OK, so you finally decided to do something about those few extra pounds that are nagging you. You joined the local gym, bought all the healthy food there is and decided that this time you’ll stick to it. And you did! Once the scale greets you with a lower number and those jeans start smiling back in the mirror, you get all pumped up and your motivation soars. Needless to say, you are over the moon! But on the road to a wonderful transformation, there it is all of a sudden – a standstill. You stopped losing weight!
You’ve never skipped a day at the gym and your meal portions are ridiculously small and unquestionably healthy. But it is as if your scale has frozen and your body has suddenly (and stubbornly) decided that it’s going to keep the remaining layer of flab.
And there is nothing you can do about it. You stopped losing weight and your body won’t give in no matter how hard you try.
But, before you decide to raise the white flag and concede defeat (and possibly ruin all those weeks of hard work that got you where you are), stick with me and find out how to overcome this utterly frustrating obstacle and how to get back on track.
At this point you must be wondering, or even kicking the scale in frustration –Why? Why won’t my weight budge? Why have I stopped losing weight?
But let me be the voice of reason – it happens, more often than you might thing.
So before you decide to give up on the gym and that “stupid” salad (cause they aren’t working, are they?!) and flush all you have achieved so far down the drain, bear with me and find out what causes a weight loss plateau and how to tackle this seemingly insurmountable obstacle.
Stopped losing weight?
First, let’s have a look at the reasons why you stopped losing weight. You should know that weight loss does not happen in a consistent and predictable way.
At the beginning, a rapid drop is normal. When you cut calories, your body starts getting energy from its stored carbohydrate known as glycogen. When glycogen is used for energy, it releases water, which means that part of your initial weight loss is actually due to loss of stored water.
And this is great to get your motivation going, but the real challenge is yet to come. In the next stage of your weight loss campaign, you will start to burn fat, and even lose some muscle in the process.
And since muscle determines the calories-burning rate, the more muscle you lose, the slower your metabolism gets. At this point your weight loss will slow down, even if you stick to the same number of calories and the same amount of exercise that helped you drop the initial weight.
And when you get to the point where the amount of calories you burn equals the amount of calories you consume – you reach a weight loss standstill. And this is the breaking point when you become frustrated and desperate and questions like – Why can’t I lose weight? Why have I stopped losing weight? -start taunting you. The answer is simpler than you might think –you’ve hit the dreaded plateau. But there is a way out!
Weight loss plateau solutions
To answer your question on why you have your weight stuck for months, let me point to some weight loss plateau scenarios and offer possible solutions:
You are not losing weight, but losing inches?
When your scale is stuck, but your tape tells a different story, you have made progress! If your weight-loss efforts include exercise, especially weightlifting, the chance is you are building muscle while losing fat. And since muscle tissue weighs more than fat, your scale is misleading you.
Long story short, you are actually getting thinner but not losing weight. It’s a win! Sure, continue to monitor your weight, but do rely more on your tape to measure your progress. At the end of the day, it all comes down to fitting back in those jeans smiling back to the mirror. The number on the scale is just an abstract concept, and it doesn’t convey much information.
If you are not losing weight but losing inches instead, maybe it’s time to have a good look in the mirror and see whether or not you are satisfied with the image in front of you, and not the number on the scale.
Eating 1200 calories and not losing weight?
Cutting on the calorie intake is one of the first things we do when trying to lose weight. And that’s fine, because just cutting 200 calories per day could be your way out of the plateau. But that’s until you reach a certain threshold.
Here is where you should stop and reconsider. And let me tell you why…
Once you go below this threshold – which is specific to each person – it may not be enough to curb the feeling of hunger, which might lead to overeating.
So if your daily calorie intake is below the reasonable minimum, and you are still not losing weight, it means that your metabolism has adapted to the lower intake and started using the calories more efficiently, while storing any extra energy (food) just as easy.
While this is true for any amount of calorie intake, here you have no room to safely cut further. So instead on focusing on counting calories, eat enough to sustain your physical activity requirements, and be patient.
Another thing to consider if you are eating 1200 calories and not losing weight, is to analyze the source of those calories. Calories from processed carbs are entirely different than, say, calories from lean protein. This can easily be the reason why you are not losing weight and why your weight is stuck for months.
Stopped losing weight on low carb diet?
Even if you have significantly cut back on your carbs, you have to bear in mind that some people are more sensitive to carbs than others. If that’s the case with you, eliminate high-carb foods, including most fruit, and stick to no more than 50 grams of carbs per day.
