“Katy, how do I get past a weight loss plateau? I’m frustrated as heck and don’t know what else I can possibly do. This is too hard!”
This is a question I get asked so often, I just knew it was worth writing a full post on.
The last thing we want is for you to be spinning your wheels, feeling like a failure, wondering if you can ever reach your goal. Because I’ve been there, and I know how damn frustrating it can be. I used to lose 20lb and then just stand still for a month. That lack of progress would cause me to heavily restrict foods, do drastic things to get the scale moving again, and then ultimately? Giving up because I was so miserable. I’d put the 20lb back on and then be starting again.
If you’re new to me, I want you to know: I got past that to reach my ideal weight, and you can too. Weight loss doesn’t have to be a miserable experience. You don’t need to count calories. You don’t need to cut out any food groups. Low carb? Keto? Forget about them. You have to think about long-term sustainable eating habits. So that when you reach your goal, you don’t throw your new eating habits out of the window and let the weight creep back on. Eating well should be enjoyable, and just a way of life, because we want you to be healthy and happy too.
To lose weight, you need to be in a calorie deficit of some form. There’s no doubt about that. Let’s look at some of the most common things you could be doing to accidentally enter a calorie surplus.
5 Things That Could Be Causing A Weight Loss Plateau
Snacking & Grazing
Are you mindlessly eating a little thing here and there throughout the day? If so, those things add up. A Nakd bar? 150 cals. 50g peanuts? 280 cals.
If you’re snacking because you’re hungry, you may need to increase your portion sizes. You should at least make sure you have an abundance of veggies on your plate to fill you up for longer. Getting hungry within a few hours of a meal means it’s not satisfying you enough.
However, if you’re hungry and it’s close to a mealtime, try snacking on something that will give you a quick burst of energy. Enough to keep you going until you eat your full meal. This could be fruit or veggies. Stuffing a banana with a few dates is one of my favourite go-tos. Still, finding it hard to keep out of the junk food cupboard? Grab this printable cheat sheet to stop that binge snacking for good. You can pin it up in your kitchen for encouragement and alternative ideas – plus, there are lists of healthy snacks!
If you’re snacking even though you’re not hungry, you may have developed a habit or be suffering from emotional eating. It’s so important to address the root of that feeling .eg. stress, tiredness. Watch this video for some ideas on how to tackle that.
Portion size is a tricky one, because we all eat different amounts at a meal. Our ideal portion size can depend on our current weight, how much movement we do, medical conditions, and so much more. If we give ourselves a large portion, and then eat past the point of satisfaction, we’re likely to be taking in excess calories that we don’t need.
A good way of knowing if you’re overeating is if you feel stuffed, lethargic or bloated after a meal. Ideally, you want to feel nicely satisfied and energised. Food is fuel! Try to slow down your eating so that your stomach has the chance to tell your brain it’s getting full – this takes around 20 mins to happen. Eating mindfully can help too – try to really concentrate on your food and notice the taste, texture and smell. Avoid eating in front of the TV or while working. These things combined will help you to get more in touch with your body’s fullness cues.
It’s also important to look at what exactly is on the plate. I advise roughly splitting a meal like this: 50% veggies, 25% carb, 25% protein. For example, if you were to make a stir fry, you’d have 50% veggies such as broccoli, peas, kale. Then 25% tofu or beans. Finally, 25% of the dish should be your noodles. People tend to go a lot heavier on the carbs than they need to. Carbohydrates are so vital for a healthy body, and I absolutely don’t recommend low-carb diets for 99% of the population. However, we do tend to fill our plate up with 50% + carbs because we think that’s what will make us full. In actual fact, veggies fill up a lot of stomach space, are very nutritious, and are naturally low in calories. The below picture is a great example of how a balanced plate looks:
High Calorie Foods
Calorie density is a great way of looking at foods. But what is it? Calorie density is: ‘a measure of the calorie content of food relative to its weight or volume’. Usually, we can compare the calorie content of a food per 100g.
Here’s an example of how many calories are in different foods:
- 100g potato = 77 cal
- 100g broccoli = 35 cal
- 100g tofu = 77 cal
- 100g black beans = 300 cal
- 100g lentils = 120 cal
- 100g peanuts 560 cal, or eat roughly 15 nuts for 100 cal
- 2 tbsp olive or coconut oil = 230 cal
As we can see, you can eat a ton of tofu before you get to the same calorie intake as you do for 100g nuts.
If you’re cooking with a lot of oil or snacking on nuts, this can massively increase your calorie intake per day. If you love nuts, you don’t need to give them up. They’re very nutritious, but also high in fat! Why not pair a few nuts with dates or fruit instead, so you can have the best of both worlds?
Oil is the most calorific food there is, plus it’s highly processed and stripped of most nutrients. And it’s so easy to cook without it. Just sauté food in a little stock, with added herbs and spices for flavouring. For salad dressings, look for oil-free versions in the store, or make your own with tahini, dijon mustard and water. This one tweak can make a huge difference!
Eating at a restaurant or grabbing takeout can be a really hard habit to break for some people. We can even make the excuse that we’ve picked a ‘healthy option’ at our favourite eatery. But unfortunately, even if we opt for a salad, they tend to be overloaded with carbs, fatty meat substitutes, or covered in oily dressings.
If you have a really clean plant-based cafe by you, great! But if not, it may be worth thinking about how you can minimise those restaurant visits.
Try to identify why you’re grabbing takeout / eating out so much, and tackle that. If it’s a social thing, why not invite people over, have a potluck, or go for a picnic? You could go for a walk with lattes or smoothies. Or, you could go out for drinks instead. If this habit is due to busyness, you need to ensure you have easy and healthy options at home. Things like pre-marinated tofu, frozen veggies, packet wholegrain rice, canned beans and weekend meal prep can really help you out. How can you set your future self up for success? Meals don’t have to be extravagant or complicated.
I’ve left this one