Hitting a Plateau
10 Tips to Get Off the Diet Plateau
Have you reached a point where you can’t seem to lose any more weight? Don’t throw in the towel: These 10 tips can help you reach your goal weight.
Medically reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
No matter how dedicated you are to losing weight, you will hit a plateau at some point in your diet. This is when weight loss stalls and the numbers on the scale just don’t go down, even though you are still following your diet and exercise routine.
“Weight plateaus are the most frustrating thing that my clients face,” says personal trainer Kelly Guillory, a National Academy of Sports Medicine-certified trainer at CrossGates Athletic Club in Slidell, La. “They are very real. The numbers on the scale do not move — it’s not just in your head.”
Guillory says weight loss is 70 percent diet and 30 percent exercise. For any given dieter, making small changes in either realm can get the numbers back in motion.
Beating the Diet Plateau
Try these tips for moving the scale in the right direction again — you may not even need all of them to start seeing a difference:
- Ruthlessly clean up your diet. “I have the four deadly sins of food: butter, cheese, fried food, and sugar. These things will keep you from making progress. Examine your diet to make sure you’re being honest with yourself. You lose the right to complain if you aren’t eating what you are supposed to,” says Guillory.
- Skip the alcohol. Alcohol not only adds calories to your diet, but it effectively slows your metabolism and reduces your motivation to work out and diet.
- Go low-glycemic. If you still have refined carbs in your diet, get rid of them, especially before a workout. Eating a meal containing low-glycemic carbs about three hours before a workout results in more fat burned than a meal containing refined carbs.
- Vary your exercise routine. “If you’re coming to the gym and you’re doing the same thing every time, change your workout,” says Guillory. Run today, lift weights tomorrow, swim on the next day, take a group exercise class the day after.
- Try high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Working out at different levels of intensity is thought to increase weight loss. Guillory has her clients weight-train for about 20 minutes, exercise at 85 percent of their maximum heart rate for about 10 minutes, do more weight training for about 10 minutes, and then finish with moderate cardio exercises.
- Strength train. Use weight training to build muscle. Each pound of muscle burns about 50 calories a day at rest. According to a national survey of more than 6,000 adults, about 19 percent of people who were successful with weight loss included weight training in their workouts.
- Use a heart rate monitor. “It keeps you honest about the intensity of your workout,” says Guillory. Figure out your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. Target your workouts so your heart rate stays between 65 and 85 percent of your maximum most of the time.
- Drink water. If you are not drinking enough water during the day, your body may be retaining water, adding to the numbers on the scale. Guillory recommends consuming about half your body weight in ounces of water every day if you work out a lot (more if you’re outside in the heat). A 145-pound woman should drink about 73 ounces of water.
- Exercise for more than 30 minutes every day. People who exercise at least 30 minutes every day are more successful with weight loss. Try to get in at least this much exercise — and increasing the time you spend working out every day will increase the caloric burn.
- Get the people in your life on board. Most people don’t sabotage your diet on purpose, says Guillory, but their food-related acts of love could be undermining your weight loss.
Plateaus are a diet downer, but by making these slight adjustments to your plan, you should get that scale back on track in no time.
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