Home Debunking The Myths Did I Just Plateau? Why Am I Not Losing Weight?

Did I Just Plateau? Why Am I Not Losing Weight?

by Erika Nicole Kendall

exerciseIt happens to the best of us. Out of nowhere, the downward spiral we all want comes to a halt. We start wondering what’s going on, and become unhappy. It might also be those of us who are just starting out – sweating our hair out at the gym only to go a week and find no results.  What are we doing wrong?

I’d like to offer up five big reasons why you might be hitting a brick wall with your weight loss.

  1. You’re eating too much after you workout. This was something I REALLY had to remind myself about, and became a better woman for it. Working out doesn’t give me carte blanche to eat how I want. It shouldn’t be looked at that way when I’m trying to lose weight. Working out doesn’t provide me with a “cushion” to fall back on if I overeat. It’s considered a known fact that people come out of a workout session sweaty and starving. What am I eating to replenish? Am I stopping by McDonalds drive thru, or do I have some grapes or a slice of cantaloupe waiting for me at home?
  2. Are you a little too indulgent when it comes to the good stuff? So, you’ve finally done it. You’ve got a workout routine, you’ve slowed down on the junk food, and you’re only buying healthy/organic/[insert other fitness buzz word]. But wait? Have you merely replaced one vice for another? It may be organic, but that doesn’t mean that the caloric value is better. It especially doesn’t mean that just because the caloric value is smaller, that it’s ok to have 3 or 4 servings. If the “healthy” peanut butter is 20 calories less than the “regular peanut butter,” that doesn’t mean you should have more than you were originally getting! It might even mean you should start shooting for less.. since sometimes (especially with nuts) the more organic versions have the original fat values in tact, and can sometimes have more fat grams in them. To make matters worse, if that organic version has more sodium in it, it’s that much more likely to cause you to maintain water weight (which is usually a result of a high-sodium diet.) Talk about tripping yourself up.
  3. You’re not drinking enough water. Here’s a neat little tidbit I picked up in my reading. The body burns fat whenever your internal temperature is increased. The more water you drink, the more able your body is to heat up. Remember, water is a conductor of heat and electricity – it makes it easier for heat to pass through it, thus making it easier for your body to heat up to do what it needs to do. Do you drink enough before your workout? Better yet, do you drink it afterwards? To tie in with the first point, if you’re drinking too many calories, you might be counteracting your body’s ability to burn calories… since you keep drinking so many!
  4. You’re not hitting the potty enough. Where’s the fiber? For every meal that you take in, you should be releasing just that much. That’s right. Considering now that you know that, how far behind are you falling? Even more so, how much do you estimate you have stuck inside of your system? I know people who get such a small amount of fiber in their daily diet, they may not hit the potty at ALL in one given day. Trust me when I tell you, if your plate weighs 2lbs when you sit it down to eat, rest assured that you are adding at least a pound and some change to your weight. Add the fiber, already!
  5. You’re doing better than you thought. Here’s another neat little tidbit I’ve picked up in my reading. Muscle weighs as much as [if not more than] fat. Yes, yes, this is true.* You might’ve picked up just as many pounds in muscle as you might’ve lost in fat. This is a good thing, though! Why? “According to calculations published in the journal Obesity Research by a Columbia University team in 2001, a pound of muscle burns approximately six calories a day in a resting body, compared with the two calories that a pound of fat burns.” See how that works? So yeah, you might’ve gained a pound of muscle, but when you get your eating habits back together.. you will absolutely reap the rewards of having it!

I won’t lie – I’m facing this right now. I’ve been stepping up my calisthenics routine at home, and while I’ve lost a total of 12 inches between my upper/lower waist, hips, and thighs… I’ve only lost 12 lbs. 12! It’s hard to not let it get me down, which is why I focus heavily on what I look like, and not what I weigh. I suppose I need to re-read what I wrote about being a slave to the scale, eh?

How about it? How did you manage to fight your plateau? How did it affect you? Let’s hear it!

What other reasons are there why we might hit a brick wall?

*I wanted to be clear – if you took a 1′ by 1′ by 1′ cube of muscle, and placed it next to a 1′ by 1′ by 1′ cube of fat, the muscle would weigh more. This is different from the premise of “a pound of muscle weighs more than a pound of fat,” which isn’t true.

