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 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 know as a weight loss plateau.
What Causes a Weight Loss Plateau?
A weight loss plateau can happen because our bodies are extremely adaptable. When we diet and reduce calories, our bodies can adjust to the lower calorie intake, meaning it might now require fewer calories than before.
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 the 15 top notch and evidence-based methods for breaking through a weight loss plateau with flying colors:
#1 Reassess Your Calorie Needs
When your body loses weight, it starts to require 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’s or dietitian’s office) is a great way to figure out how many calories your body needs just at rest. MyFitnessPal also has a BMR calculator.
Another option is decreasing your daily calories by 100-200 calories at a time to see if the scale starts to budge more. Just 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, creating the opposite effect.
#2 Track Everything
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 obese people found that while participants were self-reporting their daily calories at less than 1,200 calories, researchers found they were actually eating almost twice that amount on average! 
Thankfully, you can avoid the same mistakes by tracking your food intake. Track both calories and your macronutrients: protein, carbs, and fat. Use a phone app, such as MyFitnessPal, to make it easy.
#3 Get More Shut-Eye
Are you getting your full eight hours? For many 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 to help you lose body fat. Lacking sleep even a little bit over time can increase levels of the stress hormones cortisol, which causes fat gain especially around the midsection.
Plus, a sleep-deprived body is much more likely to lack energy, have a slower metabolism, and have cravings for very unhealthy foods, making preparing healthy meals and keeping up with workouts much harder.
#4 Watch Your Sugar Intake
Cutting out sugar can lead to very quick weight loss, and getting rid of any you’re skill eating can help with a plateau.
Be conscious of added sugars or high-calorie sweeteners. Even if you’re already eating pretty clean, companies can be really sneaky about sugars in foods, 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 are added extra calories with very little, if any, nutrition.
If you’ve already done this, 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 is, the better. If you’re still consuming processed foods but experiencing a plateau, try upgrading your foods even more:
- Think whole foods like fruits and vegetables, beans and 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!
(Don’t forget that it’s often difficult to get all of your necessary trace minerals from food. To ensure optimum nutrition while overcoming your plateau, supplement with Mimi’s Miracle Minerals.)
#6 Increase Your Fiber
Besides decreasing your risk of disease and lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, eating fiber can help enhance weight loss .
Foods with fiber help you feel full sooner and longer by slowing down food movement through your digestive tract and can even help decrease the amount of calories absorbed.
#7 Eat Enough Protein
Eating more protein can help you hypercharged that weight loss:
- Foods rich in this nutrient can suppress the hormone ghrelin and stimulate the hormone PYY, increasing fullness and satiety and 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 20 grams of protein 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” means? Here’s how it works:
- You’ll eat six apples over a 24-hour period, starting at noon 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, but don’t 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 sodas, alcohols, 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 easy excess to quick and empty calories.
The solution is simple: don’t drink any of your calories, and just drink water.
Drink lots of water.
Water calorie-free and great for you. Research has even shown it can 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 so you can keep hunger 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.
Try to drink about 80-100 fluid ounces of water each day.
#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 level of cortisol, the stress hormone, in the body, which can boost fat storage around the stomach around. 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 may 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.
#11 Try Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is hot right now! And for good reason: it 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 the 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.
#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.
Try switching 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 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.
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 makes 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 at the gym, your weight might stay the same or even increase, but it could be from muscle (good) rather than fat. 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.
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Note that this information is presented as educational in nature and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure or prevent any disease.