Written on September 14, 2023 by Sendra Yang, PharmD, MBA. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
Table of contents
If you are trying to lose weight, you are not the only one. Almost half of the United States adult population tries to lose weight every year. It’s a struggle for most people to lose and keep the weight off. Hitting the weight loss plateau is one of the biggest challenges to losing weight. Continue reading to learn more about the weight loss plateau and 10 tips on how you can break free from a weight loss plateau.
The Weight Loss Plateau
What exactly is a weight loss plateau? The weight loss plateau is when your weight stays steady or even slightly rises despite continuing a caloric deficit diet that helped you lose weight in the beginning.[2-4] Many people think weight loss is a straight and direct process. However, that is not always the case. At the start of a weight loss journey, it is typical to lose weight with regular exercising and dieting. However, individuals often encounter a plateau, and losing weight becomes more challenging.[2-4] Encountering a weight loss plateau is completely normal as part of a healthy weight loss journey.
Causes of a Weight Loss Plateau
Knowing why a weight loss plateau occurs will help you better understand your weight loss journey. There are a few theories as to why weight loss plateaus happen.[2,3] One of the suggestions is that various hormones contribute to controlling different pathways in the body to reduce weight. These hormones are rebalanced during the weight loss process to maintain homeostasis, thus causing the plateau. Another proposed cause is that your body has become more efficient at using or burning calories. This means you now require more work or exercise to burn the same number of calories.
10 Ways to Help Break a Weight Loss Plateau
A weight loss plateau can occur at different stages in the weight loss journey, and the plateau period can last anywhere from weeks to months, varying with each individual.[2,3] If you have been losing weight at first and now it seems your weight is at a standstill, you are probably encountering your weight loss plateau. Not seeing your scale budge can be very frustrating and discouraging. Thankfully, you can implement several strategies to help overcome your weight loss plateau.
- Reduce the carbs. Cutting back the amount of carbohydrates in your diet is effective in helping you lose weight and manage other conditions that can impact weight.[5,6] If you’re in the plateau phase, you may benefit from reassessing your carb intake. Some studies have shown that decreasing carb intake leads to weight loss, but not all studies have found a direct correlation. However, studies agree that reducing carbs leads to promoting feelings of fullness compared to other diets. A reduction in hunger can contribute to a decrease in appetite and weight loss.[5-8]
- Include protein in your diet. Protein takes more calories to burn compared to fats or carbs. Protein breakdown can increase calorie burning by up to 30%. Additionally, eating more protein in your diet while you are trying to lose weight can help protect against the loss of muscle mass.
- Eat more fiber. Dietary fiber has many health benefits, including lower risks for high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. Increased fiber intake can also contribute to weight loss and decrease the risks associated with obesity. Different types of dietary fibers can impact appetite and body weight differently.  Certain types of fibers reduce appetite and body weight more than others. Diets high in fiber may also aid in reducing the number of calories you absorb from the foods you eat, leading to weight loss.
- Drink more water. Drinking just plain, clean water can help you lose weight.[14,15] Consuming a 17-ounce serving of water can increase your metabolism by around 30% for up to an hour and a half.
- Track your diet. If you are in a weight loss plateau, you may want to consider noting what you eat. Tracking your food and drink intake is essential so you can see exactly what you are consuming. It’s reported that people often have a tendency to underestimate what they eat.
- Increase physical activity. Engaging in regular exercise and lifting weight can help you lose weight by burning calories, decreasing body fat, and keeping muscle mass. Additionally, exercise that involves high-intensity intervals has been found to contribute to increased oxygen uptake and weight loss in overweight or obese populations.
- Manage your stress. Finding ways to manage your stress can contribute to escaping the weight loss plateau. Stress can lead you to eat foods that tend to be higher in carbs and fats. Additionally, stress can raise the levels of hormones that promote fat storage. Consider practicing meditation to help effectively manage your stress and relax. You can also talk with a trusted family or friend about the sources of your stress; sharing your concerns may help you feel supported and that you’re not alone.
