Ever wonder why it’s hard to lose weight after a certain point in your journey? There are actually a lot of reasons you’ve hit a wall and I’m here to make sure you know how to get past a weight loss plateau so keep reading.
When one embarks on the exciting journey of weight loss and toning up they expect progress to be linear. You may be one of those people, I was, who expected the scale to routinely go down a pound every week for the duration of your cut. But, it never works like that, unfortunately.
Progress is an inconsistent trend of ups and downs but for the most part, goes down. I am a perfectionist who fell victim to the idea of linear progress and if I could offer any advice before or during your journey, it would be to expect the imperfections, the slip-ups, and the ups and downs. Make it a part of the plan. In this post, I am going to outline my TOP TIPS on how to get over a weight loss plateau and reach your goals!
This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase a product through my link I will receive a small commission at no cost to you. Thank you for your support!
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice and should not be taken as such. I am not a doctor and do not claim to be as these are solely based on my experiences. Please consult your family doctor before considering any recommendations listed in this post. Thanks!
What is a weight loss plateau?
For centuries our bodies have hardly changed biologically. Our body still processes our environment as if we were out in the wild fending for ourselves. Of course, this is no longer the case. In terms of dieting and weight loss, it is important to remember that your body will process restriction as a famine. Therefore, these extremely low calorie and low carb/fat diets are perceived as a threat to your body and will respond with metabolic adaptation and urges to binge/binge eating behavior. However, anyone living in a first-world country knows there is food available and lots of it! This instinct to eat in response to voluntary restriction can cause a little hiccup on your weight loss journey.
how can you tell if you are in a plateau?
You are in a weight loss plateau if you are adherent to your diet and are not losing any more weight after previously being able to do so. Some may even gain some body fat! the culprit of a weight loss plateau is usually metabolic adaptation but there are many other factors that play a role in your body’s ability to shed pounds such as the weight set point theory, stress, and inadequate recovery.
Why do our bodies plateau on a weight loss journey?
Short answer: survival. Your body is made to do one thing, Survive and multiply. As I mentioned above, your body feels threatened when it is restricted to low amounts of food and/or cutting out food groups such as fats or carbs. A plateau is a response to restriction and your body’s way of keeping you safe because if your body fat drops too low and too quickly, it stresses TF out.
weight loss Plateau suspect #1: Metabolic adaptation
Your metabolism, aka total daily energy expenditure (TDEE), is made up of 4 factors: Basal metabolic rate (BMR), Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), thermic effect of food (TEF), and structured exercise. Similarly, Calories in vs calories out. When we cut calories to a certain point, our bodies catch up because they are efficient! That’s when it gets hard to lose weight.
TDEE = BMR + NEAT + TEF + physical activity
If you are unsure of what your TDEE is at the moment (or what it should be) there are many helpful calculators on the internet to use, I’ll link some here
When you have been on a diet for a few months and have lost some weight, your TDEE changes as your body mass has changed and often NEAT will change on a low-calorie diet. NEAT includes extra activities such as walking the dogs, cleaning, and fidgeting. Many people experience a decrease in NEAT on a diet due to low energy and therefore, lowering their TDEE.
Due to this metabolic adaptation, your body will not stay in the same deficit as you lose weight. That deficit will be closer to your new maintenance calories so we see a slowdown in weight loss and may be the cause of your plateau. If you have been adherent to your diet and suddenly you no longer drop weight, your body might have caught on to your tricks.
weight loss Plateau suspect #2: weight set point theory
The weight set point theory implies that everyone’s unique body is meant to be comfortable at a specific weight, largely due to one’s genetic makeup. This is why we see healthy individuals at “very thin” and “overweight” sizes. Any weight above or below one’s healthy range would be hard to maintain and unhealthy. For example, my weight ranges from 130-135lbs, I have a healthy period, I feel satisfied, I’m not obsessed with food, I have plenty of energy, and I’m happy☺
However, In the depths of my eating disorder, I was 110lbs, stressed, couldn’t sleep, had no period, lost hair, and had no energy to do anything but go to the gym and sleep. This was a weight my body was screaming to get out of, so it urged me to binge.
Then I jumped to 150 due to all the feeding, I was incredibly uncomfortable in my skin and no matter how hard I tried to stick to a diet, nothing was working for me. My metabolism was fried from the years of yo-yo dieting and needed some consistent calories in order to feel safe again. So, that’s what I did! After about a year my body happily settled at 130lbs- 135lbs without me controlling it or forcing it to be any thinner. I strongly believe your set point is where you will be the happiest and you can only get there by allowing yourself to let go of dieting.
weight loss Plateau suspect #3: Stress
Stress is a sneaky one, you may not even know your body is under stress. However, it plays a large role in weight loss and getting over a plateau.
Stressors you may not consider:
- Are you getting enough sleep? (7-8hours)
- Are you over-exercising?
- Is your deficit too large?
- Are you working long hours?
- Do you have family issues/relationship problems?
- Are your hormones balanced?
If you answered “yes” to most of these questions, stress may be the culprit of your weight loss plateau.
Weight loss plateau suspect #4: you aren’t in a calorie deficit
The fourth and final reason (arguably the most common) is that you are not actually in a calorie deficit. You may be tracking your food in my fitness pal and “hitting your macro goals” but are your serving sizes accurate?
Most of the time, eyeballing portions leads to massive overestimations thus, putting us out of a calorie deficit. Some ways to avoid this is to get yourself a food scale and track your food accurately for a week or so just until your eyes aren’t so blind to true portions.
Then tracking food is much more accurate and you can achieve your goals without wondering “What the heck is the problem?!”
How to get over a plateau
- Evaluate if you need to lose more fat. Are you at a healthy weight for your activity level?
- Prioritize recovery as it is just as important as exercise!
- Make sure you are eating in a deficit, not too large and not too small
- Include refeed days to prevent metabolic adaptation/have diet breaks every few weeks
Those who are in a weight loss plateau may also benefit from a reverse dieting phase. Read more on how to do a reverse diet HERE!
In conclusion, a plateau is nothing to be concerned about. As I mentioned at the beginning of the article- expect the ups and downs. There are some great tips here so make sure you save this post for later!
And if you need help getting out of a plateau you’ve been in for ages, send me a message on Instagram (I’m most active there) saying “PLATEAUED!” and we will troubleshoot some things you can do. OR fill out a coaching application and we can get started right away! The form is below 😉
until next time Xx