Weight loss goals are set every year by more than 50 million people world wide. For most, weight loss is a long journey full of challenges and setbacks. One weight loss setback many experience is a plateau.
You work hard at moving your body more frequently while reducing your intake of food. At first you see weight loss as expected. Then after several weeks or months, suddenly it stops. You are still dieting and still moving your body and yet your body stops decreasing in weight. It is one of the most frustrating experiences.
How do you overcome a weight loss plateau? Why did you even stop losing weight in the first place?
These are difficult questions and can be due to a number of reasons. Here we will discuss a multitude of reasons why your weight loss has come to a screeching halt. Of course with each reason your weight loss possibly stopped, there will also be a solution to reignite your weight loss. We will also discuss methods of how to overcome a weight loss plateau and start losing weight again.
Possible Reasons Why Your Weight Loss Stopped
– The number one reason people struggle losing weight is because they do not consume enough water. Remember that you need 8 cups of water on an average day (8oz equals a cup). If you are doing workouts your body will need more than 8 cups of water in a day.
– First ensure you are drinking 8 cups of water every day, and that each cup is 8oz. If you are already drinking 8 cups of water, then try increasing the number of cups of water you have every day by 2 cups. Try this for 2 weeks to see if it is the cause of your weight loss plateau.
– Part of the process of losing weight when done in a healthy way is to build muscle. Since muscle weighs more than fat, the scale may be telling you that you are not losing weight. However, in the case of building muscle you are most likely decreasing your body fat in the process.
– A good way to assess if this is what is happening to your body is to start taking daily measurements. If you know how to measure your BMI this is a great way to measure this. Another everyday easy way to measure muscle gain and weight loss is to measure your waist in inches or your preferred units. If you are losing weight and building muscle chances are your waist will decrease in inches even though the scale is showing that you are not losing weight.
What You Consume is NOT What Your Body Needs
– Even if you are at a calorie deficit and eating everything in moderation, if you don’t have enough of a certain vitamin or molecule your body needs then your body may not be able to burn fat so you can lose weight. This can be anything from too much protein and not enough vegetables to something more specific like not consuming enough iron.
– Track what you eat for 2 weeks. You can use a tool like myfitnesspal.com where you log your food for each meal and snack. Then you can use myfitnesspal.com to pull up nutrient trends that show you how much you need and how much you consumed. They have these trends for vitamins, iron, calcium, potassium, and other essential molecules your body needs. If you are looking at these trends and see that you are consistently short on one of your needed molecules, look for food replacements in your everyday diet to balance your needs.
Eating Too Much Processed Food
– It is more difficult or more work for our bodies to break down processed foods high in chemicals. So, if you are eating too much processed food and not enough natural food your body may not be losing weight due to your intake of processed foods and chemicals.
The Science Behind This, In Case You Are Interested: This information was summarized from the source referenced at the bottom of this page.
Consuming foods like white rice, cookies, white bread, salty snacks, and soft drinks regularly causes our body to increase secretion of insulin. When insulin increases it suppresses the hormone, glucagon. Glucagon is used to break down glycogen. Why does this matter?
Our body stores excess energy as glycogen. That’s right, glycogen is the excess stored energy that you are trying to burn off when you try to lose weight. With suppressed levels of glucagon you will suppress burning that excess stored energy.
The process of increasing insulin and suppressing glucagon regularly sends signals that cause our fat cells to store more calories. In addition, our brains also receive the communication from our cells, that you need to store more calories. Our brain interprets needing more calories as you do not have a sufficient amount of energy intake. If your brain thinks you do not have enough energy intake it increases hunger signals as a result.
– Try to replace some of your foods with less food that has less chemicals and less carbohydrates in it. This reason has been a common cause for my own weight loss plateaus so I do have some personal recommendations. If you are a lover of food like pancakes and muffins and chips etc., this is most likely a cause of your weight loss plateau.
