Overcoming Plateaus when When Losing Weight

When you’re trying to lose weight, plateaus are one of the most frustrating challenges. Everything seems to be going well, with the scale moving down and your clothes fitting more loosely. Then the scale suddenly freezes and you can’t seem to get the numbers to go down anymore, no matter how hard you try.

Don’t use a plateau as an excuse to throw in the towel for your weight loss plan. Instead of thinking you’re stuck, approach the plateau as you would any other challenge. Try various solutions until you come up with the right one to get you back on track for shedding pounds.

Common Plateau Causes

According to the Mayo Clinic, weight loss plateaus happen for a variety of reasons. One of the most common is a reduction in losing water weight after an initial rush in glycogen loss. Glycogen is a carbohydrate commonly found in your muscles and liver, and it’s made up partially of water. When you first cut your calorie consumption, your body burns glycogen. The lost water translates into lost pounds on the scale. Unfortunately, the effect is only temporary, so it’s normal for that initial surge of weight loss to slow down.

Muscle loss also contributes to the typical plateau. You naturally lose some muscle along with the fat you shed. Muscle helps keep your metabolism high, so it gets harder to burn calories when you lose it. Even if you keep eating the same low calorie diet that gave you initial success, it won’t work in the long run because you won’t burn as many calories as you did at the start.

Ways to Break a Plateau

Fortunately, most plateaus respond to a few simple adjustments. If you increase your physical activity or adjust your food plan to eat fewer calories, the pounds should start to drop again. The Mayo Clinic recommends an initial cut of 200 calories, as long as that doesn’t put your daily consumption below 1,200 calories. Going below that number puts you at risk of feeling constant hunger pangs that could lead to a binge.

Up your workout schedule to include an additional 15 to 30 minutes of exercise and amp up your workout intensity as well. Weight lifting increases your muscle mass, and building up that muscle lets you burn more calories with the same effort.

Pick up the pace

There could be one other factor fueling your plateau. The Mayo Clinic says it’s common for people on a diet to slack off a bit with their eating plan, exercise, or both. Even if your lapse is only temporary, it could still contribute to a plateau. Track your eating and exercise in a journal to help you maintain your consistency.

If your own efforts don’t help you get off your plateau, talk to your doctor or a professional dietician. Sometimes it takes professional help to re-energize your weight loss plan. In the meantime, congratulate yourself on the weight you’ve lost so far rather than focusing on the plateau. Worry can cause you to relapse, but keeping a positive attitude helps you maintain your success until you can build on it with an adjusted plan that starts your weight loss up again.