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Last Updated on November 26, 2020

How to Get Through a Weight Loss Plateau (Step-By-Step Guide)

How to Get Through a Weight Loss Plateau (Step-By-Step Guide)

Experiencing a weight loss plateau is perfectly normal. However, just because it’s normal doesn’t mean it’s not frustrating, and it feels like all your hard work has ground to a halt.

Instead of seeing a weight loss plateau as a roadblock, you need to see it as a speed bump that may get in the way from time to time but can still be navigated.

This article will look at what causes these plateaus and how you can get through them the next time they may strike.

What Is a Weight Loss Plateau?

The basics of this plateau are that weight loss or fat loss has stalled after a period of progression. But what is the real reason this has happened, and why does it occur when it does? Weight loss, or fat loss, has seemed to stall, and the first thing to do is to recognize if this is a plateau.

If you weigh yourself daily, you know that there are fluctuations that occur each day. If you are weighing yourself every day, you want to at least be consistent with it. Your true weight will be first thing in the morning after you’ve gone to the bathroom. You want to weigh yourself at the same time and also make sure your scale is calibrated properly. Even a floor that is not perfectly even can give you an inaccurate reading.

It’s important to do this first thing as your weight can fluctuate throughout the day, with people often seeing variations of 3-5 pounds. Since there are these daily changes, you want to take a different approach and look at your weekly averages week after week. This will give you a better snapshot of your progress and tell you if you’ve actually reached a plateau or not.

True weight loss happens over weeks and months, and that’s why tracking is important. You should see a gradual decrease over this longer time period. Healthy and sustained weight loss will be around 1-2 pounds per week. It’s a linear path that will have small up and down spikes over the time period but should still move progressively downward.

When you see that the weight isn’t gradually dropping the way it has been over the past weeks and months, that can be your sign that you’ve hit a true weight loss plateau.

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The Issues With the Scale

A scale gives you some data but doesn’t always show the whole picture. You will not get an idea of true body composition, as a regular scale will not show a balance between lean muscle and body fat. You may have lost 5 pounds of body fat, but gained 5 pounds of muscle, and the number on the scale would stay the same. That body compositional change, however, would show some great physical results.

The body fat loss would help you appear leaner, and the lean muscle gain would also enhance your overall appearance. You could look significantly different while the number on the scale hasn’t changed.

The scale is also not going to reveal issues surrounding water retention or bloating, along with the hormonal fluctuations that can cause these issues. You can still check the scale, but a better indicator of weight loss will be with a tape measure.

When you’ve lost body fat, you will notice your clothes fitting differently, and tracking your body part measurements can be a great way to monitor results. If you are going the tape measure route, measure these main areas:

  • Hips
  • Right thigh, at the midrange point
  • Waist, just below your ribcage and above your belly button
  • Chest, under the armpits
  • Right bicep, unflexed
  • Right calf
  • Neck

You can take measurements on your right and left appendages, but this is a good base of measurement to track progress.

Why Is Your Weight Not Going Down?

This may be because you are doing too much and not getting enough calories at the same time. If you are overdoing it in the gym, it can be like taking a few steps backward. Your workouts shouldn’t be over 75 minutes (30-40 may be all you need), and you want some rest days throughout the week.

If you’re working out every day and exhausting yourself, your body will go into that self-preservation mode, raising stress hormones and, again, making weight loss difficult.

If you are involved in an adequate exercise program (3-4 days per week) and going for a reasonable amount of time, you may need to add in a little more physical activity if you’ve reached a weight loss plateau. This doesn’t have to be overly intense, but some extra cardio may help. This can be an extra 5-10 minutes, or one or two 20-minute walks added on to your weekly amount.

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You also want to make sure you’re eating enough and getting into a bit of a calorie deficit[1] if weight loss has stalled. You need not count every calorie, but it’s a good idea to take a few days to track your nutrition intake so you at least have a good idea of where you’re at.

Many people do not understand how many calories they are taking in each day. Calorie counting is far from a perfect science, but to get a rough ballpark figure, the average woman needs around 2000 calories a day to maintain. An average man will need around 2500 calories.[2]

How many calories should you eat to overcome a weight loss plateau?

