Hitting a weight loss plateau is crap, but you know what? You’re not alone.
Weight loss plateau effect is a nasty condition most people face sooner or later when they are trying to lose weight. In fact, 99% of all people working on their weight loss hit the weight loss plateau at some stage.
The majority of those hitting a plateau fail, but since you are here, you will be among the ones who breaks through. Just explore the nature of the beast.
Even such super experienced weight losers like me face weight loss plateaus (the latter one was during my Weight Loss Marathon, and I had to really really move my ass to get over it. So even experience will not prevent anybody from it).
Weight loss plateau effect has different forms.
You can hit it once and break it quickly.
You can hit it and struggle with it for weeks.
If you have to lose more than 5 kgs/12 lbs, chances are you will hit two or more weight loss plateaus.
If to estimate it roughly, the weight loss process reaches its next plateau every 3-4 kgs/8-10 lbs. This happens because the body cannot lose weight and burn fat in a steady manner for long periods of time.
the weight loss process reaches its next plateau every 3-4 kgs/8-10 lbs
What Is Weight Loss Plateau: Definition
Weight loss plateau means that, despite the fact you continue all your routines, follow the diet, and do workouts, the weight does not decrease further.
You continue to follow the same system which already helped you to lose some weight, but nothing changes, and you stay in the same weight and shape, regardless of all your efforts.
Calorie deficit – the condition of the body when you eat less calories than you burn. The difference between the two numbers is calorie deficit.
Calorie surplus – the condition when you consume more calories than you burn. The difference is calorie surplus, and all excess calories usually go to the far depots in the body.
The cycle of weight – the condition when you lose weight, hit the plateau, and then regain the weight.
LEARN MORE ABOUT WEIGHT LOSS PLATEAU
How Weight Loss Plateau Happens: Typical Scenario
The most typical scenario for weight loss plateau is the following one:
- you decide to lose weight, and start following a certain system that is considered effective
- your weight starts to decrease, you feel better, and notice changes in the mirror
- you are happy that the method works, and continue to follow it, motivated with your results
- after some time, you see that the process of losing weight slows down
- you think this is a temporary situation, and continue to workout even harder
- however, shortly, the weight loss stops, and you do not see decrease, despite the fact that you exercise and follow the diet as before
- you believe your efforts are just not enough, so you exercise a bit harder, and eat even less. You are motivated to do so, because you know this method already has helped you to lose some weight recently
- you notice the weight decreases a little, so your efforts pay off
- after some time, the weight loss stops again. You understand that you need to increase the intensity of exercise even more, and decrease the calories even less, to continue burn fats
- however, in most cases, such harsh regimen is close to impossible to follow (and lead a normal life at the same time, like working, spending time with family, etc.)
- so you decide to give yourself a break. You are more or less okay with the results you have already achieved; you will get some rest, and then continue your workout and dieting routine
- but as soon as you stop following your routines, the weight starts to grow, instead of being stable, at least
- you are in despair and start it all again – if you still have the motivation
The timing for this scenario is different for different people.
Some lose weight faster, hit the plateau later, and regain their weight slower.
Others struggle to lose every pound, hit the plateau that lasts for weeks, then surrender, and gain their weight back in the matter of days.
Unless you are able to recognize the reasons that cause weight loss plateau, and avoid all the typical mistakes, you will be trapped in this vicious circle.
What Actually Happens
Let’s look at the scenario above again, and analyze what actually happens to your body during every stage:
- you decide to lose weight, and start following a certain system that is considered effective –
in your usual lifestyle, you consume more calories than you burn, having the calorie surplus. You accumulate excessive calories as fat. You find a system that teaches you how to eat less calories, and burn more calories.
- your weight starts to decrease, you feel better, and notice changes in the mirror –
by eating less calories, and burning more calories, you create calorie deficit in the body. The body starts to cover this deficit by burning its own energy reserves, that is, fats under skin. Your shapes start to look leaner.
- you are happy that the method works, and continue to follow it, motivated with your results –
since the calorie deficit becomes your normal condition, the body continues to burn the fats.
