It happens to runners and endurance athletes, and it happens to dieters, too: You’re working hard to meet your weight-loss goal when suddenly, the needle on the scale refuses to budge. This roadblock often occurs just after your initial weight loss, and again when you can’t seem to lose those last few pounds. It’s very discouraging to keep working hard when you can’t see the fruits of your labor. To make things worse, these weight-loss plateaus can last from several days to months.

If your weight loss has come to an abrupt halt, you must be wondering: Am I doing something wrong?

According to the experts, hitting these plateaus is nothing unusual. As your weight drops and your body composition changes, so do your nutritional needs. There are several reasons why your weight can hit a plateau:

  • As your weight goes down, you not only lose fat but also a small amount of muscle. It’s estimated that up to 25% of the body tissue lost during weight loss comes from muscle. Since muscle is critical to keeping your metabolism perking, losing it can reduce your metabolic rate and hinder weight loss. Strength training can help preserve and build muscle to get your metabolism humming again.
  • The set point theory alleges that your body naturally tries to maintain a certain weight where it is most comfortable. If you find yourself stuck at the same weight time and again, you may have reached the comfort zone. Reducing much further typically results in regaining weight.
  • You may need fewer calories or more physical activity to sustain your lower weight. This is the most likely cause of a weight-loss plateau. Further, it’s almost impossible to lose much weight without exercising. Many scientists agree that whether you exercise is the best way to predict whether you’ll successfully maintain your weight.
  • Other factors that can influence weight loss include thyroid or adrenal gland problems, medications you’re taking, pregnancy, breastfeeding, menopause, and quitting smoking.

But more than likely, your weight is at a plateau because your portion sizes have crept up, and/or your workouts have decreased in intensity or frequency. You also may be indulging in high-calorie foods more often.

The truth of the matter is that most people let down their guard a little after their initial weight loss. It’s perfectly natural to get more comfortable with the eating plan, and possibly overlook the prescribed portion sizes or quantities. The result is weight maintenance instead of further weight loss.

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10 Tips to Overcome a Weight-Loss Plateau

So you stopped drinking soda and bringing ice cream into the house, and the weight started to peel off. This boosted your confidence, so you joined a gym to burn some extra calories on the stationary bike. All of your efforts paid off and you lost weight, possibly even a lot of weight … well, for a while. But now you feel stuck; you feel as if you’ve reached a weight-loss plateau.

Possibly you’re at a healthy weight, albeit above your dream weight, but those pesky 5-10-15 pounds are still lingering. Why? Are you just dreaming too big and searching for something that is out of reach? If you’re at a healthy weight, this might be because the body likes to maintain a stable weight, also known as set-point weight. While your body’s set point can be adjusted, it can take some time to get there.

As you are losing weight, it can be tempting to cut calories too low to shed pounds faster. The down side to this technique: your muscle can be used as energy and this gradually slows your metabolism to spare energy. Whether you find yourself above your body’s natural set-point weight or if you’re hard pressed to lose those vanity pounds, here are 10 ways to overcome a weight-loss plateau.

1. Adjust your calorie intake. As you lose weight, your metabolism can drop because your body requires less calories or “energy” to fuel a smaller you. The calorie intake that you initially had when you began your weight-loss journey will need to be adjusted to match your body’s current needs for weight loss. Make sure to revise your calorie goal in MyFitnessPal every 10 pounds or so.

2. Focus on quality. Busting through a weight-loss plateau is more than calories in and calories out. Processed foods won’t cut it anymore, thus quality whole foods like vegetables, beans, high-fiber fruits and lean proteins are needed for your engine to burn body fat.

3. Rotate your routine. Slugging away on the treadmill for the past four months? It’s time to change up your workouts. The muscles become familiar with the same old workout, making your regular routine less effective. To see a change in body fat, you have to get outside of your fitness comfort zone. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been shown to burn body fat effectively. Try doing speed work at the track, a boot camp class at the gym, or alternate walking and running intervals. Note: Just progress slowly and deliberately when incorporating high-intensity exercise into your routine. Doing too much too fast can leave you too sore, tired or even injured.

4. Beware of clean-up duty. An extra bite here, a little nibble there. Those calories DO count, even if they aren’t on your plate. Mindlessly munching on the kids’ (or spouse’s) leftovers during clean up seems harmless, but resist the snack urge because it might be what’s keeping you from seeing results.

5. Know your numbers. If you’ve been watching what you eat and exercising more and your weight is not budging, consult with your doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions that could make it difficult for you to lose weight.

6. Sleep. A full night’s sleep is vital to losing body fat because it resets your hormones. Even a little sleep deprivation can lead to increased cortisol, a stress hormone. Elevated cortisol levels can lead to body fat accumulation around the midsection.

7. Keep a closer eye on your caloric needs. Research has shown that people often overestimate how many calories they burn during exercise, and underestimate how many calories they eat. To better approximate your caloric needs, use the MyFitnessPal basal metabolic rate calculator to learn how many calories you burn a day if you did nothing but rest for 24 hours. Use your basal metabolic rate as a benchmark to subtract the approximate number of calories burned during activity. Keep in mind that the number of calories burned during activity can vary.

8. Flush with fluids. Keep your hydration in check since the body will often crave food when you are even mildly dehydrated. Symptoms of dehydration are similar to symptoms of hunger, so it’s easy to confuse the two. Aim to drink 80-100 fluid ounces (2.35 liters) of water per day plus additional fluids lost during activity.

9. Increase muscle mass. Want to burn more calories at rest? Lift (heavier) weights and follow a strength-training program to build muscle. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, and the more body fat you’ll shed.

10. Eat more protein. Protein has the highest thermic effect of food, meaning eating protein burns more calories during digestion. Protein also contains an amino acid, leucine, that numerous research studies have identified as a potent catalyst for burning body fat.

Put these tried and true tips into action, and soon you’ll be saying, “What weight-loss plateau?”

It’s important to know these foods aren’t necessarily bad for you, but they are high in calories, and people tend to assume they’re healthy, eat too much of them, and then can’t lose weight. Doing your best to eat these foods in moderation will definitely help rev-up your weight loss again, Parrott says.

9. Do NOT skimp on the fiber.

This is a big one, Weinandy says, pointing out that “fiber stays in the stomach longer.” As a result, that can help you feel fuller, longer, so you’re not reaching for unhealthy foods in a desperate moment of hanger.

Another fiber pro? It helps you poop and can help keep things moving in your GI tract, Stanford says—always a plus when you’re trying to lose weight. Try adding more high-fiber foods like lentils, black beans, and even (your fave) avocados, to your diet to get more of the filling nutrient.

10. Add some HIIT to your workout.

Here’s one totally crappy thing about working out: Your body actually gets used to same exercise routine. “It will adapt fairly quickly, unfortunately,” Weinandy says.

Adding interval training to the mix can help, Dr. LePort says. When you add something new and unfamiliar, like sprints in the middle of your run or jumping jacks, it causes your body to work harder and burn more calories, he explains.

Plus, you can get more out of your workout in a shorter period of time. One study published in the Journal of Obesity found that people who did HIIT lost more body fat than those who just did standard cardio. Just keep in mind that muscle weighs more than fat, so you may notice your pants fitting looser even if the scale doesn’t change.

Need inspiration? Try this HIIT workout:

11. Carry a water bottle around with you—everywhere.

Water is a game-changer when it comes to weight loss, for a few reasons: For starters, it keeps you hydrated (key for your workouts, and life in general). But it’s also easy to mistake being thirsty for being hungry, Stanford says—and that can lead to unnecessary noshing. “If you have already eaten, and one hour later you feel ‘hungry,’ try drinking fluids first,” Parrott says.

Carry around a water bottle with you at all times, so it’s there when you need it.

12. Eat vegetables at Every. Single. Meal.

That way, you’re replacing higher calorie foods you would have otherwise eaten with lower calorie, healthier fare, Weinandy says. Adding veggies at every meal also increases your fiber intake, which, again, helps fill you up and keeps you feeling fuller, longer.

Korin Miller Korin Miller is a freelance writer specializing in general wellness, sexual health and relationships, and lifestyle trends, with work appearing in Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Self, Glamour, and more.

