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The Ultimate Guide: What to do When You Hit a Weight Loss Plateau

We’ve all been there!  You’re exercising and eating healthy and seeing results on the scale and then suddenly, it’s like you hit a brick wall!  Your weight won’t budge, you’ve hit a weight loss plateau!  You may have even gained a few pounds!  What the heck?!?!  It’s just so frustrating and disheartening when this happens.  And after a week or so we tend to give up!  Because honestly what’s the point of all that deprivation and hard work if you aren’t going to lose a single ounce?

The thing is, if you do quit, you’ll end up gaining all of the weight you’ve lost back and then some.  Next month or next year you won’t just be starting back at square 1, you’ll be starting at square -5!  And you’ll be SO annoyed with yourself that you just didn’t stick with it and handle it last time.  Or the last 50 times you set out on this path!  So, let’s break this cycle together by implementing these techniques to get through a weight loss plateau!

Re-evaluate Your Goals

Hitting plateaus during weight loss is normal, healthy and important!  So, you should be expecting them as part of your journey!  Don’t set goals that only involve the numbers on the scale and be sure that your weight loss goals are reasonable and account for some stagnation!

No Scale Goals

There are all sorts of goals you can set that have nothing to do with weight loss!  Challenge yourself to eat more vegetables, drink more water or get more rest!  Consider creating a goal around improving your workout times, endurance or weight-lifting increases.  These will help you focus on other aspects of your progress.  And if size is an important factor to you consider using measurements or the way your clothes fit as an indication of progress rather than the scale!

Give yourself credit for your victories off the scale with this Non-Scale Victory Tracker!

Realistic Weight Goals

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If you really want to use weigh ins as a measurement tool remember that you should never expect to lose more than 1% of your body weight a week.  It’s typical that people experience a big drop initially (especially if you eliminate a food you’re sensitive to).  After that it tapers off and often the last 10 – 20 lbs can take 6 months to a year to shed.  And that’s if you’ve set the right goal weight for yourself to begin with!  So, if you’re using a goal weight number using a range is better and using small achievable increments and re-evaluating from there is the best idea. 

For example, if you feel you need to lose 50 lbs set a goal to lose 25 in 8 months, then re-evaluate.  Once you’ve lost that first 25 you might want to set your next goal to lose 15 – 25 more over the next year (accounting for the difficulty shedding the last bit). 

Keep in mind, it’s always better and more accurate to set a size instead of a weight (10 – 15 lbs typically equals one size drop).  Saying you’d like to drop 2 sizes in 6 – 8 months gives you the ability to see NSV’s (non-scale victories) more easily.  As your body composition changes and you’re building lean muscle you might not lose as much weight, but your body size and shape are sure to change!

Re-evaluate Your Plan

Take a look at the plan you’re following.  How are you feeling?  You should be feeling better than you were before you started!  Have you been doing it for a month, but you still struggle to stick with it?  That might be an indication that it isn’t right for you!  Are your workouts varied between flexibility / balance, strength training and cardio?  If not, you might be stagnating here!

How You Should Be Feeling

Regardless of whether you’re losing weight or not you should be feeling better when you’re eating healthier and exercising.  It’s normal not to feel so hot the first week or two of a new program.  We often make dietary changes that involve giving up highly addictive foods like sugar, gluten or dairy.  And, we have withdrawals and feel pretty nasty for the first week or so.  That’s normal!  After that though you should notice you feel a lot better!  If not, you may have chosen the wrong nutrition plan for your body!  No matter how well it works for someone else it might not be right for you, so make a change!

It’s Not About Willpower

Notice how I said, “nutrition plan” in the paragraph above and not “diet”?  That’s because this needs to be a lifestyle change not a period of punishment and deprivation!  You aren’t dieting!  You’re changing the way you eat so you can live your best, fullest and healthiest life!  Change your thinking around this!  If you’re trying to lose weight because you hate your body, you’re sure to fail!  Come from a place of love and focus on nourishing it! 

Nutrition changes shouldn’t be a matter of white-knuckle willpower!  If you’re struggling to stick with your plan after a month you may have become too restrictive or taken on too much to quickly!  Consider breaking down the adjustments you’re making into smaller chunks and alternate between giving things up and increasing things in your diet.  For example, one month you add more veggies, the next month you eliminate soda, then you add more lean protein, then cut back on sugar.  Continue doing this until you have the nutrition plan you want!

Exercise Variety is Key

When you first start exercising your body is taken off guard and weight tends to drop rather quickly!  Once your body adapts though you’re likely to find that your loss stagnates.  This happens even if you’re still feeling challenged by your work out.  Your body has simply become more efficient at providing the energy needed for what it knows is coming!  This adaptability in our bodies is super annoying when trying to lose weight but it’s also what’s allowed our species to survive throughout all sorts of endangering circumstances.