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Tracy October 9, 2009 - 10:54 AM

Not eating enough. I’ve read a few online articles and determined that the body can go into starvation mode when the body doesn’t get enough calories to sustain daily activities. I’ve been so intent on not OVEReating, that I’ve been UNDEReating. Now, I’m trying to find the right combination of foods (or “model diet”) to eat daily so that I can stay within range.

Erika October 9, 2009 - 11:09 AM

Tracy, I understand! I think we ALL face this issue at one point in time or another… shocking our body with so little food so fast, that our metabolism shuts down and stops processing the fat on our bodies… which actually produces the exact opposite effect that we want!

I suppose this could be a new blog topic, but I actually eat about six times a day. Breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner… and since I have a very late bedtime, I snack again. What should one eat during that time frame? I can offer suggestions, but only YOU will know when too much is too much. I can assure you that if you promise yourself that you’ll eat 6 times a day, seriously, you WILL hit a brick wall and eventually tailor your choice of foods because you’ll feel sick, lol. Hard lesson learned the right way.

I’ll blog more about it and see if I can help bring a little clarity to the topic. 🙂

Tracy October 9, 2009 - 11:23 AM

Thanks a lot for your help Erika! I just want to make it right this time. I have said time and time again that “THIS TIME WILL BE DIFFERENT!” I’m so over that statement! LOL! However, I REALLY want it to be true this time. I’ve been “serious” before, but to no avail. I just want to get it right. I feel like I’m getting there “this time.” It’s not a task or chore anymore. I actually look forward to working out. I’m serious about modifying my eating habits without jumping on the latest fad diet bandwagon. It’s just VERY discouraging to feel like you are doing something right, but you get no results. I won’t say that I’m not getting ANY. I feel muscles in places that I’ve never felt them. My clothes fit looser. People have remarked that I look smaller. But those darn numbers on the scale…

Gina October 9, 2009 - 12:36 PM

Well written and well played. IMO, the largest goal in all of this is to stay healthy. You can lose weight by eating bread and drinking water a few times out. Since we are inclined to measure our success in pounds; we forget about the intangibles that may matter the same if not more: muscle mass, fat loss, heart rate, pulse, cholesterol count, blood pressure, etc. The overall question I think you should ask yourself is “am i healthier than I was before and am I still on track?” Tony Horton is a great trainer who brought to light “Muscle Confusion Principle.”

“A training principle that states that muscles accommodate to a specific type of stress (habituate or plateau, also called homeostasis) when the same stress is continually applied to the muscles over time, there one must constantly vary exercises, sets, reps and weight to avoid accommodation…” Per a website’s definition.

In other words our bodies become accustomed to what we are doing and will use regular routine exercises as a way of maintaining the current state or moving toward your goal at a slower pace.

Dorothea April 12, 2010 - 10:02 AM

I just found this blogpost here by accident… and thought maybe you should simply separate work-out from diet, because both don’t have much to do with each other…All new studies of the last years suggest, that you are just loosing weight with eating less, but not with exercising.
Just make the math: While running one marathon you are burning the same amount of calories like one good restaurant dinner, so do you want to run a marathon each day or wouldn’t it be easier to simply skip the dinner?
Working out is very important for your health, your heart, it brings you in shape and makes you feel good… but it won’t help you loosing weight…
There are many articles about these studies, most of them controversially discussed by people who dragged themselves over centuries to the gym and nearly religiously belief that this is the only way to loose weight..one of the best written articles is this one: “The exercise myth” http://www.ottawacitizen.com/health/exercise+myth/2648905/story.html
I hope this information can help you a little bit to reach your aim. 🙂

Erika April 12, 2010 - 10:13 AM


I can see what you’re saying, but I disagree. In fact, I almost feel like you’re talking in circles a bit. No part of this post conflicts with the original question of why one plateaus. These are four key components to addressing why one might experience a stall in progress.

Working out may not be the only part of losing weight, it is absolutely a part of losing weight – while you cannot lose weight without addressing your eating habits, you absolutely can increase your activity level to shake things up a bit for your system (which is what helps with avoiding plateauing. This is where “buzz words” like “muscle memory” and “muscle confusion” come into play.) I understand what you’re saying, but I wrote this post in October… as it is now 6 months later, addressing one of these issues helped me get past my plateau. In short, I still stand behind it.

Thanks for the article link, though!

Onika May 14, 2010 - 10:52 AM

The article mentioned above had nothing to do with plateaus at all. It was about treating OBESITY with excercise which of course cannot be the only tratment for MANY reasons but it doesn’t have anything to do with excercise promoting weight loss for people who want to be in better shape, more muscualar and leaner with a more active metabolism….which we ALL know that excercise will help you do-obviously in conjuncttion with a healthy diet. Sorry- I know this is really late but I get very frustrated by things like this. They encourage misconception and ultimately discourage a healthy lifestyle. Thanks!

