How to overcome a weight loss plateau

 28 Feb 2021

Firstly, congratulate yourself on what you have achieved to date!


Before I discuss how to overcome a weight loss plateau it's important to understand what could be causing you to experience this. In the first week of coaching my clients, I advise them to expect a rapid drop of weight loss and that this is normal. The rapid drop in weight loss occurs because when you cut calories, the body needs energy initially by releasing its stores of glycogen, a type of carbohydrate found in the muscles and liver.

> Glycogen is partly made of water, so when glycogen is burned for energy, it releases water, resulting in temporary weight loss that's mostly water.

> As you lose weight, you lose some muscle along with fat. Muscle helps keep the rate at which you burn calories up, which is called your metabolism. So as you lose weight, your metabolism declines, causing you to burn fewer calories than you did at your heavier weight.

> Your slower metabolism will slow your weight loss, even if you eat the same number of calories that helped you lose weight. When the calories you burn equal the calories you eat, you reach a plateau.

To lose more weight, you need to either increase your physical activity or decrease the calories you eat. Using the same approach that worked initially may maintain your weight loss, but it will not lead to more weight loss.


Tips to overcome a weight loss plateau

When you reach a plateau, you may have lost all the weight you will on your current diet and exercise plan. If you wish to lose more weight, then you may need to change up to a different program and meal plan. If you are committed to losing more weight, try these tips for getting past the plateau:


  1. Congratulate yourself on what you have achieved to date! If you are eating well, have shed some excess weight, lost some inches and are doing more exercise then you have already made tremendous inroads to becoming more physically and mentally healthier.
  2. Avoid reverting to old habits just because you may feel things are ‘not working’. You have already achieved so great results!
  3. Tune into your body and see what it really needs. You can ask yourself the following questions:

- Is my weight loss goal unrealistic? If you are unsure talk to your GP, dietitian or health coach who will be able to give you professional advice.

- Am I weighing myself too much and allowing it to dictate my mood, my eating habits, you may need to take a break from the scales?

- Have I lost my motivation?

- Take a break from dieting, use this period to continue eating well and maintain your current weight. This will allow yourself to focus on other areas of wellbeing and to be open to more inspiration on eating well and exercising more, try some new things!

- Am I being honest about my portion sizes?

- Am I consuming more than I need outside of my three meals?

- Are my meals balanced (Carbohydrate / healthy fat / protein combinations)?

- Are my meals concentrated around whole natural processed foods? Whole foods provide the body with the energy it needs as well as key vitamins and minerals. Processed foods are empty calories and chemical disrupters which can lead to cravings and nutrient deficiency.

Tips: More water intake, more vegetables intake (especially green leafy vegetables), more fibre foods and more protein.

- Am I snacking too much? Maple syrup, nuts and nut butters, granola, energy bars, trail mix, full-fat milk, yogurt, and cheeses, these may creep back into the diet, yes healthy but if eaten often and not balanced out with your day’s meals, can be tripping you up on your efforts.

- Are my meals varied so I am getting enough key vitamins and minerals? Research has shown Vitamin D, Omega 3, B Group Vitamins, Iron and Magnesium are key in the correct balancing and functioning of metabolism and energy production.

- What is my alcohol intake like, could the type and number of drinks be interfering with my success?

- Am I trying to exercise to undo overeating?

- Am I doing less exercise or am I overdoing the exercise with punishing routines?

- Am I sabotaging my efforts at the weekends?

- What areas of my diet can I adjust?


  1. Do a calorie check? There are many apps to log your meals so you can get an idea of how many calories you are consuming. For women, the daily calorie intake is 2000kcal, to lose 1lb of excess weight you will need to consume 1500kcals. If you are eating fewer than 1200kcal daily then you may not be eating enough so your body is going to hold onto your weight, it will lead to experience constant hunger and could lead to overeating.
    1. If you are consuming 1500kcal plus a day, then you will need to cut your calories to trigger a weight loss.
    2. I recommend a food journal with all my clients and it is amazing what this will tell you and it will aid you on adjusting your meals and snacks so you can see a result.


  1. Intensify your workout. 30 – 40 minutes of exercise a day is recommended, however if you are trying to lose weight then consider how you can change up your workout by increasing the intensity (e.g., more hillwalking, ankle weight for walking) to burn more calories. Add more strength and conditioning exercises to increase your muscle mass will help you burn more calories.


  1. Pack more activity into your day. Think outside the gym. Increase your general physical activity throughout the day by walking more and using your car less or try doing more outdoor activities or household chores. Any physical activity will help you burn more calories.
  1. Check your stress levels. When you are feeling stressed, in a stressful environment, your adrenal glands release the hormones cortisol and adrenaline which leads to glucose being released into your blood stream, all to help give you the energy you need to escape the threat. Once the threat has subsided, your cortisol has a second spike to replenish the energy you lost during the fight or flight stage. Cortisol then tells your body to store your food as fat, to be used for energy the next time the threat comes, while also lowering your metabolism, (this could cause you to burn on average 100 calories less per day which alone would cause an 11 pound weight gain in one year).


  1. How is my sleep? A full night’s sleep is vital to losing body fat because it resets your hormones. Even a little sleep deprivation can lead to increased cortisol, a stress hormone. Elevated cortisol levels can lead to body fat accumulation, especially around the midsection.



VIDEO: You can also watch my IGTV on explaining Weight Loss Plateau