Some solutions that help me, is to replace chips with hummus and pretzels and vegetables. To eat more salads and more vegetables with every meal. Cauliflower has been a huge help, you can find pizzas with cauliflower crusts or you can enjoy a mashed potato like side dish made from cauliflower. You can also use cauliflower in place of rice. I also try to use brown rice if I do choose to eat rice.
Another replacement I found helpful is veggie pasta. I love pasta, pasta salad, meat sauce and pasta, stir fry and pasta, goulash, you name it, and I love it. So in place of regular everyday pasta we use chickpea pasta and veggie rotini.
Know that not all veggie pasta is the same, you may have to try several different kinds to find a few that you like. Also, some veggie pasta might be great for one recipe, but not a match for other recipes. Be willing to experiment when it comes to veggie pasta.
Another other suggestion to replace processed food is to try to make applesauce pancakes and muffins. This replaces flour with applesauce. We also try many recipes with whole wheat flour in place of white flour.
Hope some of these suggestions help you get back on track with your weight loss journey.
Resting Heart Rate and/or Lung Volume and/or Overall Metabolism Activity
– Great news, if you are at a plateau because of this reason you have changed your body for the better! Bad news is that due to your stronger muscles and body’s metabolism efficiency you will need to work harder or longer to experience a fat burning workout.
– Increase the duration of your fat burning workout by a half hour or increase the speed that you do your fat burning workout at. You should see a change within a week or two.
– There are many health conditions that can impact our body’s ability to lose weight or increase the likelihood to gain weight. If you suspect that a health condition is the route cause of your weight loss plateau you should consult a professional health care provider for help.
Know that for any solution you find that works to reignite your weight loss plateau, you will want to continue doing it, not just stop after doing it for 2 weeks. Also know that your body may need different solutions at different times in your weight loss journey. If you experience more than one weight loss plateau you may have more than one cause of your plateau so you may need to implement multiple solutions simultaneously to get weight loss results.
Which Solution is Right For You?
How do you go know which solution your body needs to reignite your weight loss plateau when there are so many different reasons?
There are lots of different methods to find the cause of your weight loss plateau. Here, we will explain two methods that you can use to find the cause of your weight loss plateau. Please see Method 1 and Method 2 below.
Method 1: Track Everything for 2 Weeks
Yes, I mean everything. The more information you have the easier it will be to determine why you stopped losing weight. When you track everything this includes things like; sleep duration, time you spend moving your body, time you spend sitting, all food and drink intake, etc.
Once you have everything tracked for two weeks you should look at your overall data and find the culprits that you are not meeting recommended results for. It is likely that more than one factor is contributing to your weight loss plateau. The identified culprits that stray from recommended results for individuals trying to lose weight is what you want to change. You can try to change one at a time if there are easier habits to change than others. Or you can try to optimize all factors at once for a maximum weight loss experience.
The secret to success here is staying motivated and continuing to progress, even if you have a bad week. Try not to overwhelm yourself to a point that you just give up. Make one change at a time if needed, and stay dedicated.
Method 2: Trial & Error
This is my go to method for getting over weight loss plateaus, I am not great at making the time to track my life.
To trial and error you start implementing solutions for all the different reasons listed in this post and check them off as you go. Implement a solution or two for a week or two at a time, to assess if it will help your weight loss. I usually start with the simplest solution for me, that is water consumption. If you know you are consuming enough water then skip that solution and jump to the next solution that is easiest for you.
For awareness, the hardest plateau I experienced was after losing 25lbs, and I sat at that plateau for over a month. After several trial and errors I found that I needed to increase my intake of natural foods and increase my workout duration and/or intensity simultaneously.
Hang in there and keep trying, the end result after weight loss is an overall healthier lifestyle. Know that these are big changes that you will want to keep to some extent after you reach your weight loss goal.
Weight loss is not a sprint, you are in a lifetime commitment to keep that weight off after your weight loss journey.
Ludwig DS, Aronne LJ, Astrup A, et al. The Carbohydrate-Insulin Model: A Physiological Perspective on the Obesity Pandemic. Am J Clin Nutr. 2021:nqab270.