3 Reasons You’re Stuck in a Weight-Loss Plateau

WRITTEN BY Gaby Vaca-Flores

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Embarking on a weight-loss journey can be so rewarding, especially when you start to see your hard-earned results. It’s an exciting and empowering time! But when the numbers on the scale start to slow down, it can feel like your clean eating and exercise are pointless. Here are three causes of a weight-loss plateau and what you can do to overcome it.

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3 causes of a weight-loss plateau

1. Calorie Intake

Why It Happens:
You’ve downloaded your favorite calorie tracker, and you’re so close to your weight-loss goal, but now you just can’t seem to shake off those last stubborn pounds. This scenario is very common for people who embark on long-term weight-loss journeys. You must remember that you’re a smaller person than when you first started. In the beginning, your calorie intake was ideal to promote weight loss. Now, you’re likely eating enough to simply maintain your new weight.

What to Do About It:
Finding the balance between promoting weight loss and eating enough to support your body’s energy needs is the key in overcoming this type of plateau. You want to be careful not to drop your calories too low. Doing so will kick your body into starvation mode, which can be harmful on many levels and discourage weight loss in the long run. Instead of stressing out about the calories, think about what you eat on a daily basis. Consider switching your usual snack for a lower-calorie option, or maybe add more protein to your main meal and skip the snack all together.

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2. Exercise Routine

Why It Happens:
When a weight-loss plateau hits, you may feel like your tried-and-true workout routine just isn’t enough anymore. The good news is that you’re probably noticing that those workouts aren’t as challenging as they were in the beginning. With consistency, your body has grown stronger and has adapted to exercise more efficiently. The bad news is that because your body recognizes your daily workouts, it’s learned to do the same workouts using less energy, which means you’re burning fewer calories!

What to Do About It:
Don’t be so hard on yourself. Establishing a workout routine is the most difficult part, and you’ve already accomplished that! Now it’s simply time to mix up the routine by adding high-intensity interval training (HIIT). These short bursts of cardio and strength-building movements will help you maximize calories burned and target fat stores better than cardio alone. I recommend adding one or two HIIT sessions into your weekly workout routine. Don’t forget to make sure you’re getting enough sleep to provide your muscles with enough time to recover and repair.

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3. Stress and Hormones

Why It Happens:
You may have experienced a quick drop in weight during the first few weeks of your weight-loss journey. Naturally, you’re weighing yourself regularly to monitor how your hard work is paying off. When you hit a plateau, a deep frustration can kick in because your efforts aren’t reflected on the scale. Stressing out and losing sleep can cause our bodies to release a hormone called cortisol. This fight-or-flight hormone can encourage fat storage. Stressing out can also weaken our willpower to say no to foods that we’ve been avoiding by promoting emotional eating or bingeing.

What to Do About It:
Ditch the scale! Refrain from using the number on the scale as your only measurement of success. I recommend writing down your milestones, no matter how big or small. For example, acknowledge yourself for beating your personal best at the gym, drinking enough water today, or noticing that you went down a pant size. Remember that in your journey, you’re losing fat and likely building more muscle, which weighs more than fat! Taking before-and-after photos can also help you visualize your progress without having to weigh yourself.

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