable salad rather than going straight to the main meal. Have plenty of vegetables on hand and ready to eat, to avoid the roadblock of washing and prep time. When you fill up on nutrient-dense and low-calorie vegetables, you are less likely to binge on highly processed foods.

  • Get cravings under control.

It’s true that when you diet you may get some pretty powerful hunger urges, but you can satisfy your hunger in a way that will not interfere with your weight loss. A lot of that has to do with eating certain foods.

One of the best ways to stabilize hunger and avoid out of control cravings is to limit your intake of unhealthy carbs; instead, focus on eating carbs low on the glycemic index, which means not eating anything white and avoiding starches and sugar.

Sticking to berries for a sweet tooth is a low carb option and eating more non-starchy vegetables instead of rice or pasta can go a long way to stabilizing your hunger, and keeping out of control cravings at bay.

  • Don’t starve yourself.

The opposite problem to increasing calories is not getting in enough calories to sustain your weight. If you chronically deprive your body of food, it will slow its metabolism down and you’ll have trouble losing weight. Starvation sends the body into survival mode, which means it will store anything and everything you do eat as fat for later use. Each meal you consume should be nutrient rich and include a healthy fat, a healthy carb, and a protein.

  • Get moving.

This sounds obvious, but many forget about physical activity and how little things really matter to get beyond a weight loss plateau. Stay consistent and exercise every day to boost metabolism, and this does not just mean going to the gym or performing structured workouts.

Try walking briskly instead of just strolling around the room. Get outdoors where you have more room to move around. As previously mentioned, many times people hit weight loss plateaus because their metabolism starts to slow again as they lose weight. Well, there is no better way to jumpstart weight loss again than by increasing the time you spend working out, being generally active or increasing the effort you put into your workouts. This is especially important for those who have a sedentary job.

Choose to go walk around a museum as opposed to going to a movie and sitting down. You can also go for a swim instead of chatting on the computer or take your dog for a walk instead of reading a book.

Your body will have no choice but to start using up its stored fat in order to supply itself with the energy it needs. The bottom line is that anything extra that you do physically each day can be a catalyst to help get you over a weight loss plateau.

  • Drink More Water.

Water is essential in weight loss because as the body loses weight it generates water as part of fat metabolism, so you need more water to reach a healthy water balance. Moreover, as fat cells shrink they release toxins, which must be removed by internal processes that involve the digestive system and liver.

Drinking plenty of water promotes this process and dehydration stalls it, and may interfere with hormones causing to increase fat stores. Drinking plenty of water also helps to regulate the appetite and promotes satiety.


Final Thoughts

Don’t give up on your diet or weight loss goals just because you hit a weight loss plateau. This is a very common thing.

You found a way to get the will power once to start losing weight. If you stay focused and determined and take some of the advice given here, you will find a way to get over your weight loss plateau, too. So, stay on track and keep going!