What is a weight loss plateau?
Most of us who have tried to lose weight at some point have encountered what is referred to as a weight loss plateau. You’re eating right, exercising regularly, but suddenly stop seeing the numbers on the scale go down each week.
Why? Most folks lose weight rapidly during the first weeks of a diet or calorie deficit. This is because the body first burns through available glycogen — a carbohydrate stored in the muscles. During this process, water is released from the muscles. This is often referred to as “water weight”.
During this process, muscle is lost, which affects metabolism and reduces a person’s ability to burn fat. This is where a plateau typically occurs.
How to overcome a weight loss plateau
Overcoming a weight loss plateau can be challenging—small habits can add up quickly. After all, storing fat is an important adaptation that kept our ancestors alive through hard time. Our bodies are extremely adaptable and efficient, and often work against us when it comes to getting rid of fat.
What may have worked in the beginning might lose its effectiveness over time. That’s why it’s important to start by reevaluating your current habits one item at a time.
Re-examine your habits
The first thing you should do when you hit a plateau is reflect on your current approach to weight loss. Are you calculating your caloric intake accurately? Are you maintaining a calorie deficit? Are you skipping days at the gym, or have you become more sedentary since beginning your weight loss program?
Carefully exploring areas of your habits that you can optimize may shed some light on the real cause of a weight loss plateau.
Reduce calorie intake further
At its core, weight loss is really just simple math—you must burn more calories that you consume each day. Of course, doing so is much more difficult in practice, especially when it comes to counting calories. Every little ingredient has a part to play and can be difficult to calculate just by making general estimates.
There are many apps available to help you find precise calorie counts for food, measurements for ingredients, and explore healthy (and delicious!) recipes. These tools are a great way to overcome a weight loss plateau.
Increase workout time or intensity.
In addition to eating less, exercising more can help boost metabolism, rebuild lost muscle, and put your body in a caloric deficit. If you’re currently working out but still hitting a weight loss plateau, you might need to change things up.
Find a way to add a little extra activity into your day—you might be surprised how the little things add up!
Here are a few easy ways to add more activity to your day:
- Squeeze in a 15 minute walk during lunch
- Ride your bike to work
- Park further away
- Use the stairs
- Take short stretching breaks throughout the day
Most importantly though, any extra activity doesn’t have to be on a treadmill or at the gym!
Some smartphones also include important health metric tracking features. For example, many devices allow you to track your total step count during the day and include notifications when you haven’t reached your goal.
Most fitness apps will help you track your calorie intake and activity levels. “Gamifying” your weight loss journey might help you track progress in real-time in a visual way that keeps progress fun and engaging. For example, you might notice that trying to beat your step count from the previous week will keep you motivated and excited about each little victory..
If you’re not a “gym person”, you might consider a home workout program on an app that can keep you engaged.
Get professional help
Sometimes a weight loss plateau is about more than eating well and exercising often. If you’ve been trying to lose weight on your own without much success, you should consider getting expert help.
Find a health coach
A health coach can help you create personalized strategies for your specific needs. They’ve likely helped someone in a similar situation and can help you get through your plateau in a safe and healthy way.
Find a personal trainer
Personal trainers can be expensive over long periods of time, but well worth a session or two. Most gyms also have personal trainers on staff who can help you come up with a safe workout routine that works for your body.
Get help from a medical weight loss clinic
Medical weight loss is helpful for many patients who hit a plateau because of an undiagnosed medical issue. Since 2008, Blue Sky MD has been helping patients discover what’s really holding them back from transformational weight loss.
Understand how hormones play a role
Hormones play a key role in metabolism and the body’s ability to shed fat. Often an issue with hormones is the real culprit behind a weight loss plateau. At Blue Sky MD, we are able to look at our patients hormone makeup and assess thyroid health and sex hormone levels. Hormone therapy can also boost metabolism and energy levels simultaneously, dramatically improving overall weight loss progress.
Consider weight loss medications
When all else fails, new advancements in weight loss medication provide an extra boost to help get over your current weight loss plateau.
Popular new medications like Ozempic and WeGovy are a class of medications called Glucagon-like Peptide 1 Agonists, (or GLP-1 agonists, for short). These medications work by affecting hormones in your gut that make you feel hungry—essentially suppressing appetite. When used under the supervision of a physician, these medications can help patients snack less and achieve calorie deficit without feeling underfed. However, it’s important to note that these medications should be taken in addition to a healthy diet and regular exercise.
Learn more about the GLP-1 medication we’re able to prescribe to qualified patients at Blue Sky MD.
You must have a prescription for GLP-1 medication and should consult with your primary care physician before beginning any new medication.
Don’t give up!
It’s easy to get discouraged when you feel like you’re not making progress. This is often where many people slip back into unhealthy habits, undoing all the progress they’ve worked so hard to achieve.
Reach out for help before you give up! Medical weight loss programs like Blue Sky MD can help you overcome your weight loss plateau—all while billing insurance or at an affordable out-of-pocket cost! Contact us to find out if we accept your insurance or to learn more about our medical weight loss and hormone therapy programs.