Is your scale not budging? Tips to break the weight loss plateau

You may have hit a weight-loss plateau, a frustrating yet normal period when weight loss slows down

Racha Adib
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Alright, you made the commitment to lose weight. Everything is going great. You are eating right and staying active. Suddenly, the scale will no longer budge, and you are about to give up. You may have hit a weight-loss plateau: a frustrating yet normal period when weight loss slows down or stops altogether. No matter how committed you are, from time to time your weight will pause and you may fall off the wagon.

The good news is there is a solution. First understand the cause of your plateau, then decide how to respond to avoid relapsing.


Why it happens

During the first few weeks, rapid weight-loss can be expected. As you lose weight, you lose some amount of muscle with the fat. Because muscle helps keep your metabolism up, you will start to burn fewer calories than you did at your heavier weight.

As a result, your slower metabolism will slow your weight loss, and finally the calories you burn will equal the calories you consume. At that point, you may have lost all the weight you could possibly lose on your current diet and exercise plan. This is what we call a weight-loss plateau. If you stick to the same routine, you will maintain your weight, but it most likely will not lead to further weight loss unless you make changes.

Did you really hit a plateau?

Before we delve into some solutions, establish whether what you are experience is an actual plateau. Here are other possible explanations for why your scale is not budging:

Your body composition is changing. In other words, you may be losing fat but not overall weight. Although you may long to see the numbers go down, the scale is not the best way to track weight loss.

Instead, you should be tracking your body composition, especially if you are exercising. If you feel you look leaner in the mirror but the weight is the same, you are likely building muscle while losing fat. Tracking your weight loss using a body composition analyzer on a monthly basis is a great approach. Even how your jeans fit can give you a better assessment of how you are doing than your scale.

You are underestimating how much food you have eaten. It is common to loosen the rules with time, letting yourself get away with larger meal portions or less activity. The solution is to record every food morsel you eat and activity you undertake. At the end of the week, review the notes and look for trends.

How to overcome a weight-loss plateau

Cut more calories. A good number of calories to cut is 200, provided you do not go below a total intake of 1,200 for women and 1,800 for men. Any less than that can lead to malnourishment.

Rev up your workout. Hitting the treadmill or going for a walk at the beginning of your weight-loss journey is usually enough as your body gets into a groove. After a while, your muscles get used to the routine and become efficient at doing the task. Hence, you need to give your body a little push.

For example, add a few running intervals on the treadmill for a minute and then walk for a minute. This will help you burn more calories in the same amount of time. Also, make sure your routine includes strength-training such as weight-lifting to increase your lean muscle mass, which will help you burn more calories on a daily basis.

Pack more activity into your day. Think outside the gym by increase your general physical activity level throughout the day. Wearing a pedometer could be a good way to track your daily activity. Set a step goal, such as 10,000 steps daily. Keep in mind that each 2,000 steps burns roughly 100 calories.

Whatever you do, do not give up and revert to your old habits. If your efforts to get past a weight-loss plateau are not working, talk with a licensed dietician and a personal trainer to put you back on track.

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