7 Ways to Bust Through a Weight Loss Plateau

Make these tweaks to get your scale moving again

Photo: Woman on a scale excited about weight loss results

You’ve been eating right, exercising, and watching the numbers on the scale drop. But then the numbers stop dropping. You’ve hit the dreaded weight loss plateau—that phase when you think your body won’t lose any more weight despite everything you do.

Don’t despair. Even the most diligent dieters hit plateaus. The good news is that plateaus are temporary moments in your weight loss journey, not the finish line, says Adam Glasgow, MD, medical director of the Steward Norwood Hospital Center for Weight Control in Norwood, MA.

If you’ve hit a plateau, don’t throw out your weight loss plan. Instead, try these small changes to tweak your approach and get the numbers dropping again.

1. Be happy
You read that right. Be happy that you’ve hit that plateau, Dr. Glasgow says. “Think of it this way: if you’re climbing a mountain, you’re happy for a chance to rest. It’s not the worst thing in the world to stop and reflect on what made you successful before making a plan to move forward,” he says.

2. Do a new workout
“Anytime you have an exercise routine and it starts to feel stale, it’s time to refresh it,” Dr. Glasgow says. Switch out walking for biking, or biking for swimming. Or try a new fitness class. Anything that gets you out of your comfort zone while getting your heart rate up can do the trick.

3. Turn up the intensity
High-intensity interval workouts (HIIT) will not only change your exercise routine, they'll also dial up the calorie burn. HIIT workouts involve short bursts of intense activity in between easier exercise—for example, after walking for 10 minutes, jog or run for 2 minutes, and repeat. A 30-minute workout will likely burn as many calories as you'd normally burn in 40 minutes.

4. Log your meals
Start tracking your foods and drinks each day. Your food journal may shed light on how many calories you’re actually consuming. Keeping track can also tip you off to your eating habits, like reaching for sweets when you’re stressed.

5. Don’t skip meals
Cutting out a meal means cutting back on calories and losing weight, right? Not so, Dr. Glasgow says. Depriving your body of a meal actually does the opposite. Instead of using food as fuel like it’s supposed to, your body stores unused calories since it doesn’t “know” if or when you’ll feed it again.

6. Cut back on carbs
Don't cut out meals completely. Scale back on refined carbohydrates from bread, pasta, and rice. That can kick-start weight loss, Dr. Glasgow says. Fruits and vegetables provide plenty of natural carbohydrates, so swap out a refined carb for a fruit or veggie. The fiber in fruits and veggies will help you feel full much longer so you can resist those pesky urges for fattening snacks.

7. Watch out for liquid calories
Set a goal to cut down on sodas and added sweeteners, like sugar in coffee. Try fresh-squeezed juices, especially if you can squeeze your own, Dr. Glasgow says. Your satisfaction is doubled when you eat or drink something you’ve made yourself. Keep in mind that all alcohol, including beer, wine, and mixed drinks, can be high in calories.