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A woman covers her face in her hands after stepping on the scale and realizing she is at a weight loss plateau.

If you've ever tried to lose weight, you've probably experienced a weight loss plateau.

Most weight loss plans start with changing your diet and incorporating exercise into your lifestyle. Once you make these changes, you’re likely to see corresponding weight loss on the scale.

But sometimes weight loss slows, despite the fact that you keep up with your healthy habits. Or perhaps you stray away from your routine, and then you see a resulting slowdown.

We’ll go over the medical causes for weight loss plateaus, the different types of plateaus, and some strategies you can use to address them.

What Causes a Weight Loss Plateau?

A weight loss plateau can occur due to several factors. Read on to see if any of these factors apply to you.

Changes in Body Composition

As you lose fat and build muscle, the scale may not reflect your progress accurately. Muscle is denser than fat, so even though you’re making progress, it may not be reflected in weight loss.

If you’ve incorporated strength training into your exercise routine, this may be the cause of your weight loss plateau. It’s not a negative thing—in fact, more muscle mass will help you stay healthier over time.

To see whether body composition changes are affecting your weight loss, take measurements of your body. If you’re losing inches, then you’re still making progress.

Water Retention

Dietary choices and hormone level changes can lead to water retention, which affects the number on the scale.

Women can track their menstrual cycles to note when they experience extra water retention. If a plateau occurs during these times, it’s likely caused by hormones.

If you’re eating foods with a lot of salt or carbohydrates, these may be increasing your water retention, as well. Try cutting back on these foods and adding foods rich in fiber and potassium, which can help with water retention.

Psychological Factors

Frustration with perceived diet failures can lead to self-sabotaging behaviors or slipping back into bad eating habits. This yo-yo dieting phenomenon can hinder progress.

Take honest stock of your habits over the last few months. Have you kept up with your diet and exercise routine? Are there areas where you’ve picked up bad habits?

Stress can also increase cortisol levels and hinder weight loss. If you’re experiencing heightened stress, this may explain your difficulty losing weight. Your body is essentially in a state of emergency and may be resisting the loss of extra food storage.

Metabolic Adaptation

Reduced calorie intake can trigger the body’s defense mechanism, which slows down the metabolism. Your body views the loss of fat as a sign to burn fewer calories to avoid starvation.

If you’re experiencing metabolic slowdown, try increasing your protein intake and working to build muscle. Adding more muscle to your body composition typically increases your resting metabolic rate and helps you burn more calories, even at a calorie deficit.

Lack of Physical Activity

Insufficient exercise or being sedentary for long periods can halt your progress.

Incorporate strength training and stay active throughout the day to boost metabolism. If your workout routines are mostly cardio, try adding exercises to build muscle as well as burn fat.

What's Considered a Weight Loss Plateau?

Weight loss journeys often have peaks and valleys, and it’s common for weight loss to fluctuate over time. With that in mind, weight loss plateaus vary from person to person.

They most often occur after an initial phase of rapid weight loss, usually within 8 to 12 weeks of starting a weight loss plan.

If you go several weeks without weight loss after a period of losing weight weekly, this is typically considered a plateau.

Plateaus are a normal part of the weight loss process, and nearly everyone experiences them at some point.

Instead of solely relying on the number on the scale, it is helpful to assess other indicators of progress such as overall well-being, clothing fit, and measurements.

If you’re still seeing improvement in your measurements and how your clothes fit, then you may not be experiencing a plateau, even if the number on the scale has stopped moving.

On the other hand, if you’re not seeing progress with any of these indicators, then you’re likely in a weight loss plateau.

How Long Does a Weight Loss Plateau Last?

A weight loss plateau can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months, depending on factors like metabolism, body composition, and overall health.

How long a weight loss plateau lasts also depends on whether you make changes to your diet, lifestyle, and exercise routine to overcome the plateau.

Weight loss plateaus are common, so don’t let it discourage you too much. Instead, try to see them as an opportunity to reassess and find alternative strategies for long-term success.

You can consult with healthcare professionals for personalized guidance and medical assistance in areas like cravings, fatigue and low energy, and more.

A woman takes her measurements to see if she's in a weight loss plateau.

Are There Different Types of Weight Loss Plateaus?

Various types of weight loss plateaus exist, including metabolic, adaptive, and psychological plateaus.

A metabolic plateau occurs when your metabolism slows down as you lose weight, making it harder to continue losing pounds. To overcome this, adjust your diet and exercise routine and incorporate strength training to boost the metabolism.

Adaptive plateaus happen when your body adapts to your routine, making weight loss stall. Introduce changes such as increasing workout intensity and adjusting calorie intake to stimulate further weight loss.

Psychological plateaus occur due to a lack of motivation or adherence to healthy habits. Overcome these by setting achievable goals, seeking support, and finding strategies to stay motivated.

Strategies to Break a Weight Loss Plateau

If you’re trying to lose weight but have hit a standstill, try these tips to improve your nutrition, exercise routine, and response to long-term dieting.

