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Plateau? It’s Okay! Stick With the Weight Loss Journey!

Every week, I update the detailed coach messages on the app as I build more content. When you are behind your goal, this link pops up, for example. As I was updating this page, I looked back on my 100-pound weight loss journey and found a couple of times where my weight plateaued for over two months. Here’s one from April to June in 2017:

Andrew's weight chart from 2016 showing a 2 month plateau.

And another in March to May 2018:

Andrew's weight chart from 2018 showing a 2 month plateau.

There were other points in time as well where I barely lost weight during a span of a month or more. Yet I kept weighing myself daily and kept going. Zoomed out over my entire 100 pound weight loss journey, those two periods were barely visible:

Sticking with the weight loss journey: a chart showing my entire journey.

I was certainly frustrated during these times, but luckily I never thought of these periods as a failure. Unfortunately, many people see plateaus as a failure and give up on a weight loss journey.

Here are a few tips on how to reduce plateaus from demoralizing you.

Tips To Reduce Plateau Demoralization

Remember Your Prior Wins

I was lucky that these 2-month plateaus were already after a period where I already lost 50+ pounds. I had proven to myself that I could be successful and that prior success kept me pushing through. If you’ve lost weight earlier in your journey, even if it was a few pounds, remember that. That prior point of success, no matter how small, is proof that you are somebody that can lose weight.

If you haven’t actually lost weight earlier in your journey and you’ve already hit a plateau, it is worth looking at your weight loss method to see if it’s the right one for you. For a bit of inspiration, take a look at Darla’s success story to see how she eventually hit her goal of getting back into her pre-pregnancy pants, even though she wasn’t able to lose weight for over two months at the beginning of her journey!

Acknowledge that a Plateau Is a New, Better Normal

picture of me in 2018 when I was at my plateau versus 2015 when I was obese.
2015 on the left, and 2018 when I was at my plateau/2 month struggle. 2018 was definitely a new, better normal.

I don’t know how long I was 250+ pounds for, but I was obese for a long, long time. Being stuck at 186 pounds was infinitely better than being 250 pounds! With every day I was thinner than 250 pounds, I took it as a success story. My body was slowly getting used to my new, lower set point, rather than the prior set point that was 250 pounds.

See a plateau as an achievement, which it actually is. This shift in perspective can help you realize that you’re actually someone who has it in them to succeed. This new plateau is your new norm, not your old starting weight. That is a good thing.

Remember the True Goal – Permanent Weight Loss

It’s weird to say this, especially as a person who is promoting an app that has a big focus on tracking your weight, but the truth is that every weight loss chart or number on the scale doesn’t ever tell the whole story.

Yes, the physical transformation and the numbers on the scales are the empirical things that people can see, and they do matter. However, what matters MORE in helping a person lose weight permanently is how well a person can improve their skill of losing weight. Improving the skill is what actually helps a person fix the root cause of weight loss. This takes time, and plateaus are an opportunity to further develop this goal. With every plateau you figure out, you strengthen your skill immensely.

Reflect on Recent Life Changes

Looking back on the weight plateau I had in 2017, it was pretty obvious why I was unable to lose weight. In the span of those two months, I travelled twice, once for business and once for vacation. On both those trips, I overate. If there’s an obvious reason why you got off track on your weight loss journey, don’t beat yourself over it—it’s actually good news! Knowing the reason means you can now fix the problem. It’s when you don’t know the reason when it’s more of a challenge.

Reflecting (in hindsight) on my 2018 plateau, The reason I was plateauing was almost certainly stress from my job. I didn’t know or feel it at the time, but it was a period where my boss was in the process of getting promoted, was looking for a successor, and I was a candidate for promotion (I got the promotion, by the way!). The stress of that situation reduced the amount of mental focus I put on weight management, and my plateau was created. Luckily it didn’t turn into a weight gain increase, which can often happen with times of stress, like when my father passed away later that year and I gained 20 pounds in a few months afterward.

Tips To Get Out of A Plateau

Reflect on Recent Life Changes

Reflecting on if there has been any recent life changes can help you understand the source of the plateau. If I reflected on my 2018 plateau earlier, I probably could have gotten out of it earlier. Things like stress can impact weight. Even positive changes like holidays or spending more time socializing or things can be a recent life change. I had a friend who slowly gained weight and realized that it was because his workplace started providing free booze on Fridays. That one shift changed his weight loss rate from negative to positive, and once he realized that and stopped indulging on Friday, he was able to lose weight again.

Try Something Different

Andrew started cycling to break through his plateau.
Andrew in 2018.

For my 2018 plateau, I ended up getting out of the plateau by signing up for a charity bike ride. I ended up doing a lot of training for the ride, helping with both calorie burn and stress management. It’s going to sound obvious the way I say it, but a good way to change something is to change. Try a different weight loss methodology for a bit, add in exercise (but be careful of the initial weight jump that often happens with you add an exercise routine due to glycogen storage—a topic I’ll discuss in the future).

Add a Bit of Extra Mental Focus

I often was able to get over my plateaus through a deeper focus on caloric intake. When life gets in the way, you often stop practicing mindful eating, and this can cause a plateau. Fundamentally, weight loss at its deepest level is still a math equation, and a caloric deficit will create weight loss. Add the mindful reminders in Luuze, and maybe even add a few more in between meal times. Many times in my journey, added mindfulness and a little bit of patience was all that was needed to break through a plateau.

Change Your Environment

Similar to the try something different tip above, changing your environment can often break through a plateau. You can take a look at some suggestions for micro-changes to your environment here.

Stick With It!

Thinking back on my weight loss journey, I’m so grateful that I stuck with my journey, even though there were many points where the numbers weren’t showing progress, for even up to two months. But the truth is that even during those two months, my body was changing. My brain was changing. Every day was another day away from my formerly obese self. If you see a plateau on your journey, don’t fret! Reflect on the situation and realize that there are twists and turns to every journey, but that’s what makes the journey a story worth telling and a journey worth taking.

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