Breaking Through A Weight Loss Plateau

by Jaime Brenkus

You’re making awesome changes to your body when suddenly your progress grinds to a screeching halt. Those pounds of fat that were once falling off effortlessly are now clinging to your body for dear life.

No matter what you do, nothing is working. Maybe it’s been a week, or two, or even a month, but your weight is not budging. You’re ready to shrug your shoulders, throw your hands in the air, and say “I quit.”

Why can’t you lose any more weight? What are some solutions to break through your stubborn weight loss plateau?

Weight Loss Plateau vs. Fat Loss Plateau

Weight Loss Plateau vs. Fat Loss Plateau

A weight loss plateau is a period of time during which your body weight remains at the same level. So, if your weight doesn’t change for two weeks, does that mean your results have stalled?

Absolutely not!

The phrase “weight loss” does not differentiate between changes in fat, muscle, and water. The primary purposes of tracking your body weight are 1) for accountability and 2) as a proxy for measuring fat loss. When you get on the scale and the reading goes down one pound, the hope is that one pound represents pure fat – not muscle or water.

If you are weighing yourself every day, you probably notice your weight can fluctuate substantially by three to five pounds. Most of this weight fluctuation is due to changes in water retention.

For example, if you eat a lot of sodium and drink little water, you will retain a ton of water, which will increase your body weight. On the other hand, if you drink plenty of water and moderate your sodium, your weight can decrease by several pounds after you finish an intense workout. It may seem counterintuitive, but the more water your drink, the less you retain it.

Step Away From the Scale 

Step Away From the Scale

The unpredictability of water retention is one reason to weigh yourself only once per week unless you find that weigh-ins every morning keep you more accountable. Weighing yourself multiple times per day is the fastest way to kill your confidence and mess with your head.

A weight loss plateau, and more specifically a fat loss plateau, should be defined as no change in body weight for three weeks. The first week may be because of water retention, along with the second week. The third week indicates that maybe your body is not changing as you have hoped.

Before delving into some solutions to help you break your weight loss plateau, here are some important facts that you should know:

1) Weight Loss Plateaus are VERY Common

 If you do not experience a weight loss plateau as you approach your ideal body weight, consider yourself very, very lucky. Weight loss plateaus are to be expected as you are losing weight. Our bodies are resistant to change. A large chunk of people who reach their ideal weight have experienced several plateaus lasting several weeks. Remember that if changing our bodies was easy, then everyone would be walking around with a six-pack.

2) The More Weight You Lose, the More Weight Loss Slows

This comes down to simple mathematics. Take a guy who is at 230lb and loses 1% of his body weight in fat per week. We’ll call him Mike. Mike would then lose roughly 2.3lb of fat per week. If he gets down to 200lb, losing 1% of fat is now 2lb, or 15% less than 2.3lb. As Mike’s weight decreases further, less weight would be lost as a percentage of his total body weight, so weight loss inherently slows down the leaner he becomes.

3) Losing Weight Becomes Harder the Closer You Get to Your Ideal Weight

Not only does the pace of weight loss slow down, but your body will work harder to hold on to your stored fat the leaner you become. We are left with a sobering fact: the ability to lose more fat decreases as your weight loss progresses. The most common plateau for guys is first around 20-22% body fat, then around 12% body fat.

Three Steps to Break Your Weight Loss Plateau

Three Steps to Break Your Weight Loss Plateau

 Now that you understand the difference between weight loss plateaus and fat loss plateaus, along with the basic dynamics of weight loss, here are some tips to help you break through the toughest plateaus.

Step #1: Re-evaluate Your Calorie Intake

As you lose weight, not only does it become harder to lose, but your metabolism decreases. If someone who weighs 200lb does the same workout as someone who weighs 230lb, the smaller person’s metabolism will be roughly 15% lower. Why? Because your body doesn’t require as much energy to support a smaller frame. So, reevaluate your calorie intake with every 10lbs that you lose to ensure you are eating fewer calories than you are burning.

Step #2: Control the “Calorie Creep”

A rough estimate is 90% of all weight loss plateaus are related to “calorie creep,” or more generally, eating more calories than you think you are eating. The calorie creep can come from mindless eating. This can happen by eating out at restaurants that serve huge portions, or from condiments like dressings, spreads, and sauces. Alcohol also goes on the calorie creep list.

The best thing you can do is track your food intake. There are many great reasons to keep a food journal, so tracking your nutrition intake (even for a few days) is one of the smartest and most important steps you can take to improve your nutrition.

Step #3: Progress Your Body, Don’t Confuse It

While nutrition is likely the culprit for the stall in your weight, making sure you are progressing the intensity of your workouts can also improve your results.

There’s a lot of hype about “muscle confusion” because it’s an easy sell; most people want to be entertained with constantly changing workouts. In the extreme case, choosing a different workout every time you hit the gym is not confusing your body as much as you think, but it’s definitely curtailing your results. If you want to maintain the results you have, changing things up is awesome, but not if you want to maximize your results in a muscle building or fat loss program.

Continuity in your exercise program is more important than switching things up all the time. Without continuity, you will not be able to track improvements and make the workouts harder, which is the goal.

Remember these facts, follow the steps, and you too will break through your weight loss plateau!

Last updated: 07.14.2018
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Written byJaime Brenkus

Celebrity exercise guru and Evergreen Wellness® Fitness Coach Jaime Brenkus is an early innovator of exercise videos in the 90s, having created the highly successful “8-Minute” video series featuring the blockbuster-selling “8-Minute Abs” video. Jaime has helped millions of people get fit, having also developed other well-received health and wellness products, including the Perfect Portions control plate. Jaime is also certified by the American College of Sports Medicine as an Exercise Physiologist – a designation he has held for nearly two decades. By teaming up with Evergreen Wellness, Jaime brings his fitness expertise to older adults through easily performed workout videos, in-person events, live streams, seminars, classes, and endorsed wellness-related products. As an Evergreen Wellness Fitness Coach, his goal is to add more “boom” to baby boomers’ lives, inspiring them to look and feel better by leading happier, healthier lifestyles.

Coach Image

Written by Jaime Brenkus

Celebrity exercise guru and Evergreen Wellness® Fitness Coach Jaime Brenkus is an early innovator of exercise videos in the 90s, having created the highly successful “8-Minute” video series featuring the blockbuster-selling “8-Minute Abs” video. Jaime has helped millions of people get fit, having also developed other well-received health and wellness products, including the Perfect Portions control plate. Jaime is also certified by the American College of Sports Medicine as an Exercise Physiologist – a designation he has held for nearly two decades. By teaming up with Evergreen Wellness, Jaime brings his fitness expertise to older adults through easily performed workout videos, in-person events, live streams, seminars, classes, and endorsed wellness-related products. As an Evergreen Wellness Fitness Coach, his goal is to add more “boom” to baby boomers’ lives, inspiring them to look and feel better by leading happier, healthier lifestyles.

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Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and it is not meant to be relied on as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Consult your physician before starting any exercise or dietary program or taking any other action respecting your health. In case of a medical emergency, call 911.

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