To get the best results out of your routine mix it up!  The three basic categories of exercise you should include are flexibility and balance, weightlifting and cardio.  I find that including stretching into my daily workout and setting aside 1 – 2 days a week for yoga, 3 days for cardio and 3 for strength training offers a great balance.  Remember you don’t have to spend an hour or two a day.  Timewise I’d break it down to about 1.5 – 2 hours of each per week.  If you plan ahead or get a trainer you can easily get this done.  I’ve also found that the Beachbody Morning Meltdown 100 day workout has a great variety and only requires 30 minutes or less a day.  (No, I’m not a Beachbody coach and this isn’t sponsored, I just love this program)!

Hydrate

Maybe you’ve been living under a rock for the last 50 years and haven’t heard but hydration is SUPER important!  I’ll bet you already knew that!  What you may not have heard is the new recommendations regarding water consumption.  You should be drinking half of your body weight in ounces of water a day.  So, if you weigh 180 you should drink 90 ounces a day.   This recommendation has changed slightly over the years because we don’t all have the same body shape or size.

Drinking plenty of liquids (you can count anything decaf and sugar or artificial sweetener free in your water count) helps stave off hunger, flushes out your body and prevents you from retaining fluids and feeling bloated.  Minimizing salt intake can also help if you’re retaining fluids or feeling bloated!  When you get on the scale that retention can equal big weight fluctuations.  If you’re a woman you should also expect your menstrual cycle to affect your weight.  It can be helpful to keep track of this so it’s more predictable!

Sleep

You may not have heard, but sleep has been bumped to the second most important factor in weight loss.  That’s right it’s even more highly ranked than exercise now!  I know, that sounds counter intuitive because you burn far less calories while sleeping than even while sitting on the couch watching tv!

What’s been recently discovered though is that people who are tired tend to eat more junk food.  Exhaustion and boredom are huge factors in making unhealthy and excessive food choices.  But there are also hormonal and chemical changes in our bodies when we’re tired that make eating impossible to resist! We crave refined carbs and sugar for energy when we’re tired!  And we eat them mindlessly!

Another important consideration is stress hormones!  Stress is an enormous factor in sleeplessness.  It’s also a huge factor in weight gain!  When your body experiences stress it assumes it’s endangered and packs on some extra padding in preparation for the upcoming famine, plague or relocation.  Again, this served us very well when we were actually in a consistent state of peril but now it’s just frustrating!  Sitting in morning traffic and worrying about disappointing our boss, or spouse or basically everyone isn’t a reason we need to pack on the pounds but it’ll cause that anyway!  So, it’s very important to learn to destress and get plenty of rest (as in 7 – 9 hours a night)!

Self-Care

Maybe you haven’t thought of this yet and maybe you don’t think you deserve a little treat since you’ve stopped losing or gained a few pounds, but self-care is key to weight loss.  Think about everything you’ve read so far and this will be evident!

Self-care motivates you to stay on track.  It keeps you mindful that you’re doing all of this because you love yourself!  It’s a shame that we have connected weight loss to vanity and self-loathing.  What it should really be about is nourishing and caring for ourselves and our health!  Practicing self-care helps keep your mind in the right place!

 It also helps decrease workout recovery time so that you feel less sore and more refreshed!  This will make you less likely to skip your exercise routine.  And of course, don’t forget how beneficial self-care can be to your sleep schedule!  It’s a great way to alleviate stress and get your body into relaxation mode so you can get good quality sleep!

Change the Way You Measure Progress

There are so many ways to measure progress.  And I would argue that other ways are FAR better than weight loss!  Keeping track of non-scale victories is a great way to stay motivated and on track.  I believe in it so much I’ve created a non-scale victory tracker for all my subscribers.  Because, if you stop measuring success with a scale and start measuring by how you look, feel and perform you’ll be a lot better off.  Those plateaus will no longer derail you and eventually you WILL reach you optimal body weight!  No more getting disheartened and quitting!  In fact, it’s likely that before you get there you’ll have pitched your scale and be using a much more important measure, your health! 

Get your FREE eBook with answers to all your weight loss questions, plus easy health recipes and challenges to keep you on track!

Share this with a friend (or your accountability partner) to encourage them to stick to their health goals too!

Posted in Exercise, Health, Health & Wellness, Nurtured Self, Nutrition, Nutrition, Self Care

2 Comments

    • Cassie

      Thank you so much and I’m glad you got so much out of it! I’ve also found that yoga is very beneficial to weight loss. It’s a great workout!

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