  • 1. Eat Water-Rich (Not Fat-Rich) Foods.

    Fill up on water-rich, fiber-filled foods like vegetables, fruits, beans, hot cereals, potatoes, corn, yams, whole-wheat pasta, and brown rice. Foods with a lot of water usually provide a lot of stomach-filling volume, but not a lot of calories.

    A pound of vegetables, for example, adds up to a mere 65 to 195 calories. Yet it’s one whole pound of food. A pound of fruit is only about 200 to 400 calories. A pound of beans, hot cereals, potatoes, corn, yams, whole-wheat pasta, or brown rice ranges from just 400 to 750 calories.

    By contrast, a pound of dried cereal, fat-free chips, or white sugar (no water in any of these foods) is packed with 1,600 to 1,725 calories.

    Talking in terms of pounds is important because the storage capacity of your stomach is two to three pounds, and your stomach really doesn’t care whether you eat 500 calories to fill it up, or 5,000. Once it’s filled to capacity and its stretch receptors have alerted you that it’s full, you’re pretty much done eating.

    So you can fill up on a big platter of water-rich, fiber-rich pasta topped with marinara sauce and lots of grilled vegetables for about 400 calories or the same size platter heaped with fatty, fiberless fare like a pastrami on rye, potato chips, and cookies for a whopping 1,400 calories. For both meals, satiety is the same, but calorie input is drastically different. Soon, your waistline will be, too.

    Nicely, water-rich, fiber-rich foods offer one other priceless bonus – they’re the best foods for your health. Scores of studies have found that the populations of the world whose diets are based on whole, natural foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans have the longest lives and the lowest rates of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and many cancers on earth.

  • 2. Ditch the Dry Stuff.

    Steer clear of dry foods, particularly high-fat choices, like chips, crackers, candy bars, trail mix, and cookies and other baked goods. These are among the lowest satiety-per-calorie foods you can eat. They force you to choose between being fat or being chronically hungry.

    Dry but healthier options like bagels, pretzels, dried cereals, fat-free chips, and dried fruit should be limited, too, because all dry foods pack a whole lot of calories into very small packages. It’s shockingly easy to swallow literally 1,000 to 2,000 button-popping calories long before you’ve ever begun to feel satiated.

  • 3. Start Out With a Big Satisfying Salad.

    Start lunch and dinner with a huge salad full of fresh vegetables. In restaurants, especially, big salads will help fill you up so that you’ll eat less of the more calorie-dense fare that follows. At salad bars, go back for seconds, even thirds!

    “Use a dressing with lots of vinegar but little or no oil,” advises Dr. Kenney. “Beans and whole grains are good additions to salads, but leave off croutons, fatty meats, mayonnaise salads, creamy dressings, and cheese. They can dramatically increase the calorie density and undo most of the benefits of eating a salad.”

    Three cups of salad full of fresh veggies add up to a mere 100 calories. Three cups of salad with cheese, full-fat dressings, and bacon bits tally up 600 calories and more, yet provide little extra satiety for all those extra calories.

  • 4. Make Good Use of Your Soup Spoons.

    Every day, if possible, enjoy soup, stew, and/or chili (yes, more “wet” food) rich in whole grains, beans, vegetables, and a little lean animal protein like fish or chicken – or no animal protein at all, if you prefer. Soups, stews, and chili can “provide a whole lot of satiety per calorie if they are low in fat and high in fiber-rich foods,” says Dr. Kenney.

    In several studies at Penn State University, scientists found that people who ate veggie- and grain-rich soups and stews tended to eat fewer calories overall by day’s end than people who did not eat any soups or stews for the day.

  • 5. Don’t Drink Your Calories.

    Cut out calorie-containing beverages like soft drinks, alcohol, milk shakes, and even fruit and vegetable juices. “When you drink your calories, you get cheated on satiety,” explains Dr. Kenney. “Whether you drink a diet coke or a regular coke, you’ll likely eat the same burger and fries. And you get hungry about the same number of hours later. A regular coke adds calories, but not satiety, to your meal.”

    The same goes for fruit and vegetable juices. After a glass of orange juice, you’re far more likely to consume more food (and more calories) than if you’d eaten a whole orange. What’s more, the glass of orange juice alone is double the calories (100 to 110) of a medium-sized whole orange (50).

    And every calorie does count. Just 100 extra calories per day can easily translate into about 10 added pounds per year.

    So rather than drinking fruit juice, eat your fruit. Peel an orange. Finish off a big crisp apple. Snack on carrots. For the calories in one kid-size box of apple juice, you can enjoy an apple, an orange, and a slice of watermelon. Now that’s satiating.

  • 6. Get Simple.

    Watch out for buffets and other places with increased variety of tastes, textures, colors, and flavors. Variety stimulates appetite. “Look what happens at a restaurant,” points out Dr. Kenney. “We’re so full we can’t eat another bite, but then the dessert cart rolls around, and all of a sudden, there’s something new to taste and smell, so we cram that dessert right down.”

    When you’re satiated, the only foods that may tempt you to eat more are those that are low in satiety yet high in calories, like rich desserts. “Rich desserts are great for packing on the pounds but a disaster if you want to lose weight and keep it off,” warns Dr. Kenney.

    “If you’re limiting your variety of choices at each meal, you’ll actually feel full on fewer calories. That’s how you’ll lose weight.”

  • 7. Get In Touch With Your Stomach

    Eat only when you’re hungry. That doesn’t mean you wait till you’re famished and lunging for every cheeseburger in sight. Rather, listen for those little hunger pangs that tell you, “Time to eat.” Then go ahead and eat.

    By waiting to eat till you’re hungry, you’re getting more satiety out of that meal than if you’d eaten the same meal when you weren’t hungry. More satiety means less calorie intake overall. “Research shows that people who were told to wait till they were hungry to eat an afternoon snack ate fewer calories at dinner than people who ate the same snack earlier in the afternoon, when they weren’t hungry,” says Dr. Kenney.

    There’s another nice bonus of eating only when you’re hungry. Food’s tastier. Yes, there’s a lot of truth to the old saying, “Hunger is the best sauce.”

    Hunger makes everything tastes better. “If you’re really hungry, a plain baked potato, a little piece of fish, and some steamed vegetables tastes pretty darn good,” laughs Dr. Kenney.

    By contrast, food like baked potatoes and veggies will seem unappealing if you’re constantly eating (hungry or not) low-satiety, high-calorie foods like fatty meats, croissants, and chocolate. A low satiety-per-calorie diet results in a vicious pattern of eating mostly fattening foods, which lead to increased body fat stores and increased risk of heart attacks, many types of cancer, and numerous other ills.

  • 8. Skip Dessert – Or Opt For Healthy Choices

    If you’re still hungry after dinner, enjoy fresh fruit. Splurge at the market or restaurant on the choicest, most delectable of seasonal fruits – raspberries, strawberries, cherries, peaches, mangoes, guavas. “Sweet” doesn’t get any better! If fruit seems unappealing, you’re not really hungry.

    So at day’s end, what’s really going on? Cravings for calorie-rich desserts happen, not because of hunger, but because of bad food habits. “The only way to get free of these cravings is to not give in to them,” counsels Dr. Kenney.

    It’s tough. Evening is the witching hour, that time when other feelings take over, like boredom, anxiety, anger, or the need for a reward, driving us to indulge. Many of us eat the most fattening foods of the day at nighttime – when we’re not hungry.

    Do your best to search out noncaloric rewards – an evening massage, a yoga class, a walk at sunset, browsing through your favorite bookstore, a good movie, a phone call to a favorite old friend. What started out as a distraction may in fact turn into your nighttime diversion of choice. (And you’ll like yourself a lot more come morning.)

  • 9. Pump It Up – But Not Too Much

    There’s no question that boosting your calorie burn from exercise can accelerate loss of excess body fat. That’s why the Pritikin Program recommends a comprehensive plan involving about 60 minutes of aerobic activity at least six days a week, resistance training two to three times weekly, and stretching, optimally every day, explains Scott Danberg, MS, Director of Exercise.

