You have been eating healthily for months, and the pounds have been dropping off. You say to yourself, “Finally I have this under control,” and you are as pleased as Punch. Then one morning you wake up and weigh yourself, and find that nothing happened. You do it again the next day and the day after that, and still nothing.

Sound familiar? Most people who have lost a lot of weight and kept it off have been there. This is a very scary, very real scenario; it’s called a weight-loss plateau.  But before you decide to totally surrender to the fact that the scale may never move again, read what I tell my patients:

1. First and foremost, don’t panic

Surely panic doesn’t get anyone anywhere. I try to reassure my patients that worse things in life could be happening to them than a stagnant scale and that they need to relax.  The more stress they feel, the more they are likely to start eating foods that they have worked so hard on limiting.

2. Keep that food journal!

Did you get so comfortable with your ongoing weight loss that you stopped food journaling?  That happens a lot with my patients; they claim that they are eating the same foods over and over again, so they no longer feel the need to journal. But guess what? Sometimes they start getting lazy. The extra nibbles, bites from other people’s plates, beverages, etc, are starting to add up, but they aren’t aware of it, because they aren’t writing anything down.

3. Re-evaluate portions

Sometimes portion sizes need to be reviewed and slightly changed. For example, the one cup of pasta that for some reason was working just fine now needs to be taken down to three-quarters of a cup. To make up for the difference, more veggies need to be added.

However, if the exercise routine has been pumped up, the dieter needs to actually go to one cup of pasta from half a cup, because her body needs more fuel to burn calories efficiently

4. Step away from the scale

Instead of focusing on a number, many of my patients find success by weighing themselves less often. So many factors can influence a number on the scale—factors that have nothing to do with real weight gain, like sodium and bloating—and the number on the scale can be discouraging.

When people concentrate more on how their clothes fit, how they feel, and on simply eating more healthily, the pounds start to melt away. Also, health can be found in other numbers—cholesterol, blood glucose, and blood pressure, to name a few. If these numbers are in check, then that’s a reason to be proud, not frustrated.

5. Step up your exercise routine

For a lot of my patients, exercise wasn’t a regular activity until they started seeing me. As time goes by the exercise they are doing becomes easier to perform and they are no longer expending as many calories while doing it. I usually recommend that they try something new that will challenge them a little more, and burn more calories while doing so. Simply adding an additional day of fitness may also help. And I remind my patients that every little bit of activity counts—stairs instead of escalators, getting off a subway/bus stop farther from your apartment, or parking the car farther away in parking lots.

6. Be patient

And finally, when the scale stops moving is always a good time to reassess your goals. I ask my patients to focus on the why they wanted to lose weight in the first place, and I urge them not give up so easily on that reason. I remind them that it didn’t take a mere six months to gain all their weight, and it sure isn’t going to come off more quickly than that.

The bottom line is that all weight loss should bring a feeling of accomplishment, no matter if the losing has stalled for the time being. Remember, gaining weight is never an option.


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  • Karen e. Lund July 5, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    A few years ago I realized I needed to lose weight. To be specific, 40 pounds would get my body mass index down from 31 to 25. So I started eating better and exercising more. It worked! I lost 29 pounds… and then I stuck.

    I stuck for a couple of weeks, then a month, then close to two months. I got frustrated. Acquaintances advised all kinds of weird herbs and diets.

    On the phone with my Dad (the diabetic side of the family) he put it very simply: “If you never lose another pound, does that mean that losing 29 pounds was a waste of time?”

    After two and a half months of frustration, something gave way. I lost two pounds that week. Eventually I lost the 40 pounds–a week before my 49th birthday. But that’s still good advice: if you need to lose weight for the sake of your health, part-way is much better than nothing. Keep plugging away, and don’t skimp on the exercise.