     

    If you’re not losing weight, you’ll want to reduce that amount by around 300 calories each day and see how this is going after a week or so[3]. If there has been no change, you might need to drop another 200 calories. You don’t want this to go lower as not enough calories can have a negative effect on your metabolism and will lead to stalled weight loss.

    Is 1000 Calories a Day Too Little?

    In a word? Yes. Your body needs more than that just to carry out its basic functions of living, and that’s not including you getting up and moving around. Even if you were just to lie on the couch all day, your body will need at least 1200 to 1400 calories just to exist.

    If you are not giving your body sufficient calories, it goes into panic mode. Your metabolism will drop as your body needs to hold on to every precious calorie to sustain itself. When this happens you can kiss weight loss goodbye.

    The other problem is eventually you will snap because you are so hungry and will eat everything in sight. When you flood calories into a body with a slowed metabolism, you can guess what they end up being stored as.

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    Keeping yourself fed with high-quality and nutritious foods will allow your body to run optimally and provide you with energy to be active, burn body fat, and bust through those weight loss plateaus.

    What to Do When You Hit a Weight Loss Plateau

    When you think you’ve hit a weight loss plateau, try doing the following to get back on track.

    Track Your Info

    This is where it’s important to take a step back and have a look at what’s been going on in your life. Tracking your info can be helpful because it gives you some data to observe. You don’t have to be obsessive about it, but recording your workouts, sleep, stress levels and understanding your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) and basic metabolic rate (BMR) will help give you an indicator where the problems may arise.

    Lower Your Stress Levels

    If you’ve noticed you’ve been overly stressed with work and life lately, this may be the culprit. When your body experiences stress, it elevates stress hormones, such as cortisol. When cortisol is constantly elevated, it can slow weight loss to a crawl.

    Stress hormones are released in the body as a way to preserve itself. The body will be more likely to hold on to body fat as it believes some sort of trauma is happening and it needs all the backup fuel it can get. At this point, your body is not interested in burning body fat, or building muscle; it’s interested in preserving things.

    Read this article for more tips on how to reduce stress.

    Get More Rest

    Higher stress may also lead to a lack of sleep, which causes the same issues around a weight loss plateau, and when you add these two together, they compound their negative effects. If you’re seeing this, it means you will have to slow things down a bit.

    Make getting extra sleep a priority, and you may have to back off the workouts for a bit. Even better, taking some time off from the gym can be a great way to let your whole body, central nervous system, and immune system recover.

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    This could be a good time to focus on relaxing, meditation, or yoga. You also want to make sure you’re keeping your diet as clean as possible, as eating things like refined sugar and carbs when stressed can easily lead to weight gain.

    Listen to your body and give it a breather when needed. Doing this will allow it to come back stronger than before.

    Add Variety to Your Workouts

    For workouts, you want to always keep your body guessing. The best workout is the one you haven’t done yet. Your body needs an ever-changing stimulus in order to get more results.

    The good news is this doesn’t have to be a drastic overhaul. If you’re exercising, you just want to make changes to your routine, exercise order, duration, or repetitions.

    At the very least, you want to do at least what you did last workout, plus a little more. If you ran for 30 minutes, go for 32 next time. If you did 10 repetitions of an exercise, go for 11 or 12.

    You can change the order of the exercises you do, perform some cardio before strength training, add in some high-intensity intervals, or shorten your rest periods between sets. The main thing is to give a bit of a shock to your body in order for it to change.

    Final Thoughts

    Weight loss plateaus will happen; it’s just all about being prepared for when they strike. Getting an understanding of why they happen is important to progress past them. What’s also important is realizing how your body works, and what it needs in order for it to respond favorably to exercise and diet.

    A weight-loss plateau can be overcome with changes in activity, addressing lifestyle issues, and keeping the diet as clean as possible. Recognizing when stress has overwhelmed you, sleep is being neglected, and you need a break will go a long way in helping combat weight loss plateaus.

    You also need to be aware of consuming enough calories per day and the issues that come from not nourishing your body properly. Healthy weight loss is all about combining exercise, diet, rest, recovery, and an overall holistic approach for it to happen.