    “If you’re falling below these guidelines, do your best to get back on track,” encourages Scott. “And don’t forget interval training – one to two minutes of high intensity aerobic exercise alternated with one to two minutes of low intensity exercise. Intervals really can burn extra calories and help you break through weight-loss plateaus.”

    Just don’t go overboard with exercise. With bouts that burn more than 500 to 600 calories, you may be reaching a point of diminishing returns, explains Dr. Kenney. “Moderate amounts of physical activity will not increase appetite, but large amounts will. You’ll burn more calories, but you’ll eat more, too.”

    And, of course, no amount of exercise makes up for a lousy diet. “I don’t care how long you go for a jog in the morning if you do what Bill Clinton used to do and stop off at McDonald’s for an Egg McMuffin. This plan won’t produce weight loss. It’ll produce heart disease,” warns Dr. Kenney.

  • 10. Keep Your Eye On the Prize

    It really is true: Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels. Nothing feels better than going down a dress size, and another, and another – or cinching your belt tighter and tighter.

    “What’s more, the thinner you get, the more you enjoy eating healthy foods,” says Dr. Kenney. “Eating is more pleasurable when it is driven by hunger rather than by boredom, anxiety, or the clock.”

    Need a boost? “Get back to Pritikin,” encourages Dr. Kenney. “It’s the easiest, fastest way to break through weight-loss plateaus. And the best way to ensure that you stay lean and healthy for life. That’s the best prize there is.”

Watching the pounds fall off after staying true to a workout program and healthy eating plan is an amazingly gratifying reward. But for many people, a weight-loss plateau shows up at some point or another. Of course weight loss isn’t the only goal of sticking with a healthy routine, but if that’s your goal, it’s insanely frustrating when your results come to a screeching halt despite how much effort you’re putting in.

Before you read any further, it’s important to note that weight loss as a goal isn’t necessarily for everyone. For anyone who has a history of disordered eating, even if you’re in recovery, you should speak with a doctor before you pursue any weight loss goal. And even if you don’t have a history of disordered eating, it’s really important to have realistic expectations, as well as to make sure you’re pursuing this objective in a healthy way. Results can be incredibly difficult to come by, and can take a very long time to achieve. They’re also really hard to maintain. And everyone’s experience losing weight is very different. There’s a lot more that goes into it than just creating a calorie deficit (burning more, eating fewer)—your sleep habits, stress levels, genetics, and other health factors all play into the weight-loss equation, making it a very unique experience for every person.

If you’ve been trying to lose weight and have hit a weight-loss plateau, know that it’s also totally normal. And while you may jump to conclude you reached one because you weren’t working hard enough, or your willpower wasn’t up to par, it may be comforting to know that this phenomenon is a result of your biological needs trying to counter your efforts. And you’re more than capable of fighting back.

Why do we reach weight-loss plateaus?

Hitting a plateau is extremely common, and happens for many reasons. “If you are successfully losing weight, you’ll most likely hit a plateau at some point,” Amanda Foti, M.S., R.D., a senior dietitian at Selvera Weight Management Program, tells SELF. A plateau is when weight loss stagnates even when you’re diligent about your food and fitness habits. How quickly you reach one can take anywhere from a few weeks to a couple months, depending on the person.

There are many reasons why weight loss may taper off after initial success. Your body may start to adapt to your training routine—when you don’t vary your workouts, they can become less challenging and less effective over time. And even if you’re strength training regularly, it’s normal to lose a little muscle along with fat. Lean muscle is better at burning calories when the body is at rest, so the slight dip may cause your metabolism to slow down. Losing weight in general lowers your body’s energy needs, decreasing your metabolic rate even further. If you don’t adjust your caloric intake as your weight changes, you can end up consuming more than you should to lose weight.

Our bodies also react to lower caloric intake and weight loss by doing the opposite of what we want. (Thanks, biology.) “As we begin to lose weight on a conventional calorie-restricted diet—following the ‘eat less, move more’ approach—the body fights back thinking that it is entering a state of starvation,” David Ludwig, M.D., Ph.D., a professor in the department of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, tells SELF. Cue the release of stress hormones like cortisol, which has been shown to promote fat storage.

@Smaz95 wrote:

Hi,

I’m currently stuck on a weight loss plateau and need some help. I first started losing weight in April this year and everything was going fine until around mid-July when my weight suddenly plateaued. Since then I haven’t been able to lose any weight and it’s starting to get mentally draining. I’m currently eating between 1100-1300 calories a day and working out 6 days a week doing at least 45mins of a combination of high intentisty cardio and resistance training. I understand that I may be eating too little but don’t understand how I’m meant to increase calories and not gain weight. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Current stats:

Gender: Female

Height: 5’3” (162cm)

Weight: 134lb (61kg)

Age: 23

Congratulations on your weight loss journey and loosing some weight. But let me explain your situation a little bit more scientifically so you can realize the truth about Calories In and Calories Out. Calories In and Calories Out is a very simplistic way of explaining how one can loose weight. It is not entirely the truth either, because our bodies do not operate on the CICO principle. Our bodies operate on hormones and that is based on your health and what you put into your mouth, not really how much calories you eat. Calories In and Calories Out made it possible for health diet companies to sell all kinds of products all the time year over year, because on the outside, it sounds really simple and this sells. Reduce calories and you’ll loose weight. That is somewhat partially true. What happens first in your case is that when you begin restricting calories by eating less and exercising more, you reduce the glycogen storage in your muscles (fuel for your muscles). In turn, what you lost initially by restricting calories is water weight. Now you probably heard that exercising is also good in keeping muscle mass, plus burning fat since you exercise 6 days a week for 45min. This promotes the muscle building process called Mitochondrial Biogenesis (sounds funky huh!?!). Increase in lean muscle mass will help burn fat, at least in theory and prevent the process called Glyconeogenesis (basically turning lean muscle mass into sugar for the fuel your body needs. Everyone will hit a plateau after the initial water loss and you will plateau for about 3 months at the most for your current metabolism to adapt to the new diet and exercise regime. The next weight loss process will be mainly fat loss. This takes much more effort. Now, if you have plateau for a long time though, there is an explanation for this. And that is, you are not burning any excess fat, plus when you eat less and exercise too much, this tells the body that you are in famine mode. The body will keep the fat. If you didn’t exercise and keep eating less, you will loose weight, but this will be in a form of lean muscle mass loss — Glyconeogenesis. This is not good. So the only thing that saved you from loosing lean muscle mass is your exercise, but eating less and exercise more do not necessarily burn fat!

Remember that fat burning is all about hormones and with women, the estrogen level. One of the main hormonal determinant of fat loss is “Insulin”. When insulin is present in your body, your body will not burn fat. When cortisol is present in your body due to stress from growing up and trying to be an image of a slender person, insulin will kick in and prevent you from burning fat.

Focus on reducing your sugar intake, especially with refined sugar and eat healthy as much as you can. I know that at your age, it is difficult as you may not yet be making a good enough income to selectively choose the diet you eat outside what you family provides. Most North American diet are laced with sugar, because it is cheaper to produce. You simply can’t avoid hidden sugar if you value your friends and your family. Bread, pasta, and whole grains are some examples of the hidden sugars. Second is to let you body rest after the exercise so you can sleep well. The majority of fat burning happens at night in your sleep, especially during your deep sleep not during your exercise. If you are not getting deep refreshing sleep, then you’re not efficiently burning fat. And you have to exercise more than 90 minutes in order to burn some proportion of your body fat.

Do not focus yourself on Calories In and Calories Out. It’s a flawed concept from the very beginning.

Your new diet and fitness routine had you dropping pounds and looking and feeling good – until it suddenly just stopped. What to do now? Jillian sounds off on the “myth” of the weight-loss plateau and shares her strategies to get the scale moving in the right direction again!

Question #1: Are You Keeping Track of Your Daily Calories?

Truth be told, I mostly think of plateaus as a myth. My philosophy on weight-loss plateaus is that someone claiming to have hit one isn’t paying enough attention to detail. When you first start a diet and fitness program, you make drastic changes — maybe you gave up fast food, stopped drinking soda, etc., your body responded to that and initially you lost weight fast for a month or so. However, to continue losing weight, you’ll need to create a consistent calorie deficit until you reach your desired goal. This means you’ll need to start paying attention to how many calories you’re consuming and how many you’re burning. Remember, to lose one pound of fat you will need to burn roughly 3,500 calories. To lose 2 pounds a week you will have to burn 1000 more calories a day than you are consuming.

