What to Do When You Hit a Plateau

What to Do When You Hit a Plateau

July 12, 2018   9 Comments

I receive e-mails with “HELP!” in the subject line many times per month. The story is pretty similar but it goes kinda (not exactly) like this:

I lost 30 pounds and now whatever I do – I cannot lose any more to get to my goal weight. I live on celery and water, bike 45 miles per day back and forth to work, and I count every calorie - I CANNOT LOSE ANOTHER POUND. Please help.

I know this is an exaggeration (celery and bike ride) but most of the people who e-mail me share how desperately they are working to get the weight off.

Usually it sounds to me like the person is doing every thing right. He/she is exercising, eating vegetables, and sticking to a plan. What I want to do is get in my car, drive to them, and give them a big hug.

They probably don’t want a big hug but I feel like they need one. It sucks to be working so hard and finding yourself failing at your goal. Most of us can relate to the feeling of struggle and desperation as we cast about looking for the thing that will make everything change.

We watch our male friends (and some of our female ones) - the weight seems to melt off and we have still have fat in places that you didn’t know you could carry fat. It is infuriating!

Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer but I do not that when I am working hard and failing that I need to take a break. Here are a few of the things that work for me.

1. Change of Scene - Get out of your house, apartment, job, and do something different. Is there a café you want to try? Or a park you haven’t seen? How about a drive to ANYTHING NEW. I always feel trapped in my interior dialogue until I check out something new that allows me to see that I am in a bubble.

2. Reset to a more manageable goal - I believe this is obvious. Move the goal posts and decide you did your best. Accept that you failed at the original goal and set one that makes more sense. Life is short and you can’t keep beating yourself up. Go ahead – buy the bigger shorts.

3. Meet with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist - I have been singing their praises for a while. Do not meet with a nutritionist. Check out this article Difference between Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and a Nutritionist to get an idea of what I am talking about. These professionals are trained to customize a diet for your needs. I love them and they can make a big difference in how you see food, yourself, and your goals.

4. It isn’t the FOOD - We become so obsessed with what we put in our mouth that we forget about the quality of our sleep, our exercise regimen, or our habits that have nothing to do with food. Take a break from analyzing food and look at all of your other health choices.

5. Accept that what worked before may not work now - as we age things change and it can get a whole lot difficult to get to a goal weight from your 20s. Step off the scale, embrace the wrinkles, and stop holding yourself to an impossible ideal. I mean seriously! None of us are Jennifer Lopez so stop trying to be like her. There is only one.

I hope this little rant is helpful. Please keep the “HELP!” e-mails coming and I will do my best to help. You can figure it out – just don’t beat yourself up.


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9 Comments:

Thanks, this was a really helpful post with some great ideas. One thing I want to add is a cautionary note that all dietitians are not equal. As a health care professional I've worked with dietitians for my entire career and I have great respect for that profession. However when you're looking for a dietitian make sure you find one who's the right fit for you. Years ago when I wanted to go plant based and also lose weight my doctor told me she could refer me to a dietitian but my insurance would only cover a "traditional" dietitian who wouldn't be able to help with my diet needs. I did a ton of research on line, completed a plant based nutrition course, and found several dietitians who had great advice and plans for me. So, like everything else, shop around and find someone that you click with. And btw, I did go plant based and lost the weight (weight loss is still an ongoing process but I fell like I have a great foundation).

on July 12, 2018

Change up what you eat. Try a new veggie or a new fish.
Inches lost don't show up on the scale.
You should be taking your measurements at least 1x a month.
Vary your exercise routine, meaning...if you normally do leg exercises first, do your arm exercises first. Look for a new workout video on an app, youtube, etc.

on July 12, 2018

When I was in my child-rearing years (and more hearty meal-making plus busiest) I learned that all diets I tried only had a good startup effect then waned and discouraged my efforts. Infuriating to say the least! From sharing frustrations with a neighbor and colleagues emerged some interesting experiences and solutions. (no internet years remember) . What worked? Varying our calorie restriction, or as one Doctor said, "tricking your body". Yup, get to know your weight loss calories per day, do it for a week or two with success [1-3 lbs/week]; choosing common sense protein, vegs, fruits, and scant sugar and lots of water. THEN, before or when your body plateaus [goes into starvation mode] have a cup or two of pasta or other high calorie food--increase calories by 300-500 for 1 day and then do this once or twice per week. My neighbor [and walking buddy] and I had great results with fat-burning. Nowadays you can google for this method. I was weaker in the willpower department back in my 30's but at 43 I managed maintenance success remembering this method. Does anyone else have a similar experience?

on July 12, 2018

Great post. Several good ideas and reminders! Thanks!

on July 12, 2018

Good advice. Stress is a deterrent to losing weight and your approach to a plateau would aleve a lot of stress. I feel much better since I quit wearing my fitbit and decided to relax and regroup on how I want to proceed with the next few pounds I want to lose. It will be a different approach from my previous weight loss which made me uptight, a food natzi, and hangry most of the time. Thank you for your common sense to all the craziness we put ourselves through.

on July 12, 2018

What works for me is intermittent fasting. If I hit a plateau or have gone off the regimen that works for me, I pick a day and fast from after lunch for the next 12-16 hours. It always shakes things loose. I might do this a couple of times a month to maintain my weight loss, as well.

on July 12, 2018

I had a complete thyroid panel done when I found myself in the plateau. It has been determined I do have hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s). I eat wholesome foods & exercise 4-6 days but still couldn’t get to goal. Just this week I started taking an Rx. It will take some time to see if my symptoms subside, but I am hopeful. Unexplained weight gain is one of the many symptoms. So I would recommend testing for this condition.

on July 12, 2018

I have been on thyroid medication since age 17 and I am now 65. I have my thyroid checked 1-2 times a year. When I was diagnosed I had extremely low blood pressure, low body temperature, tired, irregular periods and had almost no hair on the outer third of my eyebrows. However, I was not overweight. Taking the medication did not make me lose weight. I've had periods when my medication had to be adjusted because it was too high. One of those times I was about 40 lbs overweight. So in my personal experience thyroid medication does not help you lose weight. It will make you feel less tired which will hopefully give you more energy to exercise. Not all of my symptoms have magically disappeared. Medication helps but it is a far cry from having a healthy, normal working thyroid. I'd be interested to know what other people's experience has been.

on July 13, 2018

Quoting Barb: I have been on thyroid medication since age 17 and I am now 65. I have my thyroid checked 1-2 times a year. When I was diagnosed I had extremely low blood pressure, low body temperature, tired, irregular periods and had almost no hair on the outer third of my eyebrows. However, I was not overweight. Taking the medication did not make me lose weight. I've had periods when my medication had to be adjusted because it was too high. One of those times I was about 40 lbs overweight. So in my personal experience thyroid medication does not help you lose weight. It will make you feel less tired which will hopefully give you more energy to exercise. Not all of my symptoms have magically disappeared. Medication helps but it is a far cry from having a healthy, normal working thyroid. I'd be interested to know what other people's experience has been.

I was just diagnosed with low thyroid a couple of years ago. In my experience, I had no symptoms. My doctor said, You'll have more energy and it will help you with weight control. I was unconvinced, since I had no symptoms. Before taking thyroid, I had lost 35 lbs on WW Smart Points. Since taking thyroid, I have to say I have no more energy than I had before, and still struggle to maintain my goal weight. I remain unconvinced and think I will go off of the thyroid a month before my next blood test (I'm with a new doctor) to see what the results are.

on July 13, 2018


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