How to break weight loss plateaus
Healthy weight loss is rarely achieved in a straight line of consistent loss. Instead, weight loss tends to come and go, with plateaus as part of an overall decline. As long as the trajectory continues in the right direction, you’re succeeding — despite the plateaus.
But it helps to have a plan for when the plateaus come. Here are the eight best tips for helping you to overcome a plateau and get back on track with healthy weight loss.
Top 8 tips for breaking a weight loss plateau
- Are you eating enough protein? Take a couple of days to measure all of the protein you eat and count every gram. Yes, it can be a hassle, but it can also be illuminating. You may think you are eating “plenty of protein,” only to find out you’re actually getting just 15% of your calories from protein. If that’s the case, the best tip for breaking your stall is to increase your protein intake.
- Are you eating enough fibrous vegetables? Fibrous vegetables are one of the best ways to increase nutrients for the minimum number of calories, increase stomach fullness, and slow gastric emptying. Again, keeping track of your intake for a couple of days can help guide you in increasing your consumption of fiber-filled veggies. Aim for at least four cups per day.
- Are you limiting your non-nutrient calories? After increasing your protein and fiber-filled vegetables, what’s left? It’s usually non-nutrient calories — the extra dose of cream or butter, the rice that “comes with” your meal, the sugary salad dressing that seems so innocent. Or maybe it’s the ritual glass of wine with dinner. Experiencing a plateau is the perfect time to take stock of your non-nutrient calories and cut them in half or cut them out completely if you can.
- Are you struggling with cravings or snacking? Usually, addressing protein and fibrous vegetables can help cut down on snacking and cravings. However, if you still find yourself snacking, first make sure you are eating high-protein snacks. Next, make sure you’re snacking for real hunger and not boredom or routine. Finally, try eliminating non-nutritive sweeteners that can stimulate cravings, such as erythritol, stevia, and other sweet additives.
- How are you sleeping? Plateaus aren’t always about what you eat. Not only can poor sleep negatively affect your food choices during the day, but lack of sleep can also change your hormonal environment, making it nearly impossible to lose weight.Make sure you prioritize good sleep hygiene. It’s easy to talk about but harder to do. Eliminate screens an hour before bed. Keep a steady sleep-wake routine. Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet. Kick the kids and dogs out of your bed. You can keep your spouse, but only if their snoring doesn’t keep you up!
- Are you exercising? Exercise by itself is not great for weight loss. However, regular physical activity can help maintain weight loss and break plateaus when combined with healthy eating. Just make sure your exercise helps build muscle and doesn’t leave you hungry and craving food. For instance, you may find 20 minutes of resistance training more effective than 45 minutes on a treadmill.
- Have you tried time-restricted eating or intermittent fasting? For some, spacing out the timing between meals can naturally reduce caloric intake and allow for lower insulin levels. The combination may be enough to break a weight loss plateau.
- Are you fasting too much? Just because a little fasting can help with weight loss doesn’t mean more is always better, and it doesn’t mean fasting is always a good thing.
- Some people react to fasting by feeling the need to binge or over-consume calories to “make up” for lost meals. People may even rationally know they shouldn’t react that way, but the pull is too strong to resist.
- If this sounds familiar, then intermittent fasting may be doing you more harm than good. Going back to a regular eating schedule may allow you to control your portion sizes better and break your weight loss plateau.
Maintaining weight loss long term
Maintaining weight loss can be as simple as “keep doing what you are doing,” but often, the reality of maintaining healthy eating habits is harder to accomplish.
Authors have written hundreds of books on tips to maintain beneficial behavior change, and most of the tips aren’t a secret. The problem is when the recommendations become more items on your “to-do” list, adding chores to your routine that take time and energy you don’t have to give.
If that’s the case, don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. Pick one or two tips that resonate most with you, and stop there. Just because a tip made the list doesn’t mean you have to do it. The list is merely a collection of suggestions to try and see what works best for you.
Top tips for long-term success
- Connect with your why, to keep your motivation for maintaining your weight loss front and center.
- Create accountability with a partner, a coach, an app, or a calendar.
- Control your environment. Don’t allow temptations in your house or workplace.
- See your new way of eating as a lifestyle, not a diet. It isn’t something you “do.” It’s something you “are.” The language you use can make all the difference.
- Keep it enjoyable. Find recipes you love that fit within your eating pattern.
- Use supplements to back your weight loss routine.
- Celebrate small successes on your way to bigger successes.
- Realize that you won’t be perfect, and that’s OK. Minor detours don’t have to derail you. Anticipate roadblocks and have a plan to get past them.
- Incorporate smart strategies for optimizing your sleep, stress management, and physical activity. Better habits in these areas can help with long-term, healthy weight maintenance.