The only way to track this accurately is to count calories at every single meal. I know that it can be time-consuming and tedious, but this has been proven again and again by researchers. A study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine showed that the more regularly a dieter kept a food log, the more weight they lost. That’s another reason why I don’t want to hear that you’ve plateaued if you aren’t keeping detailed logs. Try using a tracking device / personal body monitor that can help you track how many calories you’re burning in a day — PLUS, the Jillian Michaels app syncs with My Fitness Pal so you can also use that to track all of the calories you’re consuming in a day.

Question #2: Are You Trying to Lose Vanity Pounds?

If you’re only trying to lose five, 10, or 15 pounds, you’re in a different place than someone who wants to drop a large amount of weight. Your body is likely not unhealthy, but you prefer a slimmer aesthetic — and this is what I refer to as vanity pounds. The human body doesn’t want to be carrying around excess weight, so it generally responds quickly and easily to diet and exercise. However, when you have a smaller amount of weight you want to lose, your body is likely already healthy, which makes it tougher to lose weight. This is because your body has evolved to hold on to a few extra pounds of body fat (especially if you are female) for survival purposes and child bearing. Our genetics haven’t caught up to the fact that food is no longer seasonally plentiful and that an abundance of calories is pretty much accessible to most at all times. Ironically, what most people in this situation do is cut more calories or increase their time at the gym, but this method will not work. All that does is trigger your body that too much energy is going out and not enough energy is going in so it slows down your metabolism and releases fat storing hormones. The best fix here is to take a few rest days, up your calories by 10% a week until you get yourself to a point where you are creating no more than a 500 calorie a day deficit. You will be amazed at how quickly your body will respond to this strategy and begin getting lean.

Question #3: Do You Need to Change Up Your Workout?

If you’re overweight (not trying to lose vanity pounds), tracking calories in and out every day, and still not shedding any weight, here’s what you need to do: Switch up your workout. Your body adapts to any type of exercise over time. The first time you run a mile, it is probably going to be rough. But by the 40th time you run a mile, it’s a lot easier, right? As you get used to a type of exercise, it becomes less challenging and, as a result, less effective. That’s why it’s so important to mix it up. Alternate the amount of weight you lift — go heavy one week with fewer reps and lighter the next with more reps. Change the type of exercise you do for each muscle. One week, do push-ups, then chest flies, then chest presses. They all work the same part of your body, but in very different ways.

Question #4: Do You Have a Hormone Imbalance?

If you’ve followed my advice up until now and nothing still has worked, there’s one last thing that might be causing your plateau: a hormone imbalance. A thyroid disorder, insulin resistance, polycystic ovary syndrome — they could all be making your body hold onto pounds. Don’t immediately assume this is the problem, but if you have truly tried everything else, it might be worth going to an endocrinologist and exploring this issue with a medical professional who can evaluate you personally.

We’ve all been there: you’re a few months into your new diet or exercise regime, and those pounds you saw slipping off week after week have all of a sudden come to a halt.

It can be extremely frustrating to see that number on the scale freeze, especially if you can’t think of any changes you’ve made that could have caused the weight loss plateau. But no matter how strictly you’ve kept your weight loss program up, there’s always some reason you’ve hit a roadblock—and the frustrating truth is, it usually points back to your own habits.

“There’s no magical barrier that’s going to cause you to stop making progress,” says Lawrence Cheskin, MD, director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center. “If it feels like something has happened, take a step back and look at what you’re doing.”

The key is to pinpoint why exactly you’ve hit a weight loss plateau and to tackle the problem head on. Here are some of the most common reasons people stop losing weight and how to overcome them.

The problem: You’re bored

Sumetee Theesungnern / EyeEmGetty Images

Just like every other aspect of life, if you’re eating the same three meals every day or doing the exact same exercise routine every morning, chances are, you’re going to get bored. And when you’re bored, you’re more likely to spice things up by, say, eating a heaping pile of ice cream after your otherwise healthy dinner.

And if you’re not loving your exercise routine? You’ll probably just end up exercising less overall—meaning you’ll be burning fewer calories than you take in, causing the number on the scale to hit a halt.

✔️ Weight loss fix: Allow yourself the freedom to treat yourself and stay open to trying new things—but in healthy portions. “Sometimes you have to mix it up by changing the pattern or giving yourself a time to go out and have a restaurant meal or change the type of food you’re eating,” says Dr. Cheskin.

“You can add something different than what you’ve been eating that’s still reasonably consistent with the diet plan you’re trying to follow,” he explains. For instance, instead of your typical chicken and veggies, branch out and try one of these 25 healthy and flavorful chicken recipes for weight loss instead.

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If it’s exercise boredom that’s hanging you up, try incorporating new exercise styles into your workout plan. If you’re usually a treadmill bunny, for example, try mixing in some strength training. “Our bodies get used to certain activities and become more efficient doing them overtime,” says Liz Weinandy, MPH, RD, a dietitian specializing in weight management at The Ohio State University Medical Center Nutrition Services.

The key is to find enjoyment in your routine. If you try out a new exercise and find you don’t like it, then go back to what you know you enjoy. “If I tell a swimmer to go running to vary it up, but they really love swimming and running is just “OK,” they probably will end up exercising less overall,” says Weinandy, which will perpetuate the plateau.

The problem: You’re snacking too often

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This is especially true late at night or even after workouts. “If you go to the snack bar at the gym as soon as you’ve gotten off the treadmill, you might actually not lose weight,” says Dr. Cheskin. “You might gain weight because you’re taking in more calories than you just burned.”

It’s common for people to think they’re doing well with their regime and for old habits like snacking to start slowly creeping their way back in, which can halt—or even reverse—your weight loss progress, says Weinandy.

This goes for healthy snacks, too. While they can be a great weight loss tool, that guacamole can backfire if you end up eating the whole bowl. Another example: even though almonds are satiating and full of healthy fats, doubling your serving size can mean downing 328 calories instead of 165.

✔️ Weight loss fix: To avoid falling prey to snacking, don’t focus on completely eliminating “trigger foods” like potato chips or ice cream from your diet. Instead, focus on portion control and eating them within a healthy amount. “Allowing them occasionally is a good idea, like 1 cup of ice cream once a week or 2 small single serving bags of potato chips weekly,” says Weinandy. That way, you avoid mindlessly eating them while satisfying those cravings.

Another important thing to keep in mind? “It’s OK to have periods of hunger, like before going to bed,” says Weinandy. But remember that a healthy level of hunger is different than starvation. “Some people have to nearly starve themselves to lose weight and at that point, one really needs to examine what to do differently,” says Weinandy. A doctor or registered dietitian can help steer you in the right direction here.

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The problem: You’re not keeping track of what you’re eating

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This seemingly simple task is often one of the first to fall by the wayside during weight loss, but not keeping track of the food you are downing can be a huge downfall for your success with shedding pounds. Tracking includes not just keeping count of your calories, but also accurately measuring out your serving sizes.

“We tend to sometimes, after awhile, start ‘eyeballing’ our portions and being a little more generous with our servings,” says Vijaya Surampudi, MD, assistant director of the UCLA Weight Management Program.

Even an extra 200 calories a day adds up quickly—that’s an extra 1,400 calories per week, or about a whole extra day’s worth for many women trying to lose weight.

✔️ Weight loss fix: The trouble is, tracking calories and monitoring your food intake can be boring, so it’s common for people to forego this step in their weight loss journeys. “Some people get bored with it and they’d rather have their teeth pulled than track their calories, and that’s fine,” says Dr. Cheskin. “If you’re somebody who just wants general, ‘Am I doing well? Am I not doing well?’, then probably the only data you need is what the scale says on a daily basis.”

But if you are trying to stay the course with tracking and are having a hard time sticking to it, Dr. Cheskin recommends only tracking on the days you’re most prone to straying. “So maybe just do it on the weekends, when you’re more social and eating out,” he says.

The problem: You’re feeling stressed or emotional

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We’ve all done it: we had a bad day at work or got into an argument with our significant other, and we turn to a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. For a lot of us, we use food as a way to combat the negative emotions or stress we might be feeling.

