You’ve been working hard at the gym for weeks, watching every morsel you put in your mouth for months, and you’ve lost weight—great! Then suddenly, you’re stuck. What happened?! Plateaus can be extremely frustrating, but rest assured, it’s completely normal for weight loss to slow down and even stop for a while. If you aren’t seeing daily changes on the scale anymore, try not to be too hard on yourself. Track what your weight is doing over a few weeks rather than day to day, as this might only be a bump in the road. And even if it goes beyond a few weeks, don’t despair. There are a few simple tricks that can kick-start weight loss again.
Take a Look at What You’re Eating
Even if you’ve been watching what you eat for months, slipups happen—a cookie here, an extra glass of wine there—and before you know it, screech! Your weight loss comes to an abrupt stop. The best way to catch calories as they’re sneaking back in is to log your food for at least a week. This may be all you need to get back on track.
While you’re at it, check your calorie needs, and make sure that you’re eating the right amount. The same way a small car needs less gas than a big one, now that you’re slimmer than before, you may need to operate on fewer calories in order to continue losing weight. Try reducing your calories by 200 per day, and see if that helps.
But, if your food log looks accurate, and you haven’t deviated from your steadfast dedication to healthy eating, there might be something else going on. And if the idea of eating any less feels impossible, or would put you below 1,200 calories a day, then it may be a sign that your metabolism has gone into a famine-induced slumber, and it’s time to shake it awake.
Get Your Metabolism Firing Again
Months of low calories and high activity can switch your metabolism into starvation mode—your body thinks the world has run out of food, so it’s slowing down for survival. That’s understandable, but not ideal when you’re still hoping to shed a few pounds. Having a few meals or days of slightly increased calories may help to get your metabolism firing again. Intermittent fasting can help kick weight loss back into gear. Or you could try a more moderate approach, alternating your calories between a higher calorie day (around 2,000 calories, or what you need to maintain your weight) and a lower calorie day (around 1,200 calories).
Mix Up Your Day
Another way to keep your metabolism on its toes is to shift your routine around. Instead of having your biggest meal at dinner, breakfast like a king with whole-grain toast, eggs, and avocado; and dine like a pauper at night, with a light salad or soup. Switch up your exercise routine, too—if you work out at the same time every day, your muscles might go on autopilot. Surprise them by making them work at a time they aren’t used to, and vary the type of exercise you’re doing—walking may just not be enough anymore! Throw in some interval training with resistance exercises, or sign up for a new workout class with a friend. A higher intensity burns more calories, and resistance exercises increase your muscle mass, which can boost your metabolism, too.
Keep Calm and Carry On
A plateau can be mentally challenging, but try to accept it as part of your journey to better health. Your body needs time to recalibrate and adjust to it’s new norm. Remember, the number on the scale is just one reason to lose weight. Recognize the other moments, milestones, victories, and health benefits you’re experiencing each day, from having more energy to play with your kids, to getting a better night’s sleep. These will motivate you to continue to practice healthy habits, until they aren’t new anymore, rather just the way things are.
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.