Weight Loss Plateau. What is it and How Can We Fix it?

A weight loss plateau is when you’ve reached a point in your weight loss journey where the calories you’re taking in, equal the calories you’re burning, so your weight is remaining the same. This means the number on the scale you’ve been watching decline over the past few weeks or months is no longer budging. What gives?

You can follow your workout plan to the T, conscious of what you eat and put effort into working out every day. Eventually, most of us hit a plateau, and it’s very easy to become upset and discouraged about losing weight. Typically weight loss will occur rapidly after a weight loss plan has been started, mostly due to losing excess water weight. When your diet suddenly changes and you’re not taking in as many calories as you used to, your body goes into panic mode and begins to use its stored glycogen as energy. Glycogen is a form of carbohydrate which contains some water, so when it’s used for energy the weight loss we see is mainly from water weight.

As we know, when you lose weight, you’re losing both muscle and fat. Muscle is important to our bodies not only to keep us strong, but to help keep up our metabolism. Metabolism is the rate at which our bodies burn the food we eat for fuel. This means that when we lose weight, we lose some muscle, and in turn our metabolism decreases. A slower metabolism leads to a slower weight loss, thus contributing to the plateau many of us reach.

During a weight loss journey, a big part of success is sticking with counting the calories we eat and being aware of how many calories are burned from exercise and daily activities. One pound of fat equals about 3,500 calories. If you want to lose 2 pounds in a week you’ll need to be burning 1000 calories MORE than what you’re consuming each day. Today there are so many ways to help us stay on track like phone apps or fitness bracelets, but nothing beats the accuracy of writing down each and every food we eat and activity we do in a journal.

When we don’t see the number on the scale continue to move, it’s hard to find the motivation to keep up with a weight loss plan. If you’re not satisfied with the weight you’ve lost and you’ve hit that plateau, the first thing to try would be to decrease the calories you’re consuming a day (by just a couple hundred), and/or increase the amount or intensity of exercise. Outside of regular exercise, be aware of your day-to-day activities. When you’re at work take the stairs instead of the elevator, bike to where you need to be if you can, or take a walk at lunch time. Little changes in our daily lives can help us fight a plateau, and keep us happy and healthy.  


Getting past a weight-loss plateau. Mayo Clinic. 2015.

This blog is written by Tracy Zaniewski, a student intern of Valley Nutrition Counseling with a major in Nutrition at the University of Massachusetts Amherst