I’ve personally coached hundreds of people to better fitness for several years now so I’m no stranger to weight plateaus.  And I myself know what it’s like to struggle during the process of weight loss. I once tipped the scales at 240 pounds. It took me a little over a year to lose 90 pounds and it’s been anything BUT easy keeping it off for nearly a decade now.

Not only have I dealt with several plateaus of my own, I’ve also seen even the most diligent & focused of clients wrestle with the scale (or more aptly, the non-movement of the scale). You can be doing everything by the book, meticulously tracking every morsel of food that hits your lips, getting every single workout in without excuses and still that number can get STUCK.

You may know what I’m talking about if:

  • You’ve coasted through the first weeks of a new diet & exercise program enjoying a rapid initial weight loss— only to suddenly hit a standstill
  • You’ve panicked and reduced your daily caloric intake and upped your workout frequency- leaving you constantly hungry and exhausted
  • Googling for guidance has only made you more frustrated & confused as you get a gazillion different tips and tricks with no clear direction
  • Asking friends for advice has gotten you NOWHERE fast – & even prompted some to try to sway you back to your old, unhealthy ways
  • You’ve thought about throwing your scale out the window after hurling a bunch of cuss words at it
  • You’ve even considered giving up on losing any more weight- thinking it’s just plain useless to continue trying

In a 2010 Calorie Control Council Study, 54% of U.S. adults were trying to reduce their weight. And chances are most of these folks encountered a stall in their weight loss for a variety of reasons. Plateaus are par for the course when it comes to weight loss- they occur because your body constantly strives to maintain equilibrium.

There’s good news! Plateaus don’t have to be finish lines (or worse yet, an excuse for you to go back to bad habits). If you’re committed to achieving better health & fitness, are willing to scrutinize your methods, “play around” a bit with your food & workout regimens- and maybe even reframe your goals in light of what you learn here- you’re in the right place!

I’ve gathered some 100% free resources to help you FINALLY break through even the most stubborn of weight plateaus.

Introducing: The Ultimate Guide to Breaking a Weight Plateau

This resource guide is a curated collection of blog posts, articles and support tools. I’ve personally read through each and every one to ensure they’re all high on quality & relevance and low on fluff. 

In this Guide, you’ll learn how to identify whether you’re actually experiencing a plateau, find ways to diagnose potential causes & troubleshoot your way to getting over the hump. You’ll also find excellent support resources & motivation from those who’ve successfully slayed their own plateau dragons.

So let’s get started! When you click one of the chapter links below, it will jump you to your desired chapter…without refreshing the page. I recommend you go through each chapter sequentially but if you want to jump around, that’s your prerogative. 😉

Chapter 1: A Primer on Plateaus

Chapter 2: Is Nutrition to Blame for Your Plateau?

Chapter 3: Is Your Fitness Routine the Culprit?

Chapter 4: Other Causes of Plateaus & Gains

Chapter 5: How to Bust Through a Plateau with Simple Tweaks to Your Diet

Chapter 6: How to Lift, HIIT, Run & Sneak Your Way Through a Plateau

Chapter 7: the Last Resort- Your Doctor’s Office

Chapter 8: Where to Find Support

Chapter 9: Success Stories from Plateau Crashers

CHAPTER 1: A Primer on Plateaus

Before we dig in to the nitty gritty on plateaus, let’s figure out whether you’re actually experiencing one! The resources in this chapter will let you know (a) whether you’re already in a healthy weight range; (b) how often & when you should weigh yourself; and (c) why you should look to places other than your scale when it comes to progress. These can help you determine whether you’ve actually stalled. My quick two cents: if you’re not within a healthy weight range AND there’s been no movement on the scale OR difference in your body measurements for 3 weeks or more, then YES, you’ve hit a true plateau…and you need to move on to the next chapter. 

How Much Should I Weigh for My Age & Height? | Medical News Today

Learn the Right Way to Weigh Yourself | Heather Bauer {The Huffington Post}

Why Does Weight Loss Slow Down Over Time? | Monica Reinagel {Quick & Dirty Tips}

Why The Scale Lies | Renee Cloe {Primus Web}

Your Scale: Not the Best Gauge of Fitness | Petrina Hamm {Petrina Hamm Fitness}

CHAPTER 2: Is Nutrition to Blame for Your Plateau?