Also, throw away processed carbs and replace them with real nutritious food. Lean meat, fish, eggs, vegetables and healthy fats should be definitely on your list from now on. Rest assured that if you stopped losing weight on low carb diet, the fix is usually simple, and you can get back on the horse in no time.
More reasons for not losing weight
If none of the above rings a bell, let’s look at some other answers to why can’t I lose weight? Sometimes, less is more, so don’t be surprised when you realize that you’ve been trying too hard. Here are some additional reasons for not losing weight.
You are stressed
Stress may activate your body’s “survival mode” and increase the production of stress hormones like cortisol. Elevated levels of cortisol can make you hungrier and you’ll crave unhealthy foods.
Solution: Meditate or do deep breathing exercises to cut back on stress, and relax. If necessary, take a day off, or a rest day from your usual routine. we’ve written about the importance of rest days before, and sometimes they make all the difference. The world, with all of your problems inside, can seem a lot simpler when you take a fresh look.
You are sleep deprived
Sleep is a must for optimal health. Not sleeping enough will make you feel tired and it can make you eat more.
Solution: Eliminate all bad habits that might interrupt your sleep, like drinking coffee and alcohol and exercising at least several hours before sleep. If your problem persists, make sure to minimize artificial light during the evening. Dim your smartphone display or laptop screen, and have an evening routine that prepares your mind to let go.
Your workout routine is no longer working
This is assuming that exercise is part of your weight-loss plan (which is should be, if you want better result). Exercise boosts your metabolism and burns calories. The more you exercise the more calories you burn.
So, if you feel that your exercise plan is no longer working, try to increase the level of intensity. You see, when you don’t change your workout routine for a long period of time, your body learns to do the same amount of work using fewer calories. To put it simple, it adapts.
Muscles react in the same way. Although building muscles speeds up the metabolism, if you are stuck in a workout-rut, they will start burning fewer calories and stop or slow down the weight-loss process.
Solution: Step up your exercise program. If you are doing only cardio, add in some strength training or use different exercises to engage different muscle groups. Your workout should be a good combination of aerobic activity and strength training, including stretching and other flexibility exercises.
You can definitely check our fitness program where we mix a garden variety of innovative sequences. It will take you where you want to go, only much faster. A huge part of the program is designed to tackle the weight loss plateau, so if you are looking for some weight loss plateau solutions, look no further.
You let calories creep in
You might be eating more than you are aware. It’s easy to lose track of your calories intake as portion sizes become bigger. Do the math and few extra calories every day can easily translate to a substantial amount on the long run. Needless to say, it is enough to make damage!
One study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition states that weight loss plateaus usually occur as a result of non-adherence to a prescribed dietary plan.American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2014 Sep;100(3):787-95. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.079822. Epub 2014 Jul 30.
The challenge here, is to stay disciplined no matter what. give yourself a day off when necessary, but make sure to adhere to your diet regimen for the rest of the week.
Solution: Revise and adjust your eating plan. If you are counting calories, make sure your portion sizes haven’t increased and you haven’t been overdoing some of the healthy snacks (like for example nuts). And here is another shameless plug – our fitness program comes with a fully customizable nutrition plan inside, so make sure to have a look.
Your workout routine needs minor fixes
If your weight is stuck for months, but you feel like you’ve been doing everything right, then it might be time for implementing minor fixes to your workout routine.
I’ve been working with clients in the past, and some of the regular hiccups with their workout routine was lack of stretching, and lack of diversity.
They’ve been tackling the same muscle groups in the same exact way for months on end, without paying attention to flexibility and balance exercises.
Solution: Introduce complex bodyweight moves as they tackle several muscle groups at once, and definitely do some stretching in order to improve your range of motion and promote better circulation and blood flow to your muscles.
We’ve designed Fitness Updated to tackle this annoying obstacle, by incorporating smart stretching moves at specific points throughout each session.
You are not doing the exercises properly
I’ve been always saying that one proper push-up can outrank five of them done sloppy. And this is absolutely the case once you factor in range of motion and the angular positioning of the body during certain exercises.
Solution: In order to leverage the full potential of a specific exercise, you have to keep correct form, and move your body thorough the maximum range of motion allowed. This can decrease your rep count, but I’m giving you the green light to forget about numbers altogether.
Stopped losing weight? Don’t despair!
Allow me to wrap this up. The good news is that the plateau is not a point of no return. Whatever happens, don’t give in and go back to your old habits.
Losing weight is a process that requires perseverance and patience, and just because you stopped losing weight at some point on the way it doesn’t mean that’s the furthest you can go. Stay in the right state of mind and don’t let your motivation flag. It’s just one stumbling block that, if tackled properly, won’t derail you from your goal.