Nutrition Toolbox – Plateau: Am I really stuck?

The dreaded plateau is often talked about, but what is it really?  A true plateau is when you’re nearly 100% on your eating and exercise plan, yet your weight will just not budge. This is actually a natural and healthy response, our bodies way of protecting us. As individuals lose weight, their metabolism (how quickly bodies burn calories for energy) changes.  Through weight loss, your body gets smaller, so it doesn’t need as many calories to maintain its current weight.  Therefore, as you lose weight, you will need to consume fewer calories for further weight loss.

Knowing that doesn’t change how frustrating it can be to experience and observe the lack of movement on the scale.  However, it can help you understand why it is so important to take a closer look at a few key places, in order to determine what to do next.


Step One:  Evaluate

  • How much weight have you lost already? What is your current weight? What is your goal weight? How realistic is that goal? Sometimes we have a specific number in mind and it seems nothing but that number will suffice. This is when we need to dig a little deeper.


If you are within a few pounds (ie.  5-6 pounds) of your goal and stuck for months, ask yourself these questions:

– Besides the number on the scale, what difference will those few pounds make in my life?

– Will I be a different person if I lose those pounds?

– Do those pounds make a difference in my health, or is this vanity I’m trying to achieve?

– Where did my goal weight come from? What am I trying to achieve by hitting it?
– How hard am I willing to work to achieve it?  And am I willing to consistently work that hard for the rest of my life to maintain it?
These questions will help you determine if your weight loss goal is realistic for you. If you have any doubts, having a conversation with a team member about your goal can be beneficial in helping you decide how to best move forwards. If ultimately you decide you do want to press on for those last few pounds – read on! If you decide you are happy where you are and that next push doesn’t feel realistic for the long-term, talk with your team about maintenance.

Still have weight to lose, and find yourself stuck for months?


Step Two:  Take Action

  •  What we know from experience is that sometimes we can get comfortable in our new habits. When things are going along really well, we can feel pretty confident that we’ve got this weight-loss thing “down” and while in general that’s a GREAT thing, sometimes our awareness tends to drop and we become a little less mindful.Remember, a true plateau is when you are nearly 100% on plan and your weight will just not budge.  Therefore, if you’ve still have weight to lose, here are three of the most common places to look, to get the scale moving again in your favor:


During a possible plateau, the first place to look is at your portion sizes. We suggest reviewing the Balanced Plate principles and gauging what an appropriate portion looks like for you.

Some strategies that help in this area include:

  • using a smaller plate
  • slowing down when eating so that the body has adequate time to feel full
  • practicing Table-Plate-Chair and eating without distractions, so you can enjoy and taste your food to increase satisfaction
  • using your hands to help size a portion (i.e. a fist, a deck of cards, etc).
  • food logging

Food logging is absolutely critical during this period of time – if your calories are too high, you will not lose weight. Whether it’s due to “slipping” a little in the awareness department, or because your body is simply smaller (woo hoo!) and you don’t need as much – your portions DO matter, even if you’re eating all the healthiest of foods.



Retrofit does not encourage you to give up favorite foods completely; but we DO want you to plan for your treats.  Sometimes, when you’re feeling very confident with your new routine, you may begin to indulge a little more than you realize.  During a possible plateau, you must look at the frequency and the size of your treats.

Be honest!

  • Are you planning for them?
  • Are you enjoying them mindfully and in moderation with portion control?
  • Are you having more than one treat a day?

Remember that treats should be no more than 10% of your daily calories, and recall that any foods that do not fit into the Balanced Plate are considered treats/extras.



Sometimes a plateau can be explained by a lessening of exercise, either in frequency or effort…and sometimes both.  Perhaps you are doing the same exercise routine regularly without any variation.  Over time, the same exercise(s) day in and day out becomes less effective.


  • upping the intensity of your workouts – increase the speed or resistance.
  • try a new style of workout or change the activity (ie. use the elliptical instead of the bike)
  • increase your non-exercise activity (NEAT) by focusing on getting more steps in your day


Step 3:  Don’t Lose Hope

  • One of the best ways to stay positive while working to overcome a plateau is to celebrate your wins.  When you become frustrated or impatient with the scale, you need to focus on the positives, so keeping a list of your successes/wins/victories is essential.  Keep in mind that there are many other ways to measure success beyond that number on the scale:


  • Do you feel more energized?
  • Are you sleeping better?
  • Are your clothes fitting better?
  • Do you feel more fit?
  • Is your mood improved?

Recognize and celebrate all of these wins, even when the scale isn’t changing.


* Most importantly, DO NOT let a plateau allow you to give up or get off track. *
Plateaus are sometimes part of the process and it’s important to learn how to work through them.