“It’s part of our culture,” says Dr. Cheskin. “One of the ways we deal with things is to go into the kitchen and eat something that tastes good, feels good. And yet it’s not all that different from going and having an alcoholic drink or taking a shot of cocaine or something. It’s potentially addicting and feels good for the moment, but it’s not so good for you in the long run. It doesn’t solve the problem that you’re using it for.”

✔️ Weight loss fix: If you notice yourself digging into a pile of Godiva every time a new project is assigned to you at work or you’re having a rough week, try to realize that problem for what it is: stress, sadness, or anger—not hunger. “Be conscious of not letting other people determine what you eat, and not using food as a substitute for dealing with hard things in life,” says Dr. Cheskin.

Plus, the more you emotionally eat, the more likely you are to gain back weight, which will create yet another stressor in your life. “One of the best ways to combat this is to work with a therapist while trying to lose weight,” says Weinandy. “There are many reasons we eat other than for fuel and health. When the reasons become numerous and tied to emotions, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to lose weight.”

The problem: You’re losing muscle

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One of the downsides of weight loss is that as we burn fat, we also start to lose muscle. That can create a snowball effect. “If we lose muscle, it affects our metabolism, and we are burning less calories than we previously were,” says Dr. Surampudi. That’s because muscle is metabolically active tissue, which simply means it helps you burn more calories at rest.

✔️ Weight loss fix: “Make sure you are getting enough protein so you stay fuller longer,” says Dr. Surampudi. “It also may help rebuild some muscle while you’re working out to help boost your metabolism.” These high protein foods are a good place to start. Then, try to incorporate more strength training into your routine three days per week with these simple at-home exercises.

If you’re trying to lose weight with your partner, realize that the process might look different for the two of you—when it comes to protein, calories, and really everything that you do.

“Women typically have a harder time losing weight compared to men because they generally have less muscle mass and lower calorie requirements,” says Weinandy. “This can be seen as a roadblock, but really what it means is women need to know that weight loss will be slower and more of a process. Women should definitely not compare themselves to men when trying to lose weight.”

The problem: You’re retaining water

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This plateau is especially true for pre-menopausal women, who tend to retain fluid pre-menstruation, says Dr. Cheskin. But salt—and especially salty foods—can also be a huge contributor to retaining fluid.

“You could eat a tablespoon of salt, and it’s got zero calories, but you’d hold onto that fluid, and you’d gain a pound of weight an hour later as soon as you’ve had something to drink,” says Dr. Cheskin. “You hold onto that fluid.”

Other things like running in hot weather or standing in the same position for too long can also cause you to retain fluid, says Dr. Cheskin, so if you notice that your “plateau” is really just a fluctuation of a couple pounds, it’s nothing to sweat over yet. “Most people know what their averages are,” he explains. “If you know you’re gaining 2 pounds or whatever, hopefully you’ll ignore that and not assume that it’s because your diet’s not working.”

✔️ Weight loss fix: Check out these eight expert-backed ways to lose water weight, which includes reducing your salt and carb intake, drinking more water to prevent dehydration, getting enough potassium, simply going for more walks, and more.

The bottom line: Weight loss success will look different for everyone, whether you’re trying to lose 5 pounds or 50. “During a weight loss journey, plateaus can be normal and be part of the process,” says Dr. Surampudi. “It is important not to get frustrated and to take stock of what is going on.”

Brielle Gregory Brielle Gregory previously worked at Men’s Health magazine, where she reported, edited, and fact checked all things health, nutrition, and weight loss related; she currently spends her time digging into similar topics as a freelancer writer and editor.

How To Break a Weight Loss Plateau – Without Starving Yourself

It is not uncommon to experience a weight loss plateau after a few months of consistently losing weight.

I’ve been there and I know you have too.

You tried your best. You lost weight. You gave it everything and it hurt.

And then it all stopped.

You still went out there and exercised harder. You watched everything you ate.

Nothing happened.

Adaption is the Main Cause of a Plateau

The human body is incredibly adaptive and will do its level best to maintain equilibrium (homeostasis).

If you are eating the same amount day in a day out, the body will eventually adapt.

The plateauing effect is the biggest motivation-killer there is.

Unfortunately, many popular diet books are strangely quiet on the issue — weight loss plateaus don’t make good testimonials.

Yet they happen to most people.

6 Ways to Break a Weight Loss Plateau

The best single word of advice is to make a change.

Change something. Anything. Do it now.

Don’t make the mistake of doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result (Ben Franklin’s definition of insanity).

You have to switch things up and counteract the adaption that your body has made to your way of eating or your way of exercising.

1. Alter Your Macro-nutrient Intake: Flexible Dieting

Although it sounds complicated, once again, the idea is to change what you are eating.

If (for example) you are eating a moderate diet that is higher in carbohydrates – try eating less carbs and more protein. There is no need to get super-technical over the whole thing.

If you have a carbohydrate snack every day at morning tea time – change it to a protein snack.

This is known as flexible dieting or If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM), which tracks macros instead of just calories. People like it because it isn’t restrictive and encourages people to eat according to what their body needs instead of just a generic calorie amount such as 1200 or 1500.

Eating too little can actually stall your weight loss. If you have been eating only 1200 calories for a long time, start eating more for a few weeks as a way to “reset things”.

Some examples:

  • Instead of eating a fruit snack, eat a handful of nuts.
  • If your diet is heavily bread-based, try reducing this and increasing the protein (say a tin of tuna, or chicken.)
  • Don’t be afraid to eat fat, it’s not the enemy.

Whatever you are doing consistently – try mixing it up a bit. However, if you want to get technical, use our macronutrient weight loss calculator here.

2. Zig-Zag Calorie Intake

Zig-zagging or calorie cycling is the process of varying daily calorie intake while maintaining the same weekly intake.

Instead of consuming (for example) precisely 1800 calories each day – you can mix it up.

Eat 1500 calories one day, and 2100 calories the next. This can be as simple as halving then doubling a portion size, or adding a post-workout shake into the plan.

Here’s something a little more technical, from the Zig-zag calculator.

If your daily calories for fat loss is 1860, a weekly zig-zag would look like this:

Daily Calories
Monday 1861
Tuesday 1489
Wednesday 2233
Thursday 1861
Friday 1675
Saturday 2047
Sunday 1861

This keeps your body guessing and helps keep adaption at bay.

3. Add Strength Training

Many people follow a basic and fairly repetitive routine of walking. This is a great start, but it’s time to add some resistance into the mix.

If you are not doing this as part of your program or lifestyle, then it’s time to start.

Working your muscles will help to strengthen bone tissue, increase lean mass, and ultimately boost metabolic rate.

Many people have increased success with HIIT training.

There are so many things you can do:

  • Join a gym and get a trainer to make you a program.
  • Follow a bodyweight program. Check this 7-minute program out (here’s the research).
  • Get some dumbbells at home and follow along with a Youtube trainer at home.

4. Change Your Exercise Routine

Flowing on from the previous point: You must change something in your exercise routine.

The more you do a particular activity the greater your body adapts and this efficiency equates to less calorie burn.

If you walk a lot, then try jogging, or swimming, or cycling — anything that will change the way your body is working.

If you are doing low-intensity cardio work, then try some high intensity (short duration) exercise.

For example: instead of your normal slow jog – run as fast as you can for 30 seconds then walk for 30 seconds. Do this 4 times in the middle of your jog.

Need More Exercise Ideas?

  • Try an Exercise DVD
    Some of us happen to like dancing around the room knocking over coffee tables and other assorted furniture.
  • Gym Class
    Yoga, Pilates, or Zumba to name a few.
  • HIIT
    High Intensity Interval Training
  • Social sports
    Join a Volleyball team.
  • Meet your friend for a walk
    Instead of meeting for coffee.
  • Go hiking.
  • Yoga
    Maybe it’ll help you to relax.
  • Get a cool bicycle
    And don’t leave it in the garage gathering dust.
  • Got Kids? Get on the playground with them instead of sitting on the side.
  • Video Games with Movement
    Get a Nintendo Wii (or even Xbox with Kinect) and get some good fitness games. Just don’t do the tennis or you’ll end up with tendonitis.
  • Prancercise
    I’m kidding.