- after some time, you see that the process of losing weight slows down –
Your body starts to adapt to the amount of calories it gets with food every day. It reduces its calorie spending, to make it meet the consumption. It means that at this stage, your calorie intake starts to match the calories you burn.
- you think this is a temporary situation, and continue to workout even harder –
you are not aware that the body adapts to the amount of calories you consume, and believe that all you need to do is to boost the calorie deficit
- however, shortly, the weight loss stops, and you do not see decrease, despite the fact that you exercise and follow the diet as before –
once the process of adaptation begins, it is hard to stop it. The body tries to match the level of calories you consume, with the level of calories you burn, in order to reach some balance. This is a natural mechanism of survival.
AS YOU REDUCE THE CALORIE INTAKE, THE BODY CUTS THE CALORIE SPENDINGS. THIS IS A NATURAL SURVIVAL MECHANISM
- you believe your efforts are just not enough, so you exercise a bit harder, and eat even less. You are motivated to do so, because you know this method already has helped you to lose some weight recently –
the calorie deficit worked for you, so you want to continue to create calorie deficit to lose more weight
- you notice the weight decreases a little, so your efforts pay off –
increased calorie spending burns some fat again, but with every lowering of calorie consumption, the body decreases the calorie spending in response.
- after some time, the weight loss stops again. You understand that you need to increase the intensity of exercise even more, and decrease the calories even less, to continue burn fats –
you are not aware the body turned on the survival mechanism
- however, in most cases, such harsh regimen is close to impossible to follow (and lead a normal life at the same time, like working, spending time with family, etc.) –
when you eat less and less calories, you are feeling worse and worse. You become weaker, physically and mentally, you may experience headaches, nausea, mood swings, food cravings, and obviously you cannot function as a member of family and society in such condition.
- so you decide to give yourself a break. You are more or less okay with the results you have already achieved; you will get some rest, and then continue your workout and dieting routine –
you have achieved some results, and burned some fats already. Being tired of extensive exercise and dieting, you are okay with your weight loss plateau for now. You did a good job and deserve some rest.
- but as soon as you stop following your routines, the weight starts to grow, instead of being stable, at least –
but you are not aware that now, after your weight loss efforts, the body is used to spending less calories than it used to, before you started losing weight. As soon as you quit diet and consume more calories, stop exercising and do not support calorie burning, you create calorie surplus again. All extra calories you consume go back to the fat reserves, and you enter the weight cycling process.
- you are in despair and start it all again – if you still have the motivation.
What Causes Weight Loss Plateau
If you browse in the web, you’ll find a bunch of reasons causing weight loss plateau, and most of them are total bullshit.
To understand what caused weight loss plateau in your particular situation, you have to be aware there are three different types of plateaus.
Each of them has its unique set if causes, and what is even more important, you need different strategies to overcome each type.
Here are three main subtypes of weight loss plateaus:
- weight loss plateau in people who only works out and does not follow the diet
- weight loss plateau in people who only diets and does not exercise
- fake plateaus
I already hear you screaming “But I both follow the diet and exercise!!! For THREE MONTHS!!!”
I know, I know, I’ll explain in a minute.
Different Types of Weight Loss Plateau
Differences between the types of plateaus are based on mechanisms causing them, and as a result, you need to activate other mechanisms to break through.
Let’s begin from fake plateaus because this is the easiest one – they are caused by factors not connected to weight loss, mostly, for example, by period in women, or by accumulation of water in the body.
You can check out more about possible fake plateaus here.
Now, why there are separate plateaus for fitness people and diet people, and no separate type for people doing both fitness AND diet?
Fitness burns calories.
Diet restricts calories.
These are two different methods of creating calorie deficit for weight loss.
Those who avoids diets and only does exercise, hit the so-called exercise weight loss plateau. This plateau may be caused by accumulation of water in the sore muscles, by muscle mass growth, and other factors connected to physical activity.
Those who avoids exercise and prefers dieting, restrict the consumption of calories, creating a different type of calorie deficit. In this case, the plateau may be caused by decrease of muscle mass, by losing water and not fat in the first place, etc.
