A weight-loss plateau is a temporary stall in your progress. After seeing results for the first few days (or weeks, or months) of your weight-loss journey, everything suddenly seems to level off, even though you’re still following the same weight-loss plan.
Imagine you’re tracking your weight loss on a chart, when the number stops going down, the line flattens out, and you have a plateau. It’s frustrating, and it can be hard to stay motivated when you’re not making progress.
Here’s what causes a weight-loss plateau to happen — and what you can do to overcome it.
What Causes a Weight-Loss Plateau?
A weight-loss plateau usually boils down to one (or a combination) of three things: Your workout plan isn’t working, you’re not adhering to it closely enough, or your nutrition needs some fine-tuning.
You know the basic weight-loss rules — eat more healthfully while cutting calories, exercise more intensely and frequently, and stay hydrated. And when you’re first getting started, simply sticking to those rules can lead to visible results.
But if you don’t change your approach to keep pace with your progress — for example, by making your workouts more challenging or tightening up your eating plan — that progress can eventually come to a grinding halt.
Should You Worry About a Weight-Loss Plateau?
When the number on the scale stops moving, don’t let it kill your motivation. A few simple tweaks can help you overcome a weight-loss plateau, once you pinpoint what’s causing the plateau in the first place.
If you’ve been doing the same workout routine on repeat, you may have hit a fitness plateau. If you’ve stopped losing weight because your body has adapted to your current workout plan, switch things up either by tweaking your current workouts (e.g., swapping in some new exercises or exercise variations, shortening your rest periods, changing your grip or lifting pace, etc.) or trying an entirely new workout program.
If you’re struggling to lose the last 5 pounds, you may need to fine-tune your eating plan. Also keep in mind that undereating can also contribute to a stall in weight loss — especially if you’re ramping up your exercise frequency and/or intensity — so make sure you’re eating enough calories to fuel your workouts.
You’ll ultimately reach a point when you simply don’t need to lose any more weight. When that happens, you need to adjust your goals and focus on maintaining your weight.
“If you feel that you’re reaching the end of your weight-loss journey, start concentrating more on achievements like how much weight you can lift, how long you can hold a plank, or how many push-ups you can do,” says Jessica Sanders, an ACE-certified personal trainer and owner of Honest Body Fitness in San Diego. “That will help you refocus on the next phase of your health journey.”