close up of someone's feet on a scale with a nail polish

So you’re eating well and staying active and your extra weight seems to be coming right off until – it isn’t. You’re still doing everything right, but the scale hasn’t moved in weeks and now you’re getting frustrated. What’s happening? What are you doing wrong? You’re actually not doing anything wrong. This stall in weight loss is called a weight loss plateau and it’s a natural phenomenon that affects lots of people on a weight loss journey.

What’s Happening?

When you first start a diet, you tend to lose weight fairly quickly. That’s because when you restrict your body of calories, it turns to glycogen – a carbohydrate stored in your muscles and your liver – for energy. So how does this translate to weight loss? Glycogen holds onto water so when your body burns glycogen for energy, it also releases water. This results in a considerable loss of water weight. As you lose weight, however, your metabolism slows down in response. This means you burn fewer calories doing the same activities than you did at the heavier weight. When this happens, you’ll eventually hit a plateau because the calories you expend – or burn off – become equivalent to the calories you take in. If you’ve hit a weight loss plateau and you still have weight to lose, there are a few things you can do to get those numbers dropping again.

Reassess your Diet

When it comes to your diet, it’s easy to say “I’m doing everything right and still not losing weight!”, but are you really? Are you sneaking “just a bite” here or a scoop of ice cream there? If so, this could be the culprit behind your plateau. A few bites here and there can add up to several hundred calories over the course of a week. Keep a food journal for a few weeks and record every bite of food and drop of liquid that goes into your mouth. Use this journal to identify areas that could use some work and be honest with yourself. If you really are doing everything right food wise and the scale still isn’t moving, try something else.

Get Creative with Exercise

When you do the same exercise day after day, your body adapts and doesn’t burn calories as efficiently as it could. Instead of hitting the treadmill for 30 minutes every morning, work in all different types of exercise. Jog on the treadmill on Monday, hit the stair climber on Tuesday, and do some laps in the pool on Wednesday. Include strength training workouts, like lifting hand weights, 2 to 3 times per week. Strength training increases your lean muscle mass, which boosts your metabolism and makes you a more efficient calorie-burner. The key is to keep your body guessing at what’s coming next.

Drink Up!

Staying well hydrated is essential to your weight loss success. Water curbs your appetite and helps increase your metabolism so your body burns more calories. If you’re even a little dehydrated, it can affect your performance in the gym. You may get tired faster and quit sooner. This means fewer calories burned. The old adage was to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day, but the new recommendation is to drink at least half your body weight in ounces. So if you’re 200 pounds, drink 100 ounces of water daily.

Wait It Out

In many cases, you’ll start to lose weight again in a few weeks without making any changes as long as you stick to your healthy eating plan and workout routine. Have patience and keep on the right track. The key to overcoming a weight loss plateau is to stay motivated. Instead of focusing on the number on the scale, focus on how you feel. Are your energy levels through the roof? Do you feel stronger than you did before? Are you enjoying the experience of trying out new foods? Good. These are all benefits of a healthy lifestyle that are just as important as reaching your weight loss goals. Focus on the positives and your body will reward you for it.

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