Hit a Weight Loss Plateau? Here's what to Do!


I’m sure you have experienced the emotional weight loss rollercoaster…


The elation in the first few weeks when you see the number on the scale dropping! The disappointment when the numbers appear to slow followed by complete frustration when you swear you haven’t changed a thing yet the scale refuses to budge!



What is a Weight Loss Plateau?


A weight loss plateau is when your weight stops changing. Plateaus are common and can even occur when you feel like you have still been careful with your weight and exercise.


What Causes a Weight-Loss Plateau?


During the first few weeks of weight loss, it is normal to see an initial rapid drop in weight that may slow as time passes. When you start losing weight, your intake of calories has decreased and therefore the body accesses additional energy from its glycogen stores (think of it like a fuel tank).


Glycogen is partly made up of water, so when it is used for energy, the water is released. This drop in water weight will show on the scales giving the illusion of a faster rate of weight loss. This effect obviously decreases with time which then makes it seem like weight loss has slowed.


As you lose weight, you will lose some muscle mass along with fat mass. Think of muscle mass like an engine - the more muscle you have, the more fuel (calories) it will burn. So as you lose muscle mass, the engine gets smaller causing you to burn fewer calories than before. Over time this may impact your ability to lose weight and you might find your weight loss has stalled even though you haven’t done anything different with your diet or exercise.



Don't forget: It’s always better to maintain than it is to regain.

Top Tips for Getting Your Weight Loss Moving Again

Check your Compliance


At the start of any weight loss journey, it is likely you are extra focussed and extra careful - making sure you have crossed your t’s and dotted your i’s. As time goes on, you get more comfortable with the routine. It is at this point that old habits might start to creep back in or you may not be as diligent with your diet or exercise routine.


This is completely normal. It is called being human!


But it is also a great area to investigate if your weight loss is slowing down or has stalled.


A good way to check in with yourself is to keep a food and exercise diary for a few weeks. This will help you raise awareness and focus and identify if any parts of your nutrition or exercise have started to slip.


This will give you a starting point of areas to prioritise and get back on track with!



Mix It Up!


Have you found yourself eating basically the same things every day and doing the same exercise routine each week?


If so, your weight loss plateau might be a sign that it’s time to mix things up a bit.


Always eat the same breakfast? Consider trying something different!


Always walk the same route? Perhaps change it up a bit - find some hills, vary your speed or try a new type of exercise altogether.


Applying a new stimulus to the body will encourage it to 'wake up' and adapt!




Boost your Incidental Activity


You may not have comes across the acronym ‘NEAT’ before. It stands for Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. This is otherwise known as the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports/structured exercise. It can include anything from incidental walking, typing, gardening and fidgeting.


It is well documented in the research that NEAT is likely to decrease when you’ve reduced your calories (ie trying to lose weight). It makes sense that we tend to expend less energy when we're getting less energy from food. This is a natural response to dieting.


The solution to this is to have a look at your daily incidental exercise. A good way to measure this is by your step count. You could use a step tracker or your phone to monitor your steps to see what you’re currently doing. Once you have figured out your daily average, aim to increase it by ~1000. You could do this by adding small chunks of movement across your day. For example, go for a walk up to the end of the street mid-morning and around the block at lunchtime.


Be Patient!


I know this is never the thing you want to hear…because when it comes to weight loss, we want it done YESTERDAY! However, weight loss plateaus are often just part of the process. So if you’ve gone through steps 1 & 2 and your weight loss is still slow, the best advice I can give is to be patient and stay consistent.


Weight loss is never linear. If we graph our progress it is more likely to look like a wobbly staircase rather than a straight line.


I always encourage my clients to ‘zoom out’ and look at overall progress rather than get caught up in the small details. This is also where having non-scale goals is really useful. Your weight might have plateaued but you might find your fitness has increased, you are stronger, your energy levels are better, and your clothes are fitting better….all of these changes are great signs of progress but can easily be missed if you are fixated on the scales.



Don’t Forget...

Be patient, ‘zoom out’, celebrate the small wins and just keep going!


I'd love to hear your experiences with weight loss and weight loss plateaus - feel free to leave a comment!


If you are keen to keep updated when new blog posts like this are released, join my mailing list to be the first to know!