The scenario: you’ve starting eating healthy and exercising to lose weight and are making rapid progress. Suddenly, the number on the scale stops going down. Every weigh-in gives you the same result — for days, then weeks … and weeks. Don’t freak out. You’ve just hit a weight loss plateau.
Weight loss plateaus are common among those trying to make a positive lifestyle change. There are a couple different plateaus you should expect on your fitness journey. Let’s break down what they are, why they happen and how to get past them.
The water weight plateau
When we talk about weight loss, what we are really talking about is fat loss. Our weight can fluctuate by two or three pounds every day simply because of water balance. If you’re weighing yourself every day and noting these fluctuations, you may be fooling yourself into thinking you’ve lost fat. This is not the case. When you hit a plateau after only a few weeks of exercising and dieting, then you probably lost a lot of water weight early on due to water balance in the new foods you are eating. True plateaus typically don’t occur until at least six months into a weight loss journey.
The metabolism drop plateau
Hitting a true plateau is a good sign. It means that you’ve made real progress. You’ve lost fat. So why can’t you lose any more? When you start to really lose weight, your metabolism decreases, which means your body is burning less calories than it did at the start of your journey. Your leaner frame is trying to hold on to those fat stores, slowing progress. In addition, if you’re losing fat, you’re probably losing some muscle, too. Muscle keeps your metabolism up, so that could be hindering progress as well. For those who are only trying to lose a few pounds (let’s say 10 or 15), weight loss becomes even more difficult because your body is already pretty healthy. It makes sense then that the healthier your body is the harder it is to shed pounds.
How to get through a plateau
Getting through a weight loss plateau is challenging, and unfortunately, it’s the reason so many people give up on their fitness journey. The only way to effectively lose weight is to ensure that you’re burning more calories than you’re consuming. Therefore, as you continue to lose weight, your caloric intake should go down or your workouts should intensify. If you want to consume less calories, you need to be very conscious of everything you’re eating, as restaurant portions, mindless snacking and even too much healthy food can stall your weight loss. It’s also important to remember that starving yourself or eating too few calories will cause you to hit a plateau as well. If you’re deprived, you’ll have a difficult time burning off calories because your body needs them. You can also get past a plateau by incorporating more strength training and weightlifting into your fitness routine. This will increase muscle mass, thereby increasing your metabolism.
Weight loss plateaus are nothing out of the ordinary. So stop constantly checking the scale and start marking progress by how you feel. The ability to push past frustrations and obstacles like weight loss plateaus is a remarkable part of your fitness journey that will make you a stronger, healthier person overall. You’ve got this.