- Get enough sleep. Not getting enough sleep has been associated with weight gain. It’s essential to get not only adequate amounts of sleep but also quality sleep. Ways to improve your sleep may include having a regular sleep routine, preparing yourself and your bedroom for sleeping, avoiding caffeine and heavy foods before bedtime, and getting plenty of daylight and activity during the day.
- Avoid alcohol. To break out of the weight loss plateau, you should consider avoiding alcohol. When alcohol is present in the body, it is the preferred fuel and is burned first before fats, carbs, and proteins. Alcohol can also increase your appetite and may lead to more food consumption.
- Stay committed. Your motivation and self-discipline to stay the course are integral in your weight loss journey. When you encounter a weight loss plateau, it can be frustrating. But having the right mindset can play a significant role in you overcoming the plateau and continuing with your weight loss. Remind yourself why you started the weight loss journey in the first place. Writing your goals down can help confirm your commitment and reaffirm why you want to make this change.
Weight Loss with Everlywell
If you are hitting your weight loss plateau and finding it harder to tip the scale, speak with a healthcare provider. Via Everlywell, you can get access to the GLP-1 weight loss program. This telehealth option offers you one-on-one virtual visits with a licensed clinician, access to prescriptions for qualified candidates, quarterly at-home lab tests or supplements, and lifestyle content and support for related health conditions. You can partner with a healthcare provider to discuss your weight loss goals and meet with them regularly for support to achieve your health goals.
Is Sleep Apnea Reversible With Weight Loss?
Does Metformin Cause Weight Loss?
Can An Endocrinologist Help With Weight Loss?
- Attempts to lose weight among adults in the United States, 2013-2016. NCHS - data briefs - number 313 - July 2018. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db313.htm. July 12, 2018. Accessed August 1, 2023.
- Sarwan G, Rehman A. Management of weight loss plateau. [Updated 2022 Oct 24]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK576400/.
- Ways to break a weight-loss plateau. Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/weight-loss-plateau/. January 6, 2023. Accessed August 1, 2023.
- Weight loss stalled? move past the plateau. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/weight-loss-plateau/art-20044615. April 14, 2022. Accessed August 1, 2023.
- Sackner-Bernstein J, Kanter D, Kaul S. Dietary intervention for overweight and obese adults: Comparison of low-carbohydrate and low-fat diets. PLoS One. 2015;10(10):e0139817. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0139817
- Elhayany A, Lustman A, Abel R, Attal-Singer J, Vinker S. A low carbohydrate Mediterranean diet improves cardiovascular risk factors and diabetes control among overweight patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a 1-year prospective randomized intervention study. Diabetes Obes Metab. 2010;12(3):204-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1463-1326.2009.01151.x
- Nickols-Richardson SM, Coleman MD, Volpe JJ, Hosig KW. Perceived hunger is lower and weight loss is greater in overweight premenopausal women consuming a low-carbohydrate/high-protein vs high-carbohydrate/low-fat diet. J Am Diet Assoc. 2005;105(9):1433-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2005.06.025
- Krieger JW, Sitren HS, Daniels MJ, Langkamp-Henken B. Effects of variation in protein and carbohydrate intake on body mass and composition during energy restriction: a meta-regression 1. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006;83(2):260-74. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/83.2.260
- Westerterp KR. Diet induced thermogenesis. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2004;1(1):5. doi: 10.1186/1743-7075-1-5
