What to do When you hit a Plateau and the Scale Stops Moving

The plateau is the mortal enemy of every loser. You find a rhythm that works. You stick to the program. After you do all the things you’re supposed to be doing you reach a certain point when the scale simply stops moving. What then?

During my journey, I hit fairly difficult plateaus every 20 to 30 pounds. I’m no stranger to the frustration that comes from trying to break through to the next level. And, in fact, most people hit their first plateau and give up assuming that whatever method they were using was no longer effective. They often give up on weight loss altogether as a result. (“I seem to be able to lose 20 to 30 pounds, and then I just can’t lose anymore:” it is something I hear regularly).

Here’s how to break a plateau.

Make sure it really is a plateau.

Many times, the people I coach expect the scale to move every single day. Unfortunately, weight loss doesn’t work that way. You should only consider it a plateau if the following conditions are true:

  1. You’ve been logging everything you place in your mouth (even bites, licks, and tastes).
  2. You’ve been sticking to the protocol of your weight loss program perfectly. This includes both the eating and the exercise you committed to.
  3. You’ve been drinking the correct amount of water.
  4. You’ve been taking your supplements religiously.
  5. The scale hasn’t moved in more than 14 days.

Stop and read the above list again. If you’re not sticking to the program with precision, and you haven’t given it 14 days, then it is not a plateau yet. Relax. Stick to the program. Keep at it. Trust me, you don’t want to make changes to something that’s not definitely broken.

It’s definitely a plateau. Now what?

First, the biggest thing to remember is that your body will fiercely resist any and all weight loss. From an evolutionary standpoint, having fat stored on your body gives you a huge survival advantage. You literally have millions of years of evolution working AGAINST you when you try to shed fat. Your body will do about anything it needs to achieve homeostasis (that state where you are neither adding nor subtracting from your weight). A plateau means your body has adjusted to whatever you’ve been doing. So, the answer is simple: Change something!

Simple Things You Can Try First

  1. Try intermittent fasting.
  2. Ty Calorie Cycling.
  3. Incorporate HIIT into your workout routines.
  4. Increase the intensity of your workouts.
  5. Change your workout routine. Do different exercises. Do your exercises at a different time of day.
  6. If you currently work out less than 5 hours a week, increase your workouts.
  7. If you currently work out more than 5 hours a week, decrease your workouts (too much cardio can cause plateaus, as you can put your body into a state of immense stress and block fat burn completely).
  8. Get more sleep.
  9. Drink more water.
  10. Have a cheat meal.
  11. Completely change what you would normally eat for a while.
  12. Eliminate diet soda completely.
  13. Remove stress from your life (stress can block weight loss).
  14. Stop eating out at restaurants altogether.
  15. Eliminate BLT’s (Bites, licks, and tastes) completely.

More aggressive tactics

If you’ve tried everything above and the scale still isn’t moving after another week or two, you’ll need to resort to more aggressive tactics.

  1. Take a longer-term break from weight-loss. Increase your calories to “maintenance” and continue to eat healthy. Give your body a break from fat-loss. (Keep doing your workouts, keep tracking your food, etc., just eat more and cheat a little more often). Your goal here is not to gain weight. Your goal is to maintain your current level while still eating a little more.
  2. Decrease your calories but keep your ratios the same. You should never, however, drop below about 1,300 calories. If you’re at those levels and still not losing weight, try anything except this.
  3. Change your ratios. If you’re on keto, increase the amount of fat you’re eating (decrease protein to compensate). If you’re on a more traditional approach, try adding more carbs for a few weeks (subtract fat and/or protein to compensate).
  4. Switch to 100% clean eating. Eliminate ALL processed foods. Eliminate ALL sweeteners. Stick to the very basics like chicken, turkey, brown rice, and veggies. (in other words, try a more paleo-like diet). This could be miserable, but many have reported the change-up is enough to get the scale moving again.

You may be tempted to skip the list above and jump to this conclusion: you make the assumption that you want to be aggressive and just “go after it”. Don’t. If you can avoid cutting calories, you need to. Unnecessary cutting could inadvertently cause other problems (like a plateau you really can’t break). Please try the items in the simple list above before you consider cutting calories.

Listen to these podcasts. Right Now. For real.

We recently did several podcasts on this topic. (For real, these are worth every second of your time!)

  1. Episode 23: Why it’s harder for women to lose weight, and how to level the playing field
  2. Episode 24: You might be sabotaging yourself, and not know it!
  3. Episode 21: Dealing with plateaus / what to do when the scale stops moving
  4. Episode 18: The 7 habits of highly effective losers

You can listen to them by clicking the above links, or you can listen to them on your iPhone (using the Podcast app, search for “Weightix”), or on the Android using the Google Play app. Again, search for Weightix).

I promise, these are worth your time!

In the end, the answer to breaking a plateau is change. Make sure it really is a plateau, try out the simple things for a week or two, and then move to the more aggressive adjustments. If the scale stops moving, you can’t. You CAN and WILL break any plateau using the methods above!