How can you overcome a weight-loss plateau?

If you're at a plateau, you may have lost all of the weight you will, given the number of calories you're eating each day and the time you spend exercising. At this point, you need to ask yourself if you're satisfied with your current weight or if you want to lose more, in which case you'll need to adjust your weight-loss program.

If you're committed to losing more weight, try these tips for getting past the plateau:

  • Reassess your habits. Look back at your food and activity records. Make sure you haven't loosened the rules, letting yourself get by with larger portions or less exercise.
  • Cut more calories. Reduce your daily calorie intake by 200 calories — provided this doesn't put you below 1,200 calories. Fewer than 1,200 calories a day may not be enough to keep you from feeling hungry all of the time, which increases your risk of overeating. In addition, this reduced calorie intake should be sustainable. If not, you'll regain the weight you've lost and more.
  • Rev up your workout. Increase the amount of time you exercise by an additional 15 to 30 minutes. You might also try increasing the intensity of your exercise, if you feel that's possible. Additional exercise will cause you to burn more calories. Consider adding resistance or muscle-building exercises. Increasing your muscle mass will help you burn more calories.
  • Pack more activity into your day. Think outside the gym. Increase your general physical activity throughout the day by walking more and using your car less, or try doing more yardwork or vigorous spring cleaning.

Don't let a weight-loss plateau lead to an avalanche

If your efforts to get past a weight-loss plateau aren't working, talk with your doctor or a dietitian about other tactics you can try. You may also want to revisit your weight-loss goal. Maybe the weight you're striving for is unrealistic for you. If you've improved your diet and increased your exercise, you've already improved your health even without further weight loss. For those who are overweight or obese, even modest weight loss improves chronic health conditions related to being overweight.

Whatever you do, don't revert back to your old eating and exercise habits. That may cause you to regain the weight that you've already lost.

Mar. 02, 2012 See more In-depth