Activity Fitness | Get Past Weight Loss Plateau Skip to Main Content

Health Library


Getting Past a Weight-Loss Plateau

How to get back on track when your weight loss hits a dead end.

man and women exercising in gym

You’ve been doing everything right, and your weight loss efforts have really paid off. But all of a sudden, you’re not seeing the progress you’ve come to expect.

Chances are, you’ve hit a plateau. This means your body, your diet and exercise program are no longer leading to weight loss. It’s a very common frustration for people on a weight-loss journey. Luckily, there are steps you can take to get things going in the right direction again.

What’s going on?

When you lose weight, your basal metabolic rate (BMR) changes. BMR is a measure of the calories your body needs simply to function normally — for breathing and digestion, for example. As your body mass goes down, your BMR usually follows suit. You’re lighter now, and that means you don’t burn as many calories as you did when you weighed more. To put it simply, your smaller body doesn’t need as many calories just to keep up.

Your body thinks it’s right where it should be.

It’s time to shake things up.

Give it a kick start

Take a fresh and honest look at your diet. Are you eating more calories than you should? If so, refocus your efforts and cut down. Remember, to lose one pound in a week, you need to take in 3,500 fewer calories per week. That means 500 fewer calories per day.

Now look at your exercise routine. If it’s not challenging anymore, that means your body may have gotten used to it. So you’ll need to make some changes. You may need to exercise more often, harder and longer. Increase the frequency, intensity and duration of your workouts – and switch it up to “wake up” your body. Try a new class, lift heavier weights or give interval training a try. Your body may start to respond again. The more muscle you build, the more efficient your metabolism and the more calories you burn throughout the day.

Think about where you are in your journey

Sometimes, hitting a plateau means you’ve hit a comfortable weight and may not need to lose additional weight. Talk to your doctor about it. It may be time to focus on maintaining your weight by continuing your healthy eating habits and activity level. And always remember to pat yourself on the back for all you’ve done!

Note: If you’re pregnant, physically inactive or have a health condition such as arthritis, diabetes or heart disease, check with your doctor before starting an exercise program or increasing your activity level. He or she can tell you what types and amounts of activities are safe for you.

By Laura Grathwol, Contributing Writer

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary guidelines for Americans 2015-2020. Accessed: August 28, 2017.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How much physical activity do adults need? Accessed: August 28, 2017.
American Heart Association. No-fad diet tips. August 28, 2017.
American Council on Exercise. Weight loss plateaus and pitfalls. Accessed: August 28, 2017.

Updated August 28, 2017