I have hit a plateau in losing weight, what can I do next?

Caroline M. Apovian, MD
Endocrinology Diabetes & Metabolism

Weight-loss plateaus can be incredibly frustrating. In this video, nutrition and weight management specialist Dr. Caroline Apovian talks about why people hit plateaus, and how to bust through.

You want results! You've been working out and eating healthfully, and you want to be rewarded when you step on the scale. But when the scale stops cooperating, it can be extremely frustrating, especially if you're doing all the right things, such as eating a diverse diet, watching your portion sizes, and exercising regularly.

If your weight loss has stalled, don't give into the temptation to quit -- or worse, to try more extreme measures that aren't good for your health, such as skipping meals or working out excessively. A weight plateau is no reason to give up on a healthy plan. In fact, a weight plateau could be a sign that you're ready for something more challenging or engaging. So stop, take a moment to regroup, shift the focus away from your weight for a while, and consider other ways you can measure your progress.

Keep it simple by focusing on one or more of these three important measurements:

  • your body fat percentage
  • your waist-to-hip ratio
  • your body mass index (BMI)

    Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
    Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

    When you can't lose weight even though you are exercising and eating right, you may have hit a weight-loss plateau. In this video, Dr. Oz explains the reasons behind plateauing and how a following a method called "carb cycling" may get you over the hump.

    A plateau is very common when losing weight.  Many people come to the gym start their routine and start seeing results.  However as their body changes the program still stays the same.  The can be a problem because as your body adapts to your program you will use less energy than you did before causing you to not burn as many calories.  You need to change up your program regularly so you keep challenging yourself so you burn more calories until you reach your goal.  This includes your cardio program, weight training program and even your meal planning.  However if you don't know how to do this always consult your fitness professional to see how you can change up your program to always see results.

    When a plateau becomes an obstacle, the best solution is to increase the intensity of the workouts, through resistance, and cardio training.

    A number of factors can be in play when you hit a plateau. So first, you need to take a truly honest look at what you are doing:
    • Are you logging your food and being faithful to healthy eating?
    • Have you gone back to any of the old habits that have sabotaged you in the past? i.e. portion control in check?
    • Are you exercising regularly?
    • Has your health changed or do you have a condition that can be impacting your ability to lose weight?

    Ok, let's assume you're doing everything right and really focusing on a change in lifestyle. Take a hard look at your workout.  Our bodies are very adaptable. Every 4-6 weeks, you need to introduce variables of change to continue making progress - these variables can include FREQUENCY (how often), INTENSITY (how hard), TIME (how long) as well as simply mixing up the routine with variations of exercises to target particular muscles/muscle groups. So trying circuit training or adding some metabolic training to your program are options for kicking it up a notch and challenging your body in a different way.

    Here are some other ideas:

    crunch is just one way to work your abs - have you tried:

    • ball crunch there are other variations you'll see on this page as well
    • plank 
    • other options - check out this answer from the National Academy of Sports Medicine:

    A squat is a terrific exercise for your legs and butt muscles but you can mix it up to create awesome variations - have you tried:

    • single leg squat (and variations) 
    • squat to overhead press 2 arms 
    • lunge to balance (and other variations)

    These are just a few ideas, there are many workout options available but ultimately you need to be consuming fewer calories than you are burning.

    Generally speaking we hit a plateau losing weight when our caloric intake now matches our needs.  If you take a good hard look at your caloric intake you will find the answer.  I try to have my clients consume roughly 20% less calories then they need on a daily basis to lose weight.  The important thing to remember is that number changes as your body changes.  If you have already lost a great deal of weight than the metabolic needs of the weight that you have lost has to be taken into account.  Most of my clients that have reached a "plateau" have just become a little lax with their intake of food.  It is a little more than what it was when they were losing weight and that increase in calories is just enough to slow progress.

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    Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.