If you've made attaining or maintaining a healthy weight a priority, you might find yourself reaching a weight loss plateau. The moments when your progress in your journey comes to a halt are incredibly frustrating. 

What causes a weight loss plateau? 

Weight loss plateaus happen because our bodies are naturally a bit wary of losing too much weight—long, long ago, a loss of weight for our hunter-gatherer ancestors could be deadly. Our bodies want to be at an equilibrium as much as possible, not losing or not gaining too much. Plateaus happen because the body has adapted to the changes in diet and exercise that have been made and now it's working to maintain that status quo. 

If you encounter a plateau along your healthy weight journey, keep in mind that it's a totally normal part of the path. All too often, a weight loss plateau can trigger negative thinking about our ability to stick with a goal, but maintaining a positive attitude is key to continuing on a sustainable health track. 

How to break a weight loss plateau 

There are a few strategies you can try to help crack that weight loss stall. 

Switch up your exercise routine 

Your body has gotten used to what you've been doing, so it's time to incorporate something new. You don't have to totally throw out your workout program—it's good to have variety in your physical activity, so add some new moves into the old routine. Add incremental increases to your activity level. Doing aerobic exercise for one more minute or adding a small amount of weight or repetitions to your strength training regimen might be all you need to see the scale move a bit. 

Take another look at your diet 

If you aren't already, try tracking your food and drink intake for a few days to see if any hidden calories have snuck back in. Have you been stressed lately and maybe paying less attention to what you're eating? Did you have a celebration with more food/drinks/treats than usual? If you find that you've been taking in more calories than you want to on your nutrition plan, remember that it's okay. Let’s get back on track. 

Maybe your nutritional plan hasn’t changed recently, but you're still not meeting your weight loss goals. A dietitian can help you refine your nutritional plan in a healthy way, without risking making changes that are drastic. And don't forget to incorporate different healthy foods to help your brain and your body stay satisfied with variety. 

Prioritize sleeping 

A lack of sleep can lead to hormone imbalances, making us crave less healthy foods and decreasing our metabolism. If you haven't been sleeping well and encounter a weight loss plateau, take another look at your sleep routine and see if adjustments need to be made, or if you need a reset. 

Dealing with weight recurrence 

Just as hitting a weight loss plateau is a natural part of the journey, weight recurrence, or regain, can also be very normal. Small changes in weight can be attributed to a variety of factors, including your level of hydration or hormone levels associated with menstruation. If you find that you're gaining back more than a few pounds, most of the tips for managing a weight loss plateau apply for weight recurrence. 

Take a moment to assess what may have changed that would lead you to consuming less nutritious foods/drinks or interrupting your exercise plan. You may also try changing up your exercise plan to add in more variety and increase your activity level. Work with a dietitian or your healthy weight plan manager to identify some changes you can make in your nutritional plan or exercise routine. 

If you find that you are struggling on your own healthy weight journey, Lifespan's Obesity Medicine program can help. As the region's only accredited obesity medicine program, we help patients achieve a healthy lifestyle through a variety of evidence-based research methods. Visit us online or call us today at 401-793-7837.

Kellie Armstrong, MS, RN, CBN

Kellie Armstrong, MSN, RN, FASMBS-IH, CBN

Kellie Armstrong is the manager for the Center for Bariatric Surgery at The Miriam Hospital. She was the state of Rhode Island’s first certified bariatric nurse, and is also a success story for bariatric surgery. After having surgery, Kellie lost over 100 pounds, lives a healthy lifestyle and now participates in triathlons, marathons, and other healthy events.