Okay, Mr. and Mrs. Hardcore, these activities probably won’t cut it for you. Especially if you are already quite the fitness fanatic.

The issue here is that you MUST change what you are doing. Keep your body guessing. Notice how quickly you can adapt to a certain exercise.

I used to bicycle a lot, but I’m a lousy swimmer, panting after an embarrassingly small amount of lengths. My body is efficient at one but appalling at the other.

5. Change Meal Frequency

This is contentious and some would argue that it doesn’t matter. But, it has worked for some.

It’s been a technique for bodybuilders: they eat 5+ meals per day. They claim the thermic effect of eating helps to burn fat. There is energy expenditure involved in the body processing food (particularly protein).

Some claim this is myth, yet there is research showing that the Thermic Affect of Food (TEF) is very real. A recent study of gastric bypass patients showed enhanced TEF after surgery.

Gastric bypass patients can only eat small amounts at a time (leading them to a pattern of little and often)

What You Can Do

  • If you are eating three square meals a day – start adding snacks in between (which may mean reducing the portion size of the main meals).
  • If skipping breakfast has been your thing – maybe it’s time to change that.
  • Be careful this doesn’t backfire.
    I did this and ended up eating all the time thinking I was being healthy. You still need to make wise choices and not overeat.

6. Some Extra Things To Try

Still not working? Here are some more things that have worked for some people:

  • Get more sleep, or figure out what’s affecting your sleep quality.
  • Overeat – Might sound counter-intuitive, but after a period of sustained restricted eating, a day or two of big eating might be just the ticket. However, if you are a person that has problems with binging this could backfire – be careful.
  • Change your goals – obsessed with the scales? Think about focusing on something else like being able to run 5km or getting stronger.
  • Intermittent fasting: Increase your daily fasting window to 12-16 hours and shorten your eating window. Fasting periods burn fat reserves to keep your body going.

What Happened to Me…

Some of us seem to have more adaptive bodies than others.

I remember when I was eating a fairly rigid diet. I had meal plans stuck to the fridge. I counted everything I ate.

I was doing three strength training sessions per week, and as much as seven (often intense) cardio sessions a week.

After 3-4 weeks – the fat simply stopped coming off.

The frustration was enough to make me take my meal plans, screw them up and throw them away in disgust. I was furious and disappointed. I felt that I was doing everything “right”.
So what was the answer?

Chill out and back off… I was becoming obsessional. I started eating more, and gradually reduced my cardio levels. I gave my body and mind a break. In the process, I have learned to eat more intuitively.

The funny thing is, even though I went onto lose a bit more fat, I found I no longer cared. It all seemed like vanity to me.

Every person is unique, and we must learn how our individual body responds – and how to work with that.

You’ll Love My Macro Solution Program

Step-by-step ebooks, or fully customized personal macros coaching. Now with complete vegan edition.

Photos: frukt, Wolfnowl, bobolink, Ulfbodin,

Ted Kallmyer is an ISSA certified Specialist in Fitness Nutrition, a Certified Fitness Trainer, and is Healthy Eater’s author and nutitional coach. If you need help reaching your weight loss/fitness goals see his personal macros coaching options. Last Updated: November 14, 2019

20 Ways to Overcome a Weight Loss Plateau

It’s not something people like to admit, but we all get into ruts on occasion. From refusing to trade in giant 80’s bangs for a more modern style, to hanging around far too long with a no-good significant other, people just get stuck—despite their best efforts to move forward. We’re creatures of habit, no doubt about it, so it should come as no surprise that when we try to lose weight it’s no different. Sometimes the scale just stalls and we’re stuck. When this happens, you’ve hit what diet and exercise experts call a weight loss plateau.

This stall happens because our bodies are smart and extremely adaptable. After every workout, the body not only becomes stronger but also a more efficient calorie-burner. And after you start to lose weight, your body adjusts yet again, requiring fewer calories than it did before. It’s a constant game of Jenga to find the right balance. If you take a wrong step, everything can collapse, halting your flat belly progress.

Thankfully, there are a number of simple ways to boost your metabolism and nudge the scale in the right direction. Here are our top 20 strategies to break through a weight loss plateau.

10 Diet Tricks to Break a Weight Loss Plateau

As you likely already know, losing weight isn’t possible without a stellar diet, an ass-kicking workout plan and some major lifestyle changes. Though all three pillars of the weight loss equation are important, diet arguably has the strongest link to weight loss. That’s because it’s far easier to keep something out of your mouth than it is to burn it off by taking the stairs more often (2 Oreos = 21 flights of stairs) or hitting a weight training class.

Read on for some sneaky diet hacks that will trick your body into finally releasing those pounds in purgatory.

1

Reassess your caloric needs.

“In order to overcome a weight loss plateau, you’ll likely need to adjust your calorie intake,” registered dietitian Leah Kaufman, MS, RD, CDE, CDN tells us.

“As you lose weight, your body requires fewer calories for maintenance. If you’re taking in as many calories on day 60 of your diet as you did on day 1, you won’t be able to lose weight. Although you may have been losing weight previously on your current intake, you may need to eat less to achieve a larger caloric deficit.”

One way Kaufman recommends to predict exactly how many calories you need is by taking a metabolic test. This test “reveals your resting metabolic rate: the number of calories your body burns at rest. From this number we can determine how many calories you should consume to burn off pounds,” she explains. Many dietitian offices and high-end gyms offer this service.

If you don’t want to shell out the cash for the test, try cutting 100-200 calories a day from your diet and see how the scale reacts.

Why not more? Though it may seem counterintuitive, not eating enough can have the opposite effect on your waistline than you’re hoping for.

“When people diet, they tend to restrict calories, but if you go below 1,200 calories, you can slow down your metabolism, preventing weight loss,” warns registered dietitian Ilyse Schapiro, MS, RD, CDN.

2

Eat more fiber.

Have you heard? One of the best ways to fight fat is with fiber. “Emerging research shows that focusing on high-fiber foods can help you shed pounds after other diets have caused a plateau, likely because the nutrient is so filling,” says Dr. Sean M. Wells, the owner of Naples Personal Training.

“Shoot for at least 30 grams of fiber a day from fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains,” he adds.

Some of the best sources of fiber to defeat a weight plateau include:

Still not convinced you should add more of filling fiber to your plate? A study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that by making one change to your diet—which is aiming to eat 30 grams of fiber a day—can help you lose weight, reduce blood pressure, and increase sensitivity to insulin. Swapping cookies for berries and white rice for barley suddenly seems way more appealing, doesn’t it? We thought it might.

3

Switch from coffee to green tea.

Your coffee habit may be stalling your weight loss progress. An Australian research team found that when mice consumed more than five cups of java a day, it led to increased belly fat storage. On the flip side, a different study found that subjects who combined 5 cups of green tea with 3 hours of exercise per week, lost 2 more pounds than their non-tea-drinking counterparts, The Daily News reports.

What makes green tea help with a diet plateau? It contains fat-blasting compounds called catechins, that chisel away at belly fat by revving the metabolism then speeding up the liver’s fat burning capacity. Making the switch from coffee to green tea may be just what your body needs to get back on track toward weight loss success—why not give it a go? You’ve got nothing to lose… But weight!

RELATED: Learn how to harness the power of tea to lose weight.

4

‘Cheat’ on your diet.

We don’t typically condone cheating, but when it comes to losing weight, breaking the rules may be the key to success. “When you hit a plateau, take a carb-rich free meal, otherwise known as a cheat meal or a refeed meal. After a few days, things should start to progress again,” says personal trainer and Co-Founder of Excelerate Wellness Victoria Viola.

“When we lose weight, we inevitability also lose fat. And the less fat you have, the less leptin (the ‘satiety hormone’) you’ll produce, which tells the brain to conserve calories to prevent starving. Research indicates that the best way to amp up leptin production is to eat more carbohydrates. Unlike fat and protein, the carbs tell your brain that you are not going to starve and to burn calories at a normal rate.”

Simply put, eat a slice of pizza or a burger and see what happens. It may trick your brain into increasing your calorie burn, resulting in weight loss.