    More About Healthy Weight Loss

    Featured photo credit: Gesina Kunkel via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Adnan Munye

    Personal Trainer and Fitness Expert

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    Last Updated on November 18, 2020

    50 Habits of Highly Successful People You Should Learn

    50 Habits of Highly Successful People You Should Learn

    If you’re like me and really into self-development, you’ve probably read many of the thousands of self-help books out there on the market. But also like me, you probably find all the information a bit overwhelming.

    That’s why I wanted to do the self-less task of taking the most important, life-changing lessons I’ve drawn from these books and condensed them into 50 key points.

    Here’re 50 habits of successful people you should learn:

    1. Believe It to See It

    Our minds tend to focus on what’s happening around us and refuse to see what could happen. Only when you trust in what’s possible and dare to dream big, big things can happen for you.

    2. See Problems as a Wonderful Gift

    While others only see problems and give up, successful people use the problem as a lesson to find improvement in themselves or the task at hand.

    3. Keep Looking for Solutions

    Even if they’re knee-deep in problems, successful people will still put all of their focus on finding solutions.

    4. Remember It’s All About the Journey

    Successful people are conscious and methodical in creating their own success. They don’t sit around doing the bare minimum, hoping success finds them.

    5. Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

    There’s so much fear on the road to success, but instead of letting that fear control and limit them, successful people do a good job of just forging ahead regardless.

    6. Always Ask Productive Questions

    It’s all about asking the right questions. Successful people make sure they are questions that will elicit information for a more productive, creative and positive mindset moving forward.

    7. Understand the Best Waste of Energy Is Complaining

    Successful people know that choosing to see the negative side of things will only create a useless and unproductive state.

    8. Don’t Play the Blame Game

    Taking responsibility for actions and outcomes is a form of empowerment that you can build your success upon. While the act of blaming others or outside circumstances takes this empowerment away from you.

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    9. Maximize Your Strengths

    Not every successful person is simply more talented than the rest, but they do use what they know they’re good at to achieve more successful results.

    10. Be in It to Win It

    Successful people are busy, productive and proactive. Instead of sitting around over-thinking and over-planning a great idea, they just take a step towards it no matter how small.

    11. Know That Success Attracts Success

    People who are successful surround themselves and seek out like-minded people. They understand the importance of being part of a team and forge win-win relationships.

    12. Actually Choose to Be Successful

    Dreaming big is a massive part of being successful even if your dream seems impossible. Ambition is a mindset that needs to be a daily conscious choice.

    13. Visualize, Visualize, Visualize!

    You’ve got to see your success in your mind’s eye even before it comes. Successful people clarify and get that certainty about what they want their reality to look like rather than being mere spectators of life.

    14. Be a One-Off Original

    Successful people look for what’s working and then create a unique spin on it. Imitating only regurgitates other people’s ideas with no originality.

    15. The Perfect Time to Act Is Now

    Waiting for the right time to act is basically procrastination wrapped up in an excuse. Successful people know there’s never a perfect time so they may as well just do it now.

    16. Keep Learning, Keep Growing

    Continuous learning is the key to a successful life. Whether it’s academic, being a student of life or actionable learning, it’s all about expanding your knowledge and personal development.

    17. Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

    Successful people have the knack for finding positive aspects in all people and circumstances no matter what.

    18. Having a Bad Day? Do It Anyway!

    We all have bad moods but it shouldn’t be an excuse to stop everything. Giving into a bad mood just stop-starts your life, slowing success way down.

    19. Sometimes Risky Business Is Needed

    Calculated risks are a must for success. It’s about weighing the pros and cons while moving forward with that element of trust.

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    20. Accept Challenge All the Time

    Dealing with problems head-on is a must to be successful. Successful people also face challenges in order to improve themselves.

    21. Make Your Own Luck

    In the mindset of a successful person, there’s no such thing as ‘luck’ or ‘fate’. They take control to actively and consciously create their own best life.

    22. Ignite Your Initiative

    While many people are reactive, successful people are proactive – taking action before they have to.

    23. Be the Master of Your Emotions

    Being effective at managing emotions is key on the road to success. That’s not to say successful people don’t feel like we all do, but they’re just not slaves to their emotions.

    24. Champion in Communication

    Consciously working on effective communication skills gets anyone closer to success.

    25. Plan Your Life Strategically

    Successful people’s lives aren’t a clumsy series of unplanned events and outcomes, they methodically work at turning their plans into a reality.

