When Do Weight Loss Plateaus Happen?

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This article has been Fact-Checked by Kendall Kennedy MS, RD, RYT

Trying to lose weight can be a frustrating journey. You can ask the people who’ve hit weight loss plateaus. Why and when do plateaus happen and what is the solution?

A weight loss plateau is when you stop losing weight even though you are keeping up the same routine as before. The first time you hit a weight loss plateau is very confusing if you don’t know what’s going. Some people even stop trying after the first one.

Knowing what the reason is and what you can expect can help a ton with overcoming them.

A common reason for weight loss plateaus

There is a very common reason you’ve hit a weight loss plateau. You might think to yourself “this is not me” but this is the first thing you need to check.

Often, you stop losing weight because you’re not actually eating the same things as before. For example you might be eating healthy but eating more calorie-heavy foods. You might have had a stressful week with a little bit more emotional eating. These things happen and have more impact than you might guess.

However, weight loss plateaus are a reality of pretty much everyone trying to lose weight. There is a reason for this.

The surprising things that help you lose weight

So, assuming you are absorbing the same amount of calories, we have to take a look at the things that help you lose weight. This helps you find out what part of your daily routine is not going the way it should.

Surprising things that help you lose weight

Staying alive helps you burn calories

Your body burns calories just to keep you alive. Your heart needs to beat, your muscles need to move,…

The amount of calories your body uses depends on a few things we’ll go over.

The thing you need to know about this amount is that it can lower. It’s not healthy if you lose weight too fast.

Restricting your calories by too much can signal your body into thinking calories are becoming harder to find.

Its reaction is to start burning less calories to make sure you don’t starve to death. But in this case that’s not a good thing since you probably have some spare energy stored on your body.

Weirdly enough, fasting, eating nothing, does not have the same negative effect as severe caloric restriction. On the contrary, fasting can be a great tool in your weight loss journey.

The more you weight the more you burn

Yes, you heard it right. Weighing more helps you burn more calories.

The more mass you have on your body the more energy you have to burn to do everything.

This is why you don’t gain weight forever. At a certain point you have added so much mass that you eventually burn as much calories as you absorb from your current diet.

The same counts in the other direction. When you lose weight you have less and less mass on your body.

Yes this is what you want. But, you do have to keep in mind that this also means that you consequently burn less and less calories with the same routine.

This is one of the main reasons weight loss plateaus happen all of the sudden. But there are some important other reasons too.

You can also use this fact to your advantage. There is a healthy (and good looking) way to add more mass to your body, building muscle. Building muscle is the most time-efficient exercise for long term calorie burning.

The extra muscle you build will help you burn more calories 24/7. That doesn’t sound bad at all.

weighing more can help you burn more calories and overcome weight loss plateaus

Exercising might help you less and less

There are two reasons you might burn less and less calories by doing the same workout.

The first reason is already explained above. 10 minutes of jogging doesn’t burn the same amount of calories for everyone, not even for yourself. You with 10 more pounds burns more calories doing the same exercise.

The second reason is that your body becomes used to whatever you do repeatedly. Just think about the first time you went exercising after a long period of doing nothing. Chances are, you were out of breath from doing the smallest amount of exercise.

Also make sure you understand the difference between cardio and weight lifting in terms of weight loss.

Exercising to overcome weight loss plateaus

The hidden calorie burning activities

Another reason you might encounter a weight loss plateau is by underestimating the amount of calories you burn with certain activities.

Taking the stairs, cleaning the house, standing up and walking around,… all burn calories. You have to think about everything you were doing before the weight loss plateau. You might discover you stopped doing certain calorie burning activities. The maybe don’t sound like much but they do add up.

Weight loss plateau solutions

So how do you solve this weight loss plateau problem?

On a high level, there are two weight loss plateau solutions. Absorb less calories or burn more calories.

Some ideas for you are eating less calories, eating more healthy, exercising more, exercising more intens, looking at other areas of you health, building more muscle, doing more calorie burning activities throughout the day,…

There are a lot of things you can do when weight loss plateaus happen. Finding more different things to overcome weight loss plateaus is not the hard part.

You need to find things you are willing to keep doing. Once you stop doing your healthy habits, you will regain the body fat.

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Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.