Weight-Loss Plateau

You've been working out and eating right, but the scale won't budge. For weeks, or even months, the same number flashes on the screen and you're getting discouraged. You are in the middle of a plateau -- a frustrating, but normal period when weight loss slows down or stops all together. With a few modifications to your diet and exercise habits, you should be able to get the scale moving again.

Side view of a woman pinching her excess skin. (Image: George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

About Plateaus

Plateaus are an inevitable part of any weight loss journey because as your weight changes, your body adapts. When you are 100 pounds overweight, you use up a lot of calories just going about your day-to-day activities, so weight comes off quickly initially. As your weight drops, however, it takes less energy to move, you burn fewer calories and your weight loss grinds to a halt unless you increase your activity level and decrease your food consumption.


When you do the same workout repeatedly, your muscles adapt and you burn fewer calories. The University of California recommends changing the type, duration and intensity of cardiovascular activity to break through a plateau. If you usually walk for half an hour, try pushing yourself on the elliptical for 45 minutes. To vary your strength training routine, change the mode, type and resistance level of your exercises. Instead of using dumbbells, try resistance bands. Alternatively, replace preacher curls with bicep curls and up your repetitions.


Ninety-percent of successful weight loss is diet, according to Manuel Villacorta of the American Dietetics Association, reported by University of California. Keep a food journal for a week and write down everything you eat. Then review the notes and look for trends. Mindless snacking and large portions at meals may be the reason your weight loss has stalled. Keep in mind that eating too little can be equally problematic. Food intake should never be below 1,200 calories per day for women and 1,800 calories per day for men, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.


As frustrating as a plateau may be, it's the perfect opportunity to think about your commitment and approach to weight loss. If your original motivation for dropping weight was superficial -- like fitting into a dress for a school reunion -- dig deeper and find a more profound reason to stay healthy. Perhaps you'd like to be fit enough to chase your kids at the park or improve your self-esteem. Make a list of reasons to continue your weight loss journey and post them in a prominent place in your house.

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