  1. Address water retention. Combat water weight by reducing sodium intake and consuming foods with natural diuretic properties, like cucumbers and watermelon.
  2. Increase protein intake. Protein helps you feel fuller for longer and aids in weight loss. Add extra servings of beans or lean meats to your meals, and consider having fish and chicken filets more often.
  3. Take a mental breather. Engage in stress-reducing activities like yoga or meditation to prevent cortisol buildup, which can hinder progress.
  4. Practice self-care. Incorporate regular self-care activities to alleviate stress and maintain a positive mindset during plateaus.
  5. Monitor portion sizes. Be mindful of portion control and keep a food journal to track your diet plan and stay on track. You can try online apps like MyFitnessPal or Noom if you need the additional support.
  6. Include strength training. Incorporate strength training at least two days a week to preserve lean body mass. Diets often cause a loss of muscle mass, but muscle is important to maintaining and boosting your metabolic rate.
  7. Stay active throughout the day. Avoid prolonged sitting by incorporating movement into your routine, such as standing instead of sitting, going for walks at lunch, and doing small 10- to 15-minute exercises between tasks.
  8. Consider nutritional needs. Consume a well-balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, probiotic-rich foods, cruciferous vegetables, omega-3 fatty acids, and anti-inflammatory foods. Avoid foods that are high in saturated fats, sugar, processed ingredients, and sodium.
  9. Prioritize recovery. Allow sufficient rest between workouts and include rest days in your routine to promote proper recovery. Your body may experience more stress if you don’t allow it to rest and recuperate, and stress can impact weight loss.

By implementing these strategies and addressing underlying causes, such as water retention and stress levels, you should be able to overcome a weight loss plateau effectively.

Can Exercise Help Break a Weight Loss Plateau?

To break a weight loss plateau, incorporating certain workouts can be beneficial. Here are some strategies to help you overcome the plateau.

  1. Get an adequate amount of exercise. As a starting point, make sure to exercise for 150 minutes per week, with at least two strength training exercises. Then grow your exercise practice from there.
  2. Increase intensity. Incorporate high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or resistance training to boost calorie burn and stimulate further weight loss.
  3. Try different exercises. Vary your workout routine to challenge your body in new ways and prevent adaptation. Explore different forms of cardio, strength training, or fitness classes.
  4. Increase frequency. Consider adding an extra workout session per week or increasing the duration of your current workouts to create a larger calorie deficit.
  5. Mix cardio and strength training. Combining cardiovascular exercises with strength training can help build lean muscle mass, boost metabolism, and enhance fat burning.

Exercise is a key part of any weight loss plan. If you’re struggling with your exercise routine, try adopting some or all of these tips.

Supplements and Prescriptions to Overcome a Weight Loss Plateau

If you’re still struggling with your weight loss plateau despite making the changes above, you may need extra support.

There are supplements and prescriptions that help you stick your diet and exercise routine, along with addressing potential physiological issues that could be causing your plateau.

Lipo-C Injections

Lipotropics can help your body get rid of fat and burn calories. There are various types available that can aid in your weight loss journey.

Lipo-C is an injectable mix of Methionine, Choline, L-Carnitine and B-Complex, which work together to reduce body fat.

B12 Injections

If you’re having difficulty sticking to your weight loss goals, B12 shots may be able to help. B12 supports your metabolism and energy levels to help keep you motivated with your exercise routine.

B12 is also available in capsule form for patients who feel uncomfortable with injections.

Fat Loss Kit

Defy Medicals Fat Loss Kit can help you kickstart your weight loss to break out of plateaus. This kit includes a combination of LIPO-C and Vitamin B12 injections to give you more energy, improve muscle gains, and help you burn fat without losing muscle mass.

LipoSculpt Cream

LipoSculpts contain Aminophylline, which helps keep fat cells from breaking down cAMP. This may help slim down the waist, thighs, and other targeted areas.

Glycyrrhetinic Acid (GA) is also included in the cream. This ingredient comes from licorice root and blocks an enzyme that lowers cortisol levels in fat cells, potentially resulting in weight loss.

Phentermine (Prescription)

This medication can help you lose fat by decreasing your appetite. It’s meant to be used temporarily as an aid in a weight loss program that includes regular physical activity and eating fewer calories.

While not a long-term therapy, phentermine may be able to help you break through a plateau and push you to the next level of your weight loss journey.

Lipo Burn SR (Prescription)

This medication can help patients lose weight by reducing appetite and boosting the metabolism. It includes caffeine, which can help burn calories.

Lipo Burn is meant to be taken for a short period of time while exercising and eating a low-calorie diet.

GLP-1 Agonists (Prescription)

GLP-1 agonists work by mimicking the effects of glucagon-like peptide 1, which is responsible for regulating blood sugar.

Initially created to help diabetic patients control their blood sugar levels, recent studies have shown that these medications can also promote weight loss when combined with healthy eating habits and physical activity.

GLP-1 agonists include Semaglutide, Liraglutide, and Tirzepatide. All of these medications are delivered via injection.

Thyroid Medication (Prescription)

Hypothyroidism is a common cause of weight gain and difficulty losing weight. Defy Medical recommends ordering a Thyroid lab panel to check for a potential thyroid issue.

If your lab results reveal hypothyroidism, there are medications like levothyroxine that can replace the thyroid hormones you’re missing.

Once undergoing treatment, many patients report an easier time losing weight and avoiding weight gain. Learn more about thyroid treatment and weight loss.

Achieve Your Weight Loss Goals with Defy Medical

Defy Medical provides a wide range of therapies to help patients reach their weight loss goals.

We take a close look at any issues that may be preventing you from losing weight. We also provide access to affordable lab tests to detect underlying causes like thyroid disease.

Our knowledgeable providers create a personalized plan so that you can break through barriers and accomplish your fitness and weight loss goals. We offer ongoing support to help you keep the weight off permanently, as well.

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