Erika May 14, 2010 - 11:01 AM

Thank you, Onika! And thank you for commenting. 🙂

Rita June 26, 2010 - 12:25 PM

omg! I finally kicked my plateau…for the past 3 weeks I’ve let myself not workout or do light workouts instead of sticking too my routine…I found every excuse, work, weddings, funerals, sleep, pms…I even got caught up in everyone hyping me up saying they saw so much difference…but today I ran & walked my first 5k and the plateau is over!

I’d set a goal to complete the entire 5k come hell or high water and even though I’d been at plateau stage for so long I didn’t want to disappoint myself. so I just went out and did it! It wasn’t easy, it down right hurt but I started and finished it. In the end, it felt great! Once it was over a friend and I felt so good, we walked another 2 miles more and headed to the farmer’s market! I feel great, I’m back!

JayDee February 10, 2011 - 2:01 AM

Thank you for this post. I just had my son 5 months ago. I get to a place in my weight loss that I get stuck at a certain weight. I’ll try to be a little more patient with myself. Be Blessed!

Angela February 26, 2011 - 9:34 PM

Thank you for this information. I am a slave to the scale too. It’s so hard for me not to weigh in EVERY Morning and Evening…. 🙁

Beverly M May 20, 2011 - 4:14 PM

Hi Erika,
Thank you so much for this blog…it has definitely been encouraging me through my weight loss journey! I have plateau and as I look at myself I get frustrated because I feel like the weight is not coming off fast enough. With my last plateau I ate less, cut down on the carbs and I try to burn no less than 1,000 calories each workout. I guess now I have to increase my burn and eat even less. I have also tried to change up my cardio routine because my trainer said that my body adjusts. I look forward to reading more helpful hints.

Beverly M.

Allyson June 26, 2011 - 5:33 PM

Erika, you’ve done it again. This is why we are friends in my head. I have been “soul searching” to say the least about the plateau and once again you are dead on. When I checked my food journal, I realized that I wasn’t drinking enough water and I allowed the sneaky salts into my daily diet. So I have decided to make some adjustments for the upcoming week. On my blog I wrote about the importance waste have on the waist. Please feel free to check it out and I welcome your comments. http://www.werknprogress.blogspot.com.

Loretta September 7, 2011 - 10:23 PM

Ok…so I went through the list and I am more than sure it’s number 5.
I was looking for this article and so glad I found it..I have hit a plateau at the halfway point!

I also want to say I mega enjoy this site! Thank you!

milaxx April 21, 2012 - 10:25 AM

I am guilty of a few of these. For one, I’ve slacked a bit on my eating. Not how much, but what I have been eating. Let those darn MorningStar products back in my life. Also I need to change up my exercise.I’m dong the same thing but it doesn’t appear to be having the same effect. So I’m searching for new stuff. This is challenging with bad knees and a fixed income so I’m thinking maybe I’ll try cleaning up the bike and hoping I don’t break my neck in the process.

Wish me luck!

Kami November 6, 2013 - 10:07 AM

Yeah I am trying to get through this plateau. My clean eating is great but making sure not to be too indulgent with healthier items. My goal is to make a home excercise routine.
However , the body fat percentage went down from 33 to 29.5 and will weigh myself every two months starting 2014.

Yanis November 8, 2013 - 1:10 PM

I started working out in Augus 2013. I was weighing 150 lbs. I gained 15 lbs in the first month. My coach said it was all muscle, and I knew it wasn’t all muscle, because I wasn’t dieting. After cleaning up my diet, I lost 8 lbst in 10 days, which is great. But I wanna lose more. Still I got great results, my back is almost ripped, my arms and shoulders are becoming ripped slowly, and I can do pull ups, in sets of 5 (I couldn’t even do 1 when I started).

But yes, I’ve hit that plateau, I dunno what to do. I might do more cardio, because my training is mostly strenght training, olympic lifting and crossfit.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Stephanie Shelton Burns February 1, 2014 - 2:30 PM

Hi! This is off topic, but have you ever noticed a difference in the way doctors treat you heavier and thinner? I definitely have. I think that would make a really good article!

Erika Nicole Kendall February 2, 2014 - 9:51 AM

Ooooh….about that. Click here. And here.

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