Now that you’ve confirmed that you are actually experiencing a weight plateau, it’s time to figure out the cause(s). First stop: examining your nutrition. And I know what you’re thinking- you’re probably thinking you need to scale back on your daily caloric intake. Believe it or not, this may NOT be the case. Depending on your weight, body frame & activity levels, you may actually need to UP your daily caloric intake. Food is fuel and when you’re not eating enough, you run the risk of putting your body into starvation mode- which can hamper weight loss & get you in a stubborn stall.

Check out the resources below to determine what your daily caloric intake SHOULD be; hopefully, you’re already in the habit of carefully tracking your food & portion sizes. If so, you’ll be able to quickly assess whether any adjustments should be made. If not, I’ve also included links to show you exactly how you can start tracking foods correctly (NOTE: even if you’re already tracking, a refresher course might be in order to make sure you’re still on the right track when it comes to your food journaling).

BMI & Daily Needs Calculator | SELF Nutrition Data 

How Many Calories Should You Eat Per Day to Lose Weight? | Kris Gunnars {Authority Nutrition} 

How Many Calories Do You Really Need to Lose Weight? | Kathleen M. Zeman {WebMD} 

Five Best Food and Nutrition Tracking Tools | Alan Henry {lifehacker}

Top 10 Steps to Track Food Correctly | GB HealthWatch 

CHAPTER 3: Could Your Fitness Routine Be The Culprit?

If you’ve incorporated a regular workout routine into your weight loss program, you’ll need to figure out whether your workouts could be contributing to your plateau. As the resources below illustrate, you may need to switch things up OR back off from your workout routines. A lack of variety or progression in workouts and/or failure to take rest & recover days can hamper your efforts to lose weight and inches. 

Why is it important to vary my workout routines? | Cedric X. Bryant, PhD, FACSM {ACE}

4 Signs It’s Time to Change Your Workout Routine | Jen Mueller {Sparkpeople} 

The Importance of Rest Days & Recovery Days | Steve Edwards {Steve Edwards Fitness} 

8 Signs You Are Overtraining | Mark Sisson {Mark’s Daily Apple} 

CHAPTER 4: Other Causes of Weight Plateaus (and, gasp, even Gains)!

There are other factors that could be behind the sudden stall on your scale. Check out these resource links to learn more about how digestive problems, medications, depression, stress, lack of adequate sleep, vitamin deficiencies and aging can impact your progress. The good news is there are ways to combat each (yes, even the inevitable aging). Helpful tips are included in each link.

How Digestive Problems Prevent Weight Loss | Byron J. Richards {Wellness Resources} 

Medications That May Contribute to Weight Gain | Weight Watchers Research Department 

Is Depression Wrecking Your Weight? | Matt McMillen {WebMD} 

Want to Lose Fat? Chill Out | Judi Ketteler {Women’s Health} 

5 Ways Sleeping Less Makes You Gain Weight | Prevention 

Does a Vitamin Deficiency Cause Weight Gain? | Shannon Marks {LiveStrong} 

6 Tips for Avoiding Age-Based Weight Gain | Susan Bowerman {Discover Good Nutrition}

CHAPTER 5: How to Bust Through a Plateau with Simple Tweaks to Your Diet

If you’ve determined that your daily caloric intake is right in line with what you SHOULD be eating for your age, frame & activity level, it’s time to experiment with your diet a bit. Read through the following resources for different tweaks you can make and pick the one that appeals to you most.  You could “zig zag” your calories, cycle your carbs, try intermittent fasting, time meals & frequency differently or switch your macronutrients up a bit. Choose ONE technique that seems most doable considering your lifestyle and schedule and give it a 2-3 week all in effort. A simple change in your diet could be the ticket to getting that scale moving again.

Zig-Zag Calculator for Fat Loss and/or Muscle Gain | Natural Physiques 

My Carb Cycling Meal Plan | Petrina Hamm {Petrina Hamm Fitness}

The Beginner’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting | Steve Kamb {NERDFitness} 

Why Meal Timing Does Matter | Mike Samuels {IIFYM}

3 Keys to Dialing in your Macro Ratios | Sarah Harrison {Bodybuilding}

CHAPTER 6: How to Lift, HIIT, Run & Sneak Your Way Through a Plateau

If you’ve been doing the SAME workouts over and over and are suffering through a plateau, it’s high time for you to change things up when it comes to your fitness routine. Likewise, if you’ve never lifted a dumbbell, it’s about time for you to incorporate strength training into your fitness regimen. Here are some excellent resources to show you how to best use your workout time as a tool to combat your weight plateau.

