How to Break a Weight Loss Plateau
All fat loss journeys start off the same way — you’re steadily dropping pounds each week and all you’ve really done is cut back on the amount of “bad” foods you’ve been eating all the time. The number on the scale keeps falling and weight loss seems all too easy. All of a sudden after a few weeks of enjoying this “effortless weight loss” everything comes to a grinding halt — the scale number stopped going down, you’re not losing fat anymore, and you’re wondering what in the world possibly went wrong!
Technically speaking, you’ve done absolutely nothing “wrong”, but you have hit the inevitable weight loss plateau, just like millions of other people have during their own fat loss journey. While that might not seem comforting in the least bit, then maybe this will — plateaus were meant to be BROKEN, and with these five tips, you’ll have a number of ways to break through your plateau and re-ignite your fat loss once again!
5 Ways to Shatter Weight Loss Plateaus
The reason you’ve hit a weight loss plateau is that unfortunately your metabolic rate slows down as you lose more and more weight. The simple truth is that your body uses a certain number of calories to maintain your original starting weight. As you lose weight, your body carries less mass, and in response, your metabolism downshifts to accommodate the reduced caloric demand. Research shows that for every pound of weight you lose, you’re burning 6.8 fewer calories on average. 
To compensate for your lower energy needs, you’ll have to recalculate your macros and caloric needs each day. A good guideline to follow when dieting is to re-evaluate your caloric needs every few weeks as the weight continues to drop, and in all likelihood, you’ll have to reduce calories further to continue losing weight.
However it’s important to not drop calories too far, too fast as that could lead to another fat loss plateau. That brings us to the next plateau buster, which can be used in lieu of or in tandem with reducing calories.
Increase Exercise Intensity or Frequency
If you don’t want to drop calories any further or are so low that you can’t really afford to lower your calories, another option to restart fat loss is to increase the intensity and / or frequency of your exercise routine. Remember, weight loss comes down to calories in versus calories out. By increasing your caloric burn each day through exercise, you’ll rev up your metabolism sparking new fat loss.
Calorie cycling is a style of eating where you alternate between high and low-calorie intakes for different days of the week. This method of eating is especially useful when trying to burn those “last five pounds” and often only used when all other plateau-busting measures have been exhausted. By alternating your daily intake, you’re preventing your body’s metabolism from getting too accustomed to a set intake, and thereby stopping your by from lowering its metabolic rate and instilling a weight loss plateau. In other words, think of calorie cycling as “metabolic confusion” for your body. By constantly changing things up, your body never really adapts to one set intake.
Dieting is a stressful enterprise, and sometimes, it gets a bit too much for even the most even-keeled individuals. When you’re stressed, you increase production of the stress hormone cortisol, which can trigger food cravings like you wouldn’t believe. On top of that having chronically elevated cortisol levels can promote fat gain, especially in women, and make it incredibly difficult to build or maintain muscle mass. [2,3]
Therefore, finding ways to reduce or control stress is essential to maintaining steady weight loss. If you find you’ve been at a plateau for over 2 weeks, consider re-evaluating your situation in life. Are you more stressed than usual? Are there other factors outside of dieting stressing you out?
If so, find ways to work around or improve the factors causing you stress, and once they’re addressed, watch the fat loss continue on at a steady pace!
Take a break
As strange as this may sound, sometimes your body and mind just need a break and “reset.” Dieting for prolonged periods of time is taxing to your body and mind, and no amount of tip or trick will break the weight loss plateau.
If you’ve tried everything else and still can’t figure things out, try eating back at maintenance calories for a week or two, then restart your diet eating at a caloric deficit and you’ll be surprised to find out that weight loss has started all over again. Sometimes, the body just needs a break from the stresses of dieting to readjust, reset, and reignite its fat burning mechanisms.
- Schwartz A, Doucet E. Relative changes in resting energy expenditure during weight loss: a systematic review. Obes Rev. 2010;11(7):531-547. doi:10.1111/j.1467-789X.2009.00654.x.
- Moyer AE, Rodin J, Grilo CM, Cummings N, Larson LM, Rebuffe-Scrive M. Stress-induced cortisol response and fat distribution in women. Obes Res. 1994;2(3):255-262.
- Warne JP. Shaping the stress response: interplay of palatable food choices, glucocorticoids, insulin and abdominal obesity. Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2009;300(1-2):137-146. doi:10.1016/j.mce.2008.09.036.