By , YMCA Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

You’re eating healthier, working out, and starting to feel more confident. Then suddenly, you hit the dreaded weight plateau. The number on the scale refuses to budge. Why?

The body likes to maintain a stable and healthy weight, also called a “set-point weight.” Be assured, this number can be adjusted, but it does take time and patience to get there.

Move your frustrations aside because I have some quick tips today! Try these three simple ways to push past a weight-loss plateau:

  1. Re-examine your nutrient intake. Many of my clients have shared how discouraging a weight-loss halt can be. They usually feel as though drastically cutting back on their caloric intake is the answer. If that's you, it's important to know this strategy may be working against you.

    While small caloric deficits (about 300-400 per day) can definitely lead to sustainable weight loss, larger calorie-cutting can cause the body to go into survival mode to help maintain balance. When this happens, your metabolism slows, and the release of chemicals occurs. One chemical in particular, cortisol, is a stress hormone that can stall weight loss and lead to body fat retention. So be sure to find your basal metabolic rate and adjust accordingly to make sure you’re not depriving yourself. 

  2. Focus on mindful eating. Weight loss is a mathematical equation of calories in and calories out, but when it comes to getting past a plateau, it becomes more than this. You want to focus on the quality of foods you are consuming. A food journal can help you with this. Maybe you'll find that you're eating out more than you expected, even if that includes making healthier choices when doing so. Or, you may notice that you nibble on snacks throughout the day, or frequently finish your child's leftovers after a meal. All of these small, extra calories add up and could be what’s keeping you from seeing the results you want.

  3. Change up your workout routine. Muscles are amazing. They are able to adjust according to the type and intensity of exercise you engage in. On the downside, they can also become too familiar with a repeated workout. This makes your normal routine less effective. If this is the case, think about shaking up your workouts. Try a new group fitness class at the Y, alternate days of steady state and interval training on a cardio machine, or try some new weight lifting circuits to continue making those muscles work and keep that weight loss goal moving forward. The more lean muscle mass you have, the more your metabolism works when you are at rest.

Important note! Always progress slowly when changing up a workout routine. If it is done too fast, the tendency of injury or soreness increases and can work against your current goals.

Working toward a weight loss goal?

Stay accountable and inspired with the YMCA’s Weight Loss Program. This 12-week course offers weekly small-group discussion and tools to help you design a unique plan, track progress and set yourself on the path to a healthier lifestyle. Learn More.