5

Cut back on salt.

Sometimes the scale isn’t tipping in your favor because your body is retaining water. Retention and bloat can happen for a number of reasons, however, the most common cause is consuming too much sodium-filled processed foods. In fact, according to the American Heart Association, more than 75 percent of the sodium in the average American diet comes from salt added to processed foods—not the salt shaker.

Water clings to sodium like a magnet, so you may hang onto extra fluid. And though it may not seem like it can influence the scale too drastically, just four cups of water weighs a whopping two pounds!

You can cut back on sodium to speed up weight loss in multiple ways:

  • Dial back on processed foods like frozen dinners, canned soups, and boxed mac and cheese
  • Swap deli meat sandwiches for salads
  • Stay away from the drive-thru and cut back on fast food
  • Don’t order salty restaurant desserts

6

Eat almonds before a workout.

Tetiana Bykovets/Unsplash

Want to get more out of your weight loss workout? Fuel your session with almonds, one of the best proteins for weight loss. The tear-shaped nut is rich in the amino acid L-arginine, which can actually help you burn more fat and carbs during workouts, accelerating your weight loss wins, according to a Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition report.

7

Eat regularly.

Like picking a fight to test someone’s resolve in their own beliefs, eating regularly to lose weight may seem a bit counterintuitive—but it works. “Many people think that if they skip a meal it will help them lose weight, but that’s simply not true,” registered dietitian and personal trainer Jim White, RD, ACSM, owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios tells us.

“Not only does skipping meals slow your metabolism, but it also causes blood sugar levels to plummet. This will leave you feeling famished, increasing the odds you’ll overeat and stalling weight loss progress.” Eating a combination of protein, carbs and fats every 4 hours will help keep your calorie-burn consistent throughout the day and ward off progress-derailing hunger.

8

Buy a Reusable Water Bottle

Colton Strickland/Unsplash

“One of the most overlooked aspects of a weight loss plan is proper hydration,” says Kelvin Gary, Owner and Head Coach at Body Space Fitness in New York City. Not only can drinking water help to flush out excess salt hanging out in your system, but it can also keep hunger at bay and help you power through workouts more effectively, accelerating weight loss effects.

Keep a water bottle by your side on the reg so you’ll remember to sip throughout the day. If your urine is a dark yellow, you’re dehydrated and should start sipping.

9

Drink more water before meals.

And speaking of H2O, be sure to drink the stuff before meals, advises registered dietitian nutritionist Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN. “A glass or two before a meal can help you fill up and curb overall calorie intake.”

Science backs Zeid’s claim: According to research presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society, study subjects who sipped two cups of water before sitting down to a meal consumed 75 to 90 fewer calories. Over a 12-week period, dieters who followed the strategy three times per day lost about 5 pounds more than dieters who didn’t increase their water intake.

10

Spread out protein intake and eat more of it.

You’ve heard it a million times before: You need to eat protein if you want to lose weight. When you consider the nutrient’s stellar skill set, it makes sense: Protein can boost metabolism and even help the body retain its muscle while scorching fat. Protein-rich foods also suppress ghrelin which is a hormone secreted by the stomach that stimulates appetite, explains registered dietitian Gina Hassick, RD, LDN, CDE, who suggests including a lean source of the nutrient with each meal.

The reason: Those who stagger their protein consumption lost more weight and were more apt to maintain their new, fit figures than those who skimped on protein at certain meals, according to recent research. That means someone who is aiming for 60 grams of protein daily should consume 20 grams at each meal, which is about what you’d find in a 3-ounce chicken breast or a 7-ounce container of Greek yogurt.

To eat more protein to overcome a weight loss plateau, try a high-protein meal plan with at least 20 grams of protein at each meal:

4 Fitness Tips to Overcome a Weight Loss Plateau

Take your daily sweat session to the next level with the help of these fun, challenging, and invigorating fitness tips from some of the nation’s top weight loss experts.

1

Vary your workouts.

Mix up your workout—or try a new physical activity like tennis, hiking, rock climbing, or boxing. “When you have a regular workout routine, your muscles become familiar with doing the same exercises regularly,” Hassick says. “Our bodies are smart. They learn how to do those exercises using fewer calories, making your regular exercise routine less effective for weight loss.”

If getting into a new type of activity isn’t your cup of tea, at least, vary your routine. If you typically do steady cardio, for example, incorporate intervals. If you typically do HIIT, log a few longer cardio sessions each week. And after you’re done working out, revitalize your muscles with the help of our go-to protein shake recipes.

2

Find a fit friend.

Not only can befriending someone who’s fit (and willing to meet up with you for workouts) help you stick to your exercise routine, it can also push you to exert yourself a little harder, says White. Ask your fit sister-in-law if you can hit the weights with her, or ask your yoga-obsessed co-worker if you can tag along with him to a class. Befriending someone who’s hyper health-minded may be just what you need to kick-start your weight loss again.

3

Try interval training.

Interval training is another great way to amp up your calorie burn and reach your body goals. “Interval training means accelerating your exercise speed for a short period of time and then resuming to your normal speed for a slightly longer period,” Wells explains. “Continue alternating between faster and slower speeds for the duration of your usual cardio routine.”

For a treadmill workout consider this routine:

Warm up: 5 minutes walking
All-out sprint: 1 minute
Break: 2 minutes walk

Repeat the pattern until you hit the 30-minute mark.

You can also vary the intensity by changing the incline. Run for two minutes on a 1% incline and then crank it up to 6% for two minutes.

4

Lift heavier and more strategically.

When weight loss stalls, it’s a good indication that you’re body is no longer being challenged. Or in some rare cases, it may be a sign it’s being pushed too hard. If it’s the former, up your strength training to make sure you add or maintain lean muscle mass, suggests Gary.

“One of the first physiological adaptations to strength training is the increase of mitochondria in your muscle cells. This helps increase your body’s capacity to burn fat,” he explains. Simply put, the more lean muscle mass you have, the more calories and fat your body will burn at rest. Hitting a plateau can mean that you need to modify your resistance training, adds Wells. “Sticking with one weight lifting routine for too long will bog down your metabolism and possibly expose you to overtraining. I recommend using a periodized training program where you alter the type of movements, intensity, rest breaks, and amount lifted over several periods throughout the year,” Wells tells us.

Celebrity trainer Kit Rich agrees that muscle confusion is key to success, and suggests increasing your weights and performing fewer reps, but also lifting lighter weights and performing more reps.

6 Lifestyle Hacks to Overcome a Weight Loss Plateau

Every successful loser knows that shedding pounds isn’t just a result of what you do at the gym and what you spoon onto your plate. It’s about how you live your life as a whole. Eating and exercising only take up a fraction of the day, so why not utilize those other hours to your advantage, too? Read on to discover how.

1

Start a food & activity journal.

—and be honest. You might have hit a dead end with your weight loss progress because you’re eating more than you think you are and moving less than you realize. “What goes in must go down (on paper or on your cell phone). Research shows that people who journal what they eat are more successful at weight loss,” says registered dietitian nutritionist Marisa Moore. “Use the journal to record every morsel of food and review it to see if there are certain triggers that lead you to eat more or less during the day. A journal can be an effective way to discover trends and uncover areas to improve, both with diet and lifestyle habits.”

2

Get more quality sleep.

Listen up, late-night Netflixers, your lack of sleep is killing your weight loss progress! More than one out of three American adults do not get enough sleep, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Not only can your lack of zzz’s leave you feeling groggy it can have serious, long-term side effects and change your metabolism for the worse.

In fact, WebMD reveals that logging less than 6 hours of shut-eye can reduce fat loss by a shocking 55%—in part because when you’re sleepy you also feel hungrier. “Too little sleep can lead to increased levels of stress hormones, which have been shown to cause weight and fat gain, especially in your midsection,” adds Hassick.

3

Take a rest day.

And in that same vein, take a rest day or two each week. “Sometimes one of the best ways to overcome a weight loss plateau is to rest,” says personal trainer Ajia Cherry, ACE, CHC, CPT. “Oftentimes focusing too hard on a weight loss goal can have a negative effect on you. Giving your body and mind the appropriate time to recharge will not only put you back on track but will also give you a moment to reassess your diet and exercise regiment. It may be time to change up one or the other or both.” Taking a few days off from the gym can also ward off overtraining.