Now, even if you are the person doing both exercise and diet, there is still a certain imbalance to one side or the other. Meaning you will face causes from both types, and your plateau will need a mixed strategy.
But don’t freak out, it is pretty easy to overcome the weight loss plateau.
Weight Loss Plateau: Survival
Do you remember the CRUCIAL POINT indicated in the typical weight loss plateau scenario?
This crucial point should be paid great attention, because, unless you struggle with a very specific factor of workout or diet causing your plateau, this CRUCIAL POINT is what prevents you from further weight loss.
This crucial point is the survival mechanisms that your body turns on when you start losing weight.
To explain it in simple terms, the body loves when we accumulate energy, and hates when we spend it.
This mechanism allowed our ancestors to survive in the past, when times were rough.
The point is that the body’s main task is to help you survive and protect you from cold and hunger.
Fat reserves are the perfect reserves for the rainy days. This is why most people easily gain weight, but have troubles losing it.
Okay, but what about the weight loss plateau?
Well, after you create some calorie deficit through your weight loss efforts, the body allows you to burn some fat. However, when the calorie deficit becomes your constant condition lasting for two and more weeks, the body starts wondering.
It scratches its head and goes: “Hmmmmmmm. We definitely lack food outside if we have to burn our reserves. But if we continue to burn the reserves, and the hunger continues, we will have nothing left for the rainy day. Perhaps we should reconsider the spending”.
And the body starts reconsidering its spendings, that is, it decreases the calories its burns daily, to fit the amount it gets with food.
You may feel a little colder, because the body temperature decreases a bit.
You may want to sleep longer, because you have no energy.
You become hungrier, because the body wants you to get more food.
The tricky part is that, if you continue to decrease the amount of calories you consume, the body will continue to cut the amount allowed to burn. The more you cut consumption, the more it cuts spending, and eventually you end up with the amount of calories that is just not enough for anything.
Think of it as finance. You spend the money, but your earnings do not cover your spendings. Your body wants to keep the money, because you spend more than you earn. Pretty simple.
The trickier part still is that, if you start eating more, the body will not start burning more automatically.
Instead, it will immediately start storing all the calorie surplus as fat reserves, trying to restore its “safety bag” for the rainy day.
At this stage, most people face rapid weight gain.
Weight Loss Plateau Is Natural
As you see, weight loss plateau is a very natural thing, and almost nobody can skip it on their journey to weight loss.
Most people believe that weight loss journey looks like that:
But in reality, the successful weight loss looks like that:
What is remarkable, the longer the weight loss journey, the more plateaus there are on the way.
the longer the weight loss journey, the more plateaus there are on the way
The more fat the person needs to burn, the bigger number of plateaus they hit.
Think of it as hiking – you cannot walk 30 miles without stopping. You have to stop and have rest, allow the body to readjust, and then continue.
There are only two questions you need to ask:
- What to do to keep the weight stable during the plateau, and not allow it to grow?
- How to break through the plateau and continue to lose weight?
LEARN MORE ABOUT WEIGHT LOSS PLATEAU
Am I only one struggling with weight loss plateau?
Absolutely nope. As far as I know, 95% of people trying to lose weight hit the plateau one way or another.
What to do with my weight loss plateau?
You need to define the type of plateau you hit, the reasons causing it, and apply the corresponding strategy.
What if nothing works?
Maybe you are in the fake weight loss plateau. In this case, more exercise and less calories won’t help. Learn more about fake weight loss plateaus.
I am in the middle of weight loss plateau and hungry all the time!
You need to drink more liquid, and eat more low-calorie foods. Your body is stressed about calorie deficiency you create, and wants to make you cover the deficiency by eating more. Learn more about correct eating during the weight loss plateau.
Should I eat more or less?
You definitely should NOT eat less. Your body will continue to cut the energy spendings, if you cut the consumption of energy.
Weight loss plateau duration: How long will it take?
It depends on the type of plateau, the reasons causing it, and other factors. Honestly, it is hard to tell without knowing the background.