Lift to Lose Weight | Andrew Heffernan {Experience L!fe}

Beginner Strength Training for Women | Nia Shanks {Lift Like A Girl} 

Strength Training Workout for Beginners | Riana Rohmann {ACE}

Periodized Training and Why It Is Important | ACE

4 High Intensity Interval Training Program Modalities | Jenn Zerling {Huffington Post} 

The Complete Guide to Interval Training [Infographic] | Greatist

Race Menu [Find a Race to Train For]  | Running in the USA 

6 Easy Ways to Sneak More Exercise Into Your Day | Cher Zavala {hellawella} 

CHAPTER 7: The Last Resort: Your Doctor’s Office

If your weight has stalled for months or more and no amount of tweaking has gotten the number on your scale to budge, there could be a medical cause at play. Check out the resources below for the common medical reasons behind weight stalls & gains. You should consult with your doctor if you suspect any of the following might be an issue for you.

10 Signs You Have a Thyroid Problem and 10 Solutions for It | Dr. Amy Meyers {MindBodyGreen} 

How Hidden Food Sensitivities Make You Fat | Mark Hyman, MD 

Blood Sugar Imbalance Symptoms | Lori Newell {LiveStrong} 

Cushing Syndrome | April Kahn {Healthline} 

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) Fact Sheet | Office on Women’s Health, U.S. DHHS

CHAPTER 8: Where to Find Support

The process of weight loss can be difficult & frustrating at times- no more so than when you hit the dreaded plateau.  Online support groups can help you stay focused and motivated. Here are some of the best spots on the internet to find fit-minded friends. Not a fan of online forums? Check out MeetUp for in-person groups that get together for walks, runs & other outdoor activities.

Low Carber Forums 

3 fat chicks on a diet! Forum 

Weight Loss Buddy 

FitLink 

SparkPeople 

MyFitnessPal

MeetUp 

CHAPTER 9: Success Stories From Plateau Crashers

Nothing inspires more than a REAL success story. Here are ten to fire you up as you power your way through a plateau. I’ve included my very own at #10 – I had been in a plateau for MONTHS while trying to shed the baby weight from our youngest. I not only crashed through my plateau – I also hit the 100 pounds total mark (and fit into a pair of jeans I wouldn’t have been able to even during my high school years!) thanks to the hardcore HIITs of Insanity.

Fitness Fix: How I Busted Through My Weight-Loss Plateau | Alicia Reich (as told to Ayren Jackson-Canady) {Fitness} 

I Broke Through My Weight Loss Plateau!!!!!! | Shaxfiend {SparkPeople Blogs} 

I’ve FINALLY broken through my weight/fat loss plateau!! | spincycle {Mark’s Daily Apple} 

Lost 25 lbs and broke through weight plateau | joekerr30 {HealthBoards}

I started eating MORE calories to lose my last 10-15 lbs and it broke my one month plateau! | melonmagellan {reddit}

I broke my weight-loss plateau! | byebyebigguy 

Breaking Through the Weight Loss Plateau | Ali Gorman, R.N {ABC 7 Chicago} 

Breaking Through the Plateau | Mary Stella {Weighty Matters} 

Dealing with Plateaus | Emil {Hiking To Fit} 

My Plateau Crushing Story | Petrina Hamm {Petrina Hamm Fitness} 

Petrina’s Parting Words on Plateaus (say that 3 times fast!)

Remember, you’re a work in progress and masterpieces take time. The process of weight loss (especially when you have a LOT to lose) will be far more like an ultra-marathon than a sprint. Sometimes you need to experiment a bit with  your nutrition and workout regimen, others you just need to rely on patience to see you through a tough plateau.

The most important takeaway I’d like for you to have from this article is that the number on the scale is just one piece of the equation. Be sure you’re measuring your progress in other (and I would argue more meaningful) ways as well- from the inches on a measuring tape to the number of sit-ups you can do, from the way you’re clothes are fitting to how many steps you can climb before your breath becomes uneven.

Keep tabs on these other measures of progress and be sure to celebrate all the non-scale victories. One of the most thrilling moments in my weight loss journey had nothing to do with the scale- it was the moment I could comfortably fit in an airplane seat without my hips and thighs pushing against whomever was seated next to me.

Have you busted through a plateau or found your own favorite plateau breaking resources? Leave me a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!

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