The dreaded weight loss plateau!

If you have ever tried to lose weight, you know there is that 1-week (or, heaven forbid, 2-week) period when you simply do not lose a pound.

I met with Melanie today, one of our Cityline Weight Loss Challenge contestants. Mel is doing everything right — eating on-plan, working out, drinking her water, and unfortunately, for two weeks in a row – her weight has stuck! Mel has hit what every weight loss seeker wants to avoid– the dreaded weight loss plateau!

What I can tell you for sure is that weight loss rarely happens in a straight line. If you have ever tried to lose weight, you know there is that 1-week (or, heaven forbid, 2-week) period when you simply do not lose a pound. I realize the frustration of putting in a perfect week and not losing a pound makes you want to say “%#$ it” — but I urge you, if this happens to you – don’t throw in the towel (and Mel has assured me she won’t!) . As difficult as it may seem, try to keep your emotional response to the reading on the scale out of the situation. All plateaus break, and this situation will indeed change. Instead of giving up or food bingeing, try to focus on how good you feel and take charge by implementing the steps outlined below to break that plateau for good.

First: determine if you really have hit a standstill in your weight loss efforts. I highly recommend weighing yourself and measuring your inches once per week (and no more!) to monitor your process. If for 2 weeks in a row you have not lost a pound and inches have not dropped, then yes, you have indeed hit a weight loss standstill and need to shake things up in order to break the adaptation mode your body is experiencing. In truth, the closer you get to your goal weight and the more comfortable your body becomes at its set point, the trickier it can be. Thus, in order to break a plateau, you must confuse your body by breaking the pattern. In other words, it is time for a metabolic shake-up.


Steps to implement to break a plateau include:

Zigzag your calories. “Zigzagging your calories” is another way of saying “caloric cycling.” The process involves varying your daily caloric intake while maintaining your weekly intake. In other words, instead of eating 1,300 calories per day, one day consume 1,500 calories and the next day consume 1,100 calories. This can be as easy as cutting back on some protein, dropping your grain one day or dropping your snack. Why does this work? It simply keeps the body guessing and elicits the change mode your body requires to break a plateau.

Take a sugar holiday. While your caloric intake may be just perfect, remember, you could be eating all the wrong types of calories, those that are keeping the weight on. If you have hit a plateau, I encourage you to review your food journal to ensure you are not overdoing it on sugary foods, including chocolate, refined flours or alcohol. If you are overdoing it on sugar, you will be bouncing around your blood sugars and triggering too much of your fat-storage hormone, insulin. I also encourage you to start reading food labels to check their sugar content. Manufacturers are very good at sneaking sugar into a product to improve taste.

Make sure you are eating enough fat. The good type of fat that you are consuming in the form of certain oils, nuts and seeds will help, not hinder, your weight loss process.

For 1 week, replace all grain with protein. This step is only followed for a short period of time and tends to be a very effective method to sparking your metabolic engine.

Eliminate common food allergens. If you are eating food items you are sensitive or allergic to, weight loss can stall. The most common food allergen to remove from your diet other than wheat and gluten is dairy.

Do a different exercise every 3 weeks. The key to breaking a plateau is to confuse your body out of its adaptation mode. If you have been doing the exact same exercise routine for some time and are no longer reaping the results by losing weight or building muscle, it is time to switch it up. You can change your routine even slightly and watch the benefits. For example, increase your cardiovascular workout by 10 minutes, start increasing the incline on your treadmill, target different muscle groups with different types of weights or sign up for a yoga or Pilates class (or follow along with a home DVD). The key is change.

Watch your stress. Elevated cortisol levels can dampen blood sugar response and thereby facilitate fat storage. If you are under a considerable amount of stress, try to exercise, meditate, journal and/or pray to lower your cortisol response. In addition, continue eating healthy, but also consider taking a break from the scale for a week or two to deal with your stress and to not get discouraged. Focus on the improvement in how you are feeling and sleeping and on your new heightened energy levels.

Sleep well. Faulty sleep patterns can also make weight loss much more difficult. Try going to bed at the same time each night, avoiding television or the computer half an hour before bedtime, sleeping in a dark room and sleeping in comfortable, loose clothing. Taking liquid magnesium and/or valerian root at bedtime may also be helpful. Look for these products at health food stores.

Give it time. If you’re following the dietary plan outlined above and exercising as well, time itself will also break a plateau. However, I truly believe that weight loss is both a physical and emotional journey and that seeing results is the key to sticking to your path and keeping your motivation high. Many people find the plateau an intensely frustrating time and need to take action to break the trend. I completely understand and encourage you to implement any and all of the steps outlined here to get to the final finish line of your goal weight.

Consider supplementing with CLA – Conjucated Linoleic Acid. A natural fat found in capsule form (made from safflower) that has been shown to increase lean muscle mass and accelerate fat loss. Research shows 3 grams is the amount required to have a metabolic boosting effect (talk to your doctor if you are diabetic prior to taking).


And Mel…if you are reading this – keep the faith. I promise you – this shall pass (and don’t forget – you are 3 inches down in your waist and 9.5 pounds down overall!).

Keep on sending me your comments and questions – I love hearing from you!

Dr. Joey
Twitter: @drjoeyshulman


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I have trying for years to loose weight…I go to the gym , swim, walk,,,do what ever it takes to make me feel good however I don’t see the weight coming off…I’m about 40lbs over weight…I need to get this weight down before this summer as I hate carrying this extra weight around with me all the time…please do you have any suggestions…ugggggggggg feeling fat everyday….

February 08, 2013 at 1:26 pm

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