How to break through a plateau

by | Feb 13, 2024 | Uncategorized

When you have a specific health goal and feel you are putting in the work, it’s tough
when you don’t see the changes you feel you deserve. It’s tempting to give up, but
here’s what to do instead.
If progress is disappointing, it’s time to check in with how you feel. Progress is not
just a number on the scale and, in many cases, the scale can be misleading. If your
goal is something other than weight loss, a temporary stall in progress can be just as frustrating,
with symptoms seeming to vanish one week, but reappear the next. Progress is
rarely as straightforward as we think.
In this blog I’ll be focussing on weight loss plateaus, but you apply the principles to your
own situation.

What is a weight loss plateau?
A weight loss plateau refers to a phase in your weight loss journey where progress
comes to a temporary halt despite your continued efforts. It can be both frustrating
and demotivating.
Understanding the dynamics of why this happens is crucial for developing effective
strategies to overcome them.

Common causes
Metabolic adaptation: One primary cause of weight loss plateaus is the body’s ability
to adapt to changes in calorie intake and expenditure. As you lose weight, your
metabolic rate may decrease, meaning your body burns fewer calories at rest. This
adaptive response can make it challenging to sustain the initial rate of weight loss.

Psychological factors: Psychological aspects play a significant role in weight
management. Stress, emotional eating, and other mental health factors can
contribute to plateaus. For instance, heightened stress levels can lead to hormonal
imbalances that affect metabolism and appetite, hindering weight loss progress.
Don’t underestimate the power of stress to impact every aspect of your health.

Inconsistent action: It’s easy to be keen and compliant when you first start your
programme but, over time, bad habits and inconsistencies can creep in, whether
that’s more treat foods, more glasses of wine, or irregular workout patterns.
It’s not simply the number on the scale that can show up

Lack of change in measurements: A plateau often extends beyond weight loss alone,
affecting overall body composition and shape. This might mean measurements such
as waist circumference, hip circumference, and other body dimensions stall too.

Emotional and psychological indicators: Forget about the tell-tell signs just being
physical. You might also experience heightened frustration, demotivation, or a sense
of being stuck in your journey. Emotional eating patterns may also emerge as a
response to the perceived lack of progress, further complicating the weight loss

Plateaus vary from person to person
Weight loss plateaus are not one-size-fits-all – just like your food plan! They manifest
differently for everyone. Factors such as age, gender, genetics, and overall health
can influence the nature and duration of plateaus. Some people may experience a
brief slowdown in weight loss, while others might encounter a more prolonged and
stubborn plateau.

Here are some thoughts for those weeks when things don’t go to plan for whatever
the reason.
If there were things you didn’t do but wanted to, or things that felt difficult, be
curious about why you struggled.
Making changes to your health is all about
learning, and in some cases identifying triggers and finding solutions.
If you keep a food diary or a habit tracker, review it. It’s often (but not always)
easy to spot what has happened. While you are practising making changes to
what you eat, it’s easy to slip back into old patterns and many people over-
estimate their compliance. These will vary from person to person but can
include eating more of the foods that cause symptoms to flare up or adding in
more snacks, alcohol or treat foods.
How are you sleeping? Lack of sleep plays a big role in your health and can
stall your results if you’re regularly not getting enough by placing additional
stress on the body. For most people, that means having fewer than seven
hours a night most nights.
Check your stress levels. Stress can put the brakes on weight loss and any
kind of progress at all. If you’re spinning a lot of plates and you’re not taking
time for yourself every day to do some kind of stress relief (acts of self-care,
meditation, breathwork, time in nature, etc), you should make this a priority.
Are you hydrated? There are many reasons why drinking water works for
health and, time and again, I have seen that taking action in this area alone
can shift the needle in every respect. For starters, drinking enough water
allows your body to get rid of toxic waste you don’t want in your body, and it
helps support immunity and liver function too.

Quick wins
The basic advice is to keep going. Plateaus are very common and often my clients
trust the process and soon things start moving in the right direction again. In the
short term, you can try one of these little boosters:
– No starchy carbs in the evening for one week
– Eat evening meal 1 hour earlier than usual
– Cut out wheat and/or dairy for one week
– No alcohol for one week
One of the most important things you can do is to focus on what has gone well. Ask
yourself, what am I pleased with that has gone well this week? What other
improvements have you noticed?
Keep your eye on the prize. One of the things I’m keen to do as a coach is to help
my clients work out why change is important for them. This helps keep focus when a
plateau happens.


My goal is to get you to a place where your time is spent thinking about, and doing, the things that are meaningful in your life, not worrying about your health. Reading the scientific research, identifying root causes and coming up with diet and lifestyle recommendations to address these, is only half the solution.

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