The Stagnant Scale: Strategies For Beating Diet Plateaus

Tuesday, September 26, 2006 - 2:37pm

By Katie Clark, MPH, RD

Losing weight is a challenging process, but fighting those last few pounds can be very frustrating. Here are some tips for combating weight loss plateaus.

Remember: when dieting plateaus, numbers matter

Fatiguing dieters often get complacent about numbers. If the number on the scale hasn’t moved in awhile, think back to what worked with your initial weight loss:

  • Record your daily meals. Sometimes seeing your food intake on paper can help you identify problem areas.
  • Don’t be afraid of the scale. When you weigh yourself frequently you are sure to notice when your weight is slowly creeping up back up.
  • Talk to a specialist. In some cases, the best way to get your diet plan straight is to talk to a dietitian who can help you with charting calorie levels and meals. Remember: Your nutrition needs change as your weight changes.

Re-evaluate and redistribute your calories and eating patterns

A plateau can be maddening, especially if you feel like you are already depriving yourself of food. Don’t starve your way to that additional weight loss. Instead, reevaluate how you disperse your calories throughout the day:

  • Eat something every three to four hours. Distribute your calorie allotment over five or six small daily meals; it’s good for your metabolism and your piece of mind!
  • Keep your meals balanced. Try to eat a small amount of fat, protein and carbohydrate in each meal or snack; balanced meals ensure you avoid rebound hunger.
  • Add lots of fiber to your diet. Include at least 5 grams of fiber at each snack or meal. This way, you’ll easily get your 25 grams of fiber per day (which is recommended for women), and you’ll actually feel fuller for longer.

Jump-start your workout to kick-start that dieting plateau

There are only so many ways to limit your food intake. But you can always alter your energy output levels by revamping your workout. Increase these aspects of your workout:

  • Frequency. Exercise on more days per week than you do now.
  • Intensity. Add miles or extra steps per hour to your cardio machine.
  • Duration. Add extra time—like 10-20 minutes—onto your daily run or walk.

Plateau? Revisit your weight loss goals

When you hit a plateau, go back to the basics. Don’t forget: How much you eat and how much you exercise ultimately determines how much you weigh. Analyze small components of your routine and look for areas to improve:

  1. Have your portion sizes crept up because you stopped measuring your starchy food serving sizes?
  2. Are you grazing on candy at work because you don’t have any fresh fruits or vegetables at your desk?
  3. Do you regularly skip an opportunity to walk instead of drive or take the bus?
  4. Are you prioritizing new areas of your life ahead of your workout?
  5. Are you rewarding small victories with food when there are better alternatives?

Write down three small, manageable goals for this week that may help you get back on track . By developing ways to improve small parts of your diet and exercise routine, you will indirectly improve the entirety of your lifestyle.

Get back on track!

Reevaluating your actual needs, redistributing your caloric intake and revamping your workout are all ways to target individual parts of your weight loss journey. Finding a number of small areas for improvement is often more important than looking for one big impediment to continued weight loss.

And regardless of those last few pounds or a scale that seems to be stuck, don’t forget to congratulate yourself on how far you have already come. A positive attitude can sometimes be the greatest motivator for ultimate success.