This content was reviewed and approved for its accuracy on 18/06/2021 by Professor Frank Joseph

Photograph of Professor Frank Joseph, weight loss expert for myBMI

Weight Loss Plateaus

 

A weight-loss plateau is when your weight loss either slows down or stops, and in some cases, your weight may even increase slightly during a plateau. 

 

It’s one of the most disheartening and frustrating things that people on a weight loss journey experience, but it’s completely normal and actually good to experience a weight loss plateau.

 

It means that your body is adjusting to its new, reduced weight, and needs to recalibrate in order for you to carry on losing.

 

Weight loss is usually fastest at first, with results being more than 1-2lbs a week for a while in some cases.

 

However, it’s important to understand why this happens so that we can understand why weight loss plateaus can happen in the first place.

 

 

Why Does Weight Loss Plateau? 

 

When you first start losing weight, your body releases its glycogen stores, which are partly made up of water, so some of the weight loss that you experience at first is due to the loss of fluid from these glycogen stores. 

 

Once these glycogen reserves have been used for energy, there’s less fluid to lose, so your weight loss will then be down to fat loss, as long as you’re following a healthy lifestyle.  

 

weight loss plateaus

 

This can make it look like your weight loss is slowing down, when in actual fact, it’s the release of excess water that makes it look like you’re losing a lot of weight at first.

 

It’s completely normal for weight loss to slow down after a few weeks or months. It’s a sign of successfully making healthy lifestyle changes. 

 

Your body has now reached a point where it has to adjust to a new, lower weight – and that’s all down to you and the great work you’ve been doing!

 

So, try not to beat yourself up – congratulate yourself instead for all of your hard work so far.  

 

When your weight decreases, your body needs fewer calories to maintain itself and carry out all of the bodily functions that it needs to do.

 

Because of this, you may hit a plateau even if you haven’t changed anything. 

 

In this case, it’s just your body that’s re-adjusting to its new energy requirements, which means you should be thinking about changing things up in order to push past the plateau.

 

This could mean decreasing your calorie intake, or increasing your physical activity levels.

 

You’ll know when your changes are starting to work, as you’ll begin to see results on the scales when you weigh in.

 

Weight loss may also plateau if old habits have crept back in or if you’ve become lenient on portion control.

 

For example, if you’ve stopped weighing food, it becomes harder to tell whether or not you’re eating the right amount of food. 

 

Weighing your food into portions is important to keep up as a healthy lifestyle choice, as it can reduce the risk of gaining weight back over time. 

 

Essentially, weight loss plateaus happen because the body is consuming more energy than it needs.

 

To push past it, you’ll need to either increase how much energy you burn when working out, or decrease how much energy you consume when eating. 

 

Most of the time, a successful weight loss journey combines a mixture of both of these tactics. 

 

 

How Long Does A Weight Loss Plateau Last? 

 

Unfortunately, there’s no hard and fast rule that says how long a weight loss plateau should or may last.

 

Everyone’s unique, so plateaus may last for different amounts of time for different people.

 

For some, a plateau may only last for 2-3 weeks before their weight begins to decrease again. 

 

However, others may experience a plateau for months without any significant change in weight, which can be incredibly frustrating.

 

If this happens to you and you’re making sure that you’re consuming fewer calories and burning more energy, you should make an appointment to see your GP, as there may be a medical reason for your weight loss stall.  

 

 

Will A Weight Loss Plateau Go Away On Its Own? 

 

Sometimes, a weight loss plateau might go away on its own after a couple of weeks of your body readjusting.

 

However, a lot of the time with a plateau, you may have to make some additional lifestyle changes to support further weight loss. 

 

Don’t fret if you’ve maintained your weight for the last couple of weeks, just making some small tweaks might be enough to get you out of the plateau rut.  

 

measure weight loss

 

We’d recommend starting small by increasing your fluid intake or slightly reducing portion sizes to try and get past a plateau, as making drastic changes is likely to result in another plateau in a few weeks’ time.  

 

A lot of the time with a weight loss plateau, your body has adjusted to its new energy requirements due to the fact that its metabolic rate will have slowed down. 

 

When we lose weight, we sometimes expect it to be a linear journey and a gradual decline.

 

However, a lot of the time, healthy and successful weight loss is intermittent, with some small fluctuations along the way. 

 

 

How To Break A Weight Loss Plateau 

 

If your body has adjusted to its new energy requirements and you’ve noticed that you’ve stopped losing weight, it might be time to switch things up.  

 

 

Step up your workout 

 

You might notice that you have to work harder when you’re exercising to reach the same intensity as a few weeks or months ago – that’s great!

 

It means that you’re building stamina and that your body is now capable of more than it was when you started. 

 

If this is the case, it might be time to step up your intensity or work out for longer.

 

For example, if it normally takes you 10 minutes to walk around the block, see if you can try to make the same journey in less time.

 

This should increase the speed that you’re working at and give you a goal to work towards for motivation. 

 

 

Keep a food diary 

 

Keeping track of what you’re eating might help to identify any setbacks in your diet.

 

For example, if you’ve become lenient without realising it, keeping a food diary might help to make you more aware of what you’re eating. 

 

This is important when calorie counting and looking at energy intake and expenditure.

 

Apps such as MyFitnessPal can help with this, as well as keeping track of your calorie intake. 

 

 

Stay hydrated 

 

Drinking enough water is always important, but sometimes, we can hold onto some fluid in our body, particularly if it’s warm, if you’ve eaten salty foods, or if you’re dehydrated. 

 

Drinking enough water can make sure that you’re not holding onto any excess fluids by keeping yourself properly hydrated at all times. 

 

Another good thing about drinking water is that it occupies some space in the stomach, so goes some way towards helping you to feel satisfied. 

 

stay hydrated after exercise

 

Keep an eye on your alcohol intake 

 

It can be easy to forget about calories in alcohol, especially when you’re doing well with your weight loss.

 

However, boozy drinks can be quite high in calories which could be eating into your daily requirements. 

 

Drinking alcohol on a regular basis can be enough to stall your weight loss, so make sure that you aren’t undoing all of your good work with a few extra pints!  

 

 

The Summary 

 

In summary, weight loss plateaus are a normal and healthy part of losing weight, and most of the time, you just need to make a few small tweaks to your routine or lifestyle.

 

It’s usual to have to change up your routine during weight loss anyway – like when your syn allowance decreases at Slimming World after you’ve lost some weight. 

 

It’s all about giving your body the right amount of fuel – not too much and not too little.

 

Remember – the key to successful weight loss and maintenance is making sustainable lifestyle choices, so don’t make drastic changes that you won’t be able to keep up with.  

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