- Kim JE, O'Connor LE, Sands LP, Slebodnik MB, Campbell WW. Effects of dietary protein intake on body composition changes after weight loss in older adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutr Rev. 2016;74(3):210-24. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuv065
- Anderson JW, Baird P, Davis RH Jr, Ferreri S, Knudtson M, Koraym A, Waters V, Williams CL. Health benefits of dietary fiber. Nutr Rev. 2009;67(4):188-205. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00189.x
- Wanders AJ, van den Borne JJ, de Graaf C, Hulshof T, Jonathan MC, Kristensen M, Mars M, Schols HA, Feskens EJ. Effects of dietary fibre on subjective appetite, energy intake and body weight: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Obes Rev. 2011;12(9):724-39. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-789X.2011.00895.x
- Baer DJ, Rumpler WV, Miles CW, Fahey GC Jr. Dietary fiber decreases the metabolizable energy content and nutrient digestibility of mixed diets fed to humans. J Nutr. 1997;127(4):579-86. doi: 10.1093/jn/127.4.579
- Boschmann M, Steiniger J, Hille U, Tank J, Adams F, Sharma AM, Klaus S, Luft FC, Jordan J. Water-induced thermogenesis. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2003;88(12):6015-9. doi: 10.1210/jc.2003-030780
- Dennis EA, Dengo AL, Comber DL, Flack KD, Savla J, Davy KP, Davy BM. Water consumption increases weight loss during a hypocaloric diet intervention in middle-aged and older adults. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2010;18(2):300-7. doi: 10.1038/oby.2009.235
- Lichtman SW, Pisarska K, Berman ER, Pestone M, Dowling H, Offenbacher E, Weisel H, Heshka S, Matthews DE, Heymsfield SB. Discrepancy between self-reported and actual caloric intake and exercise in obese subjects. N Engl J Med. 1992;327(27):1893-8. doi: 10.1056/NEJM199212313272701
- Wewege MA, Desai I, Honey C, Coorie B, Jones MD, Clifford BK, Leake HB, Hagstrom AD. The effect of resistance training in healthy adults on body fat percentage, fat mass and visceral fat: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports Med. 2022;52(2):287-300. doi: 10.1007/s40279-021-01562-2
- Batacan RB Jr, Duncan MJ, Dalbo VJ, Tucker PS, Fenning AS. Effects of high-intensity interval training on cardiometabolic health: a systematic review and meta-analysis of intervention studies. Br J Sports Med. 2017;51(6):494-503. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2015-095841
- Geiker NRW, Astrup A, Hjorth MF, Sjödin A, Pijls L, Markus CR. Does stress influence sleep patterns, food intake, weight gain, abdominal obesity and weight loss interventions and vice versa? Obes Rev. 2018;19(1):81-97. doi: 10.1111/obr.12603
- Moyer AE, Rodin J, Grilo CM, Cummings N, Larson LM, Rebuffé-Scrive M. Stress-induced cortisol response and fat distribution in women. Obes Res. 1994;2(3):255-62. doi: 10.1002/j.1550-8528.1994.tb00055.x
- Shechter A, O'Keeffe M, Roberts AL, Zammit GK, RoyChoudhury A, St-Onge MP. Alterations in sleep architecture in response to experimental sleep curtailment are associated with signs of positive energy balance. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2012;303(9):R883-9. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00222.2012
- Irish LA, Kline CE, Gunn HE, Buysse DJ, Hall MH. The role of sleep hygiene in promoting public health: A review of empirical evidence. Sleep Med Rev. 2015;22:23-36. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2014.10.001
- Shelmet JJ, Reichard GA, Skutches CL, Hoeldtke RD, Owen OE, Boden G. Ethanol causes acute inhibition of carbohydrate, fat, and protein oxidation and insulin resistance. J Clin Invest. 1988;81(4):1137-45. doi: 10.1172/JCI113428
- Kwok A, Dordevic AL, Paton G, Page MJ, Truby H. Effect of alcohol consumption on food energy intake: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Nutr. 2019;121(5):481-495. doi: 10.1017/S0007114518003677
- Teixeira PJ, Silva MN, Mata J, Palmeira AL, Markland D. Motivation, self-determination, and long-term weight control. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2012;9:22. doi: 10.1186/1479-5868-9-22
- Losing weight. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/losing_weight/index.html. June 15, 2023. Accessed August 1, 2023.