How to BUST Through a Weight-Loss Plateau

Weight-Loss Plateau

“After losing 80 pounds in 6 months, I haven’t lost a single pound over the last 5 weeks. What should I do?!” asked Barb, a new client.

After enjoying so much success in such a short time, Barb was understandably feeling a bit frustrated by her seemingly sudden lack of any results.

Sadly, this isn’t uncommon. In fact, it ultimately affects nearly everyone who works diligently to lose weight, whether 10, 50, or 100 pounds!  Fortunately, there are common reasons, and solutions, when it comes to overcoming any weight-loss plateau.

If you’ve had a similar experience, I think you’ll be able to relate to Barb’s experience and benefit from the tips below to bust through your weight-loss plateau. Here’s what I told Barb:


Barb, first off, you are AMAZING! Wow! I couldn’t be happier to hear about your success so far, and you should be so proud of all you’ve accomplished! I sure am.

I know it sucks to get “stuck” for several weeks, and I’m sure you’re frustrated.

But I encourage you to stop now, take a deep breath, and look back over the last year. Consider how far you’ve come! You’ve literally changed your life for the better in less than a year. That’s an enormous accomplishment. One that’s taken effort, perseverance, determination, and strength.

Plus, you’ve maintained your progress during the last five weeks. That’s another tremendous accomplishment. Maintaining weight-loss progress can be as challenging or even more so than losing the weight in the first place. In fact, researchers estimate that fewer than 25% of folks who lose weight are successfully able to keep it off for at least a year.

So celebrate this as another “big win”! You’ve stayed the course and maintained your weight-loss progress. That’s huge.

The New Normal

Your Body’s New Normal

What you likely don’t know is that your body is doing exactly what it needs to be doing right now. Mini weight-loss plateaus or maintenance periods are so important, in fact, that many coaches actually plan them for clients.

You see, these “quiet” periods are often a priming period, which is getting your body ready for more progress in the near future. Your body is making a ton of adjustments to the radical changes it has recently experienced. There’s so much more going on than just that number on the scale.

As your body (weight) changes, so does your physiology. For example, the calorie cost associated with every single activity is reduced. So, if you started at 230 pounds, it was more energy-costly for you to partake in all daily activities (compared to your new weight of 150 pounds). That’s just one consideration…

Secondly, our bodies have a number of energy-preservation mechanisms in place to offset changes in calorie intake. In other words, energy input or calories consumed affect energy output or calories burned. After all, we’re wired for survival and to avoid starvation.

Subconscious Decisions

Subconscious Adjustments

Another consideration is that as we reduce the number of calories we consume, our activity levels tend to decline overall. Typically, this happens subconsciously, and we don’t even know we’ve made these adjustments. It’s called “non-exercise activity thermogenesis” or NEAT by scientists. And essentially, this component of metabolism accounts for all calories burned during non-scheduled exercise activity, which might include taking the stairs, doing chores, fidgeting, taking a walk, getting up, and moving around throughout the day, etc.

Interestingly, this aspect of weight-loss research is so powerful (yet often overlooked) that some researchers refer to it as the “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” of weight gain.

For instance, researchers find that obese and overweight folks tend to sit for about 2.5 hours more each day (compared with lean folks). That’s a huge difference! Enough to account for upwards of 400 to 500 calories burned daily. Researchers also tend to see that folks who are following a reduced-calorie diet tend to reduce NEAT over time, and this is often the case when starting an exercise program as well.

Staying With It

Sticking to It

Lastly, in addition to the above mentioned metabolic changes and subconscious adjustments, researchers have found that “intermittent lack of diet adherence” is a major contributor to the frequently observed weight-loss plateaus. In other words, if you’re struggling with your weight-loss progress, the first place we might look is how well you’re sticking to your nutrition plan.

As time goes by, many folks have a tendency to be a little looser with portion sizes and food choices. Or they may not be as concerned about progressing in exercise.

Breaking Through Weight Loss Plateau

Busting Through Your Weight-Loss Plateau:

To bust through your weight-loss plateau, check out these areas of concern. Pick one, and start there.

  • Check your compliance. Look through your eating journal (or start journaling again), review your exercise plans and the intensity you’re putting into your workouts, and see if you’ve been following it as closely as you had been.
  • Adjust your nutrition. Yes, your nutrition plan has gotten you this far, but the same program that got you to where you are today may not be enough to get you to that next level. Additional adjustments may need to be made: you may need to further decrease calories consumed and/or increase your activity levels.
  • Increase your energy expenditure. It’s a bit tricky to just rely on, but it’s a great place to start—especially if your plateau involves the NEAT portion of the equation. The food intake side of the equation is a bit more reliable, although it’s not necessarily easier.
  • Check your protein intake. In addition to making sure your overall calories consumed are on par with your goals, it’s also a good idea to make sure you’re consuming enough protein (0.72 – 1 gram per pound of body weight per day), as well as adequate amounts of carbohydrates and fats relative to your activity levels. Low-energy-density foods like vegetables and fruits play an enormous role in the process by helping increase satiety (i.e., feelings of fullness and satisfaction) without a bunch of calories.

Give the above tips a try for a week or so then come back and comment to let us know how you’re progressing. It can take some time to dial your results back in, yet I know you can succeed and bust through your weight-loss plateau!