The Weight Loss Plateau: Why Does it Occur and What Can You Do?

Plateaus where weight loss simply comes to a stop are common. You have watched your diet for weeks, exercised and saw a steady weight loss. Then suddenly it all ends. You are on the weight loss plateau. No matter what you do the scales will not budge. You may ask yourself, why can’t I lose weight even though I am exercising 5 days a Week? What can I do? Is it normal? Am I making mistakes?

The scales will not budge because you have reached a set point, or plateau. It is inevitable and it happens to almost every dieter.

  • Our bodies work hard to keep energy intake and output in balance
  • We all like weight loss but our body interprets the weight loss as starvation
  • It shuts down our metabolism to conserve energy (since it thinks you’re starving)
  • The more effort you make to burn more calories the more it slows down

It takes fewer calories to maintain your weight because you simply weigh less. To lose one pound a week, you’ll need to create a deficit of approximately 500 calories per day. The weight loss plateau is one of the biggest motivation killers there is. There are many other reasons for weight loss to slow down as well. Some of it has to do with exercise. If you believe the energy equation:

Weight Gain or Loss = Energy In – Energy Out

…modified by genetic factors, age, gender, etc. then it should be easy to maintain the weight loss. However, lots of problems get in the way.

8 Causes of the Dreaded Weight Loss Plateau

  1. Mistakes in Food Intake

    80% of overweight individuals and more than 50% of normal weight people make serious mistakes with their food intake. They underestimate what they eat by as much as 30-50%. Don’t estimate. Pay attention to your food intake.

  2. Exercise Increases Hunger and Causes Compensatory Eating

    Exercise is important for health, both cardiovascular and mental. However, it may not be the whole answer for overweight people trying to lose weight. Exercise may make you much more hungry, and at the same time provide a “reward” to eat more food. “I exercised in the gym for an hour, so I can eat those 3 pieces of pizza.” Stick to your diet plan.

  3. Do You Have Unrealistic Expectations?

    Are you comparing yourself to the stick-thin celebrity on television? Are you trying to get back to what you weighed in high school? Perhaps your expectations are unrealistic based on your gender, height, occupation, activity level, and most importantly, age. Sadly to say, it’s normal to gain weight as we age.

  4. Genetic Predispositions Cause Weight Ranges for Many People

    70% of the variation in people’s weight may be accounted for by inheritance. This means that a tendency toward a certain weight is more strongly inherited than nearly any other tendency except height. With a single parent overweight your chances of being overweight are 50%. With two overweight parents it rises to 80% or more. That does not mean you have to give up, you just need to work a little harder, stick with your diet plan, and remember to make smart choices.

  5. Weight Loss is Proportional to Starting Weight

    For an individual who weighs 200 pounds, it will be easier to lose five pounds than for the person weighing 150 pounds. This is normal and expected since weight loss is always a percentage of the remaining weight.

  6. It’s Normal for Weight Loss to Slow Down

    Weight loss slows over time because your metabolism slows to prevent what the body interprets as starvation. Although the possibility of starvation is not entirely relevant in the U.S…. today, this bodily mechanism did help our ancestors survive during lean times.

  7. Personal Set Point

    Each person has his or her own set point. This is the level at which one naturally starts to resist weight change and becomes “comfortable” with his or her new weight. There are low set points and high set points; think of them as preset weight zones. Your plateau might be your low set point. Many times the genes you inherited are the cause. Other times a few diet mistakes are the cause. Set points also often occur at weight points of previous diet attempts.

  8. Depletion of Vitamins and Minerals

    Weight loss is associated not only with reductions in body fat, but also some loss of muscle mass. Invariably numerous vitamins, minerals, and co-enzymes needed to break down fat are also depleted. To mitigate this, remember to eat your vegetables!

See Dr. Lipman in his South Miami office and in a single visit you will discover all of the reasons for your slow weight loss.