4

Move more.

If you regularly hit the gym and keep your routine varied, build a little extra activity into your day to burn some extra calories.

  • Do the dishes by hand
  • Take the elevator instead of the stairs
  • Take a walk around the block instead of grabbing a snack from the break room

While none of these things burn a ton of calories, every bit counts in your effort to get the scale moving again. For more fun ways to move more every day check out these ways to burn calories without a gym!

5

Power through with confidence.

Sometimes when you hit a weight loss plateau, you just have to be patient and wait it out. Have faith that eventually you’ll start losing weight again because you will! Since it can be hard to maintain motivation when you’re not seeing results, reward yourself for healthy actions like sticking to a consistent workout routine and saying no to desserts throughout the workweek.

The trick, however, is to not reward yourself with food. Instead, try these non-food rewards:

  • Manicures
  • Massages
  • SoulCycle classes
  • Night at the movies with your friends

6

Look beyond the scale.

Finally, consider looking beyond the numbers. “The way you feel, achieving greater endurance or intensity in your workouts, or simply looking better in your jeans are all reasons to celebrate that don’t require you to hit a specific number on a scale,” notes Moore.

Celebrity trainer and creator of Methodology X Dan Roberts agrees: “Focus on the process of being healthy, lean and mean rather than just the weight loss results. In my experience focusing on only weight loss can be negative and won’t lead to lifelong success.”

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How to Break Through a Weight Loss Plateau. That is a question I received recently from a reader. I love my readers (yes you guys) and love, love, love your questions. It’s gives me a special connection with you guys when you email me a question. It often inspires me to write about something that is important to you. After all that’s the whole point of what I’m doing. To help you on your journey. What’s interesting is 99% of the emails I receive are weight loss related questions. Not many bloggers (in my network at least) write about weight loss.

Sometimes I go through funks with the blog and can’t think of what to write about. Life isn’t always THAT exciting -> wake up, workout, eat something healthy, go to work, go to bed. Then do it all over again the next day. Sound familiar? There are actually times when I think I’m gonna run out of things to write about. Somehow that never happens though. Everything always works out in a way that I never run out of things to say.

For those of you who have written in questions, kudos to you for being brave. Weight loss is a sensitive & personal issue. It’s easy to feel intimidated. I know I felt that way about it. Asking others for support and advice is never wrong. It’s one step further in your personal journey. I’m a firm believer that having support will make you more successful too.

Here’s a an email I received recently from a reader.

Great question!

First, let’s get the low-calorie, low-fat, low-crap thing out of the way. If you are trying to lose weight & eating any of those things, STOP NOW. This was a mistake I made during my weight loss. Many of the low-calorie, low-fat foods contain processed ingredients, added sugars & sodium and have unnatural ingredients. This is one of the problems I have with Weight Watchers. While their weight loss philosophy is really good, many of the foods they support are not. Eat the real stuff even if it is more calories. In the long-run, your health will thank you for it.

Now let’s chat about plateaus. When I was losing weight, I hit a wall after losing 40 pounds or so which was the half way mark for me. I started my journey by becoming more active and changing eating habits. I walked an hour every day, ate healthier and cut calories. After awhile, my body became comfortable with those things and I stopped seeing results. I came to a crossroads. I had to shake things up to wake up my body. It still had work to do!

Stimulate Fat Burn

Kick start your body into weight loss by directing it to burn its own fat as fuel instead of the food you feed it. Eliminating sugars & carbohydrates from the diet temporarily can redirect your body to burn fat. I realize this may sound extreme. Truthfully after you stop eating these things, you no longer crave them after awhile. The first week is the when you need to be tough and hold to your plan. If you can make it through the first week, you’re home free. After that first week, your cravings will significantly decrease. This is not something you do forever. I did it 1-2 months. Then I would slowly re-introduce these foods back into my diet over another month. More on stimulating fat burn in this post -> How to Jump Start Weight Loss…I Lost 80 Pounds Doing This

Increase Strength Training

If you’re not lifting weights, you should be. If you’re a female, even more reason that you should be. Lifting weights not only helps with weight loss but protects your bones. A common misconception among women is that they will bulk up if they lift weights. This could not be further from the truth. Women do not have enough testosterone to build huge muscles like men.

Lean muscle burns more calories than fat. More muscles means more calories burnt which translates into more weight loss. Aim for 3 sessions a week.

Revamp Your Cardio

We are all creature of habit. We get really comfortable doing the same thing over and over. The problem with this is your body gets used to it & over time doesn’t have to work as hard as in the beginning when it had to think about what it was doing. Try incorporating other forms of cardio in your fitness routine to shake things up. It’s ok to continue doing the same form of cardio too. Consider increasing your resistance, distance or amount of time though to make your body work harder.

Eat More

I know this sounds strange, but it really works. During my weight loss, there was a point when my body started to hoard any food I ate. As a result, the scale stopped dropping. I stalled for a long time. This is commonly referred to as starvation mode. How do you know if you’re in starvation mode? My rule of thumb is 3 consecutive weeks of no scale movement after you’ve lost significant weight (i.e. 20 or more pounds).

During most of my time losing weight, I ate 1200-1400 calories per day. When I finally realized my body was in starvation mode, I increased my calorie intake 200-400 per day. I filled my plate with healthy fats i.e. nut butter, almonds, avocado, etc. Once I made this change, the pounds literally fell off me. Sometimes eating less doesn’t always equate to weight loss.

What are your weight loss plateau tips? What are you thoughts on low-calorie & low-fat foods? Ever get in a blog funk?

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Disclaimer – Affiliate links are included, which enable me to earn a small income and do not affect purchase price. Money earned goes back into my large grocery bill to bring you more delicious recipes!

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About Megan

Megan is a certified nutrition practitioner, author, freelance food photographer and fitness instructor living in Phoenix, Arizona. On her blog, Skinny Fitalicious she shares EASY, gluten free recipes for weight loss. Follow Megan on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram for the latest updates.

How to Break a Weight Loss Plateau

As anyone who has ever lost a lot of weight (like 20 pounds or more) will tell you, the first 5 come off easily and the last 5 are the toughest! You’re still doing all the right things—eating less and moving more—but all of a sudden it stops working. The scale won’t budge. No matter where you are in the process, hitting a stubborn weight loss plateau is frustrating. But don’t let it erode your resolve. Here are 3 ways to break through the plateau.>

Tip#1: Calorie Cycling

In order to lose weight, you need to cut back on your calorie intake. But if you that for long enough, your body may play a nasty trick on you: It may start conserving energy by lowering your metabolic rate. The result? You don’t burn as many calories and your weight loss slows—or stops altogether. Although this feels like the worst kind of sabotage, your body is actually trying to look out for you. Your lizard brain has noticed that food supplies seem to have been scarce for an extended period of time. It’s trying to increase your chances of survival in case the famine continues. Of course, when you’re trying to lose weight, this is not very helpful.

See also: Metabolism Myths

You’re really stuck between a rock and a hard place: You could try eating even less in order to nudge off more weight, but that just confirms your lizard brain’s suspicions about the dwindling food supply. Or, you could eat more in an effort to restore a more robust metabolic rate—but that’s hardly going to help with weight loss. There’s a way to outsmart old lizard brain: It’s called calorie cycling.

What is Calorie Cycling?

Let’s say you’ve been eating about 1800 calories a day and steadily losing weight. Now suddenly, it’s not working anymore. Rather than trying to eat even less every day, try alternating high and low calorie days. For example, you could alternate between 2000-calorie days and 1200-calorie days. Over the course of a week, you’d trim an extra 1400 calories but the higher calorie days should help keep your lizard brain from panicking–and your willpower from flagging.

See also: How to Eat Less without Feeling Hungry

What are the Advantages of Calorie Cycling?

First of all, the higher calorie days keep your metabolism from slowing in response to sustained calorie restriction. Secondly, many people find that this sort of regimen feels easier than constant restriction. Although you may feel hungry on your low-intake day, you’ll always have a higher intake day to look forward to.

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Plateau during weight loss

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