You were in the perfect rhythm! Your workout routine and diet were dialed in, and you were losing a little every week, then BOOM — you hit a weight-loss plateau. If you’re getting close to your goal weight, weight-loss plateaus are totally normal, but that doesn’t make them any less frustrating.
Before Marci Nevin, a NASM certified trainer, shares her nine suggestions for how to overcome a weight-loss plateau, make sure you’ve actually hit one. Has it only been one or two weeks? Have a little patience and give it at least four weeks, because changes can take time. Also be mindful that there are many ways to measure progress without hopping on a scale. Maybe the numbers aren’t moving (or maybe they’re even increasing), but check your body composition, body measurements, how strong you feel, and how your clothes fit. You may have decreased your body fat percentage and increased muscle, and a scale won’t measure that.
OK, so if you’ve really hit a weight-loss plateau, Marci suggests trying these nine things:
- Track your calories for one to two weeks: If you usually eyeball your food, tracking your calories to find out how much you’re actually eating can be eye-opening. Use measuring cups and a food scale for accuracy.
- Recalculate your calorie needs: Marci says once your weight has changed, you need to recalculate your calorie needs. Your new bodyweight will require a different amount of calories than when you first started your journey.
- Get honest about your weekends: Staying on track all week long is awesome, so don’t undo all your hard work by overeating on the weekends. Stick to the 80/20 rule so you can still enjoy treats without overdoing it.
- Watch out for licks, bites, and tastes: All those extra bites (finishing your kid’s dinner plate, grabbing a handful of almonds, etc.) can add up to an additional hundreds of calories. Be sure to track those too!
- Add extra movement: Keep track of your steps, and have a daily goal in mind. Even adding in a 15-minute walk to your day can make a huge difference. Marci said, “Increasing non gym activity helps burn more calories without having to decrease the amount of food you’re eating or increase your exercise.”
- Increase your exercise intensity: If you’ve been doing the same workouts, lifting the same amount of weight, doing the same number of reps, or running the same route, “it’s time to increase the intensity if you want to keep getting stronger and building more muscle.”
- Prioritize sleep and stress management: This one is huge! Lack of sleep can increase cravings and hunger, and stress triggers the production of cortisol, a hormone that’s linked to an increased appetite and more belly fat. It makes sense. Marci added, “If you’re stressed out and not sleeping well, your body will do everything it can to remain safe, which means not losing fat, getting stronger or adding muscle.”
- Balance your hormones: Stress, overdieting, or health-related issues can push your hormones out of whack. Speak to your doctor about having some tests done (full thyroid panel, for example) to rule out hormone-related issues.
- Take a break: If you’ve been dieting for a while, give yourself a break to allow your hormones a chance to recover and balance out, which can help increase your metabolism.