    26. Become Exceptional at What You Do

    To become exceptional, you typically have to do things that most won’t. To become successful, hard decisions need to be made and acting on them is crucial.

    27. Choose to Live Outside of Your Comfort Zone

    While many people are pleasure junkies and avoid pain and discomfort at all costs, successful people understand the value and benefits of working through the tough stuff that most would avoid.

    28. Live by Core Values

    Successful people firstly identify their core values and what’s important to them, then do their best to live a life that reflects these values.

    29. Realize Money Isn’t Everything

    Money and success are not interchangeable and the most successful people understand this. Putting money on a pedestal and equating it to success is a dangerous mindset to have. Success comes in many forms.

    30. Don’t Get Carried Away

    Successful people understand the importance of discipline and self-control and as a result they are happy to take the road less travelled.

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    31. Self-Worth Is Not Tied to Success

    Successful people are secure. They do not derive their self-worth from what they own, who they know, where they live or what they look like.

    32. Kindness Breeds Kindness (And Success)

    Generosity and kindness is a common trait among long-term successful people. It’s important to take pleasure in helping others achieve.

    33. More Humility, Less Arrogance

    Successful people are humble and happy to admit and apologize for mistakes. This is because they’re confident in their ability. They are happy to learn from others and happy to make others look good rather than seek their own personal glory.

    34. Change Opens New Doors

    People who are successful are adaptable and embrace change, while the majority are creatures of comfort and habit. They are comfortable with, and embrace, the new and the unfamiliar.

    35. Success Requires a Healthy Body

    It’s not just how you think, it’s about how you show up for success. Successful people understand the importance of being physically well, not for vain reasons but because being in tiptop condition creates a better personal life for success.

    36. Laziness Just Doesn’t Exist

    Successful people are never considered lazy. Yes, they can relax when they need to, but working hard is their game.

    37. Resilience by the Bucket Load

    When difficulty strikes, most would throw in the towel, but successful people are just warming up.

    38. Feedback Is Just Another Chance to Improve

    How people react to feedback determines their potential for success. Being open to constructive criticism and acting on it to improve is most seen in those who are successful.

    39. Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe

    If people are hanging out with toxic and negative people, then they need to take a look at themselves. Successful people hang out with others who are positive and supportive.

    40. Can’t Control It? Forget It

    Successful people don’t invest time or emotional energy into things which they have no control of.

    41. Swim Against the Tide

    Successful people are not people-pleasers and they don’t need constant approval from others in order to move ahead.

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    42. Alone Time Is Valuable Time

    More self-worth means being more comfortable with your own company. Successful people are more happy and see the value in spending time alone.

    43. Self-Standard Is Higher Than Most

    Everyone has a choice to set high standards for themselves. Successful people do this, which in turn produces greater commitment, more momentum, a better work ethic and of course, better results.

    44. Failure Isn’t Rationalized

    While many use age, health, lack of time, ‘bad luck’, or lack of opportunity to explain away their failure, the key to success is finding a way to succeed despite facing these challenges.

    45. Down Time Is an Important Part of a Routine

    Having an off switch and taking time to do things that make them happy is a common trait of a successful person. Take a look at here The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

    46. Career Isn’t Who You Are, It’s What You Do

    Successful people know their career isn’t their identity. They are multi-dimensional and don’t define themselves by their job.

    47. Be Interested in Only the Path of Resistance

    While most people look for the easiest way or the shortcut, successful people are more interested in the most effective way. They look for the course of action which will produce the best results over the long term.

    48. Follow Through

    Many spend their life starting things that they never finish, but successful people get the job done. Even when the excitement and the novelty has worn off they still follow through and finish.

    49. Invest in All Your Dimensions

    We’re not just physical and psychological beings, but emotional and spiritual creatures as well. Successful people consciously work at being healthy and productive on all levels.

    50. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

    To obtain success, it’s important to practice what you preach. Successful people don’t talk about the theory, they live the reality.

    So there you have it, a summary of what I’ve learned from self-help books. But of course, you need to start taking actions so you will get closer to success too.

    Bonus: 5 Bad Habits To Quit

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    Featured photo credit: Juan Jose via unsplash.com

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