Weight Loss Plateaus

A “weight loss plateau” is the term we use for being stuck at the same weight after initially losing.  We can show this by drawing a graph of weight each week (or month) as shown to the left.

A weight loss plateau
Plateaus Happen to Everybody

Everyone who loses a lot of weight experiences at least one plateau. They are a normal but very frustrating part of healthy weight loss.

Why do Plateaus Occur?

The human body resists weight loss, even when it’s needed.  One way to understand it is that weight loss makes the body “think” it is in danger and causes it to “slam the brakes” on further losses.  After that there is an adjustment period (a plateau) during which the body has to essentially “re-learn” how not to fight its new lower weight. Plateaus end when the body recognizes that it is not in danger, after it becomes “used to” its new lower weight. Of course the body doesn’t really think at all, that’s just a way of understanding the plateau.  What actually occurs is a temporary drop in metabolism, subtle changes in hunger and fluid retention.

Plateaus Never Last

Hitting a weight loss plateau doesn’t mean that your weight loss is over.  As long as you continue to make the same good lifestyle choices that helped you get down to your plateau weight, you’ll eventually get below it. There is no magic formula for how to make this happen faster. Most of it is patience. For some people, plateaus are a signal to push even harder with exercise or diet but sometimes this leads to more frustration than results.  Often the best approach is to just keep “plugging away” with a good diet and exercise. It may take several months, but eventually you’ll begin losing weight again.

Weight Loss Medication and Plateaus

Sometimes an increase or change in the dosage of a weight loss medication can help a patient overcome a plateau. Sometimes it cannot help. Remember that a plateau is the body’s reaction AGAINST weight loss. Often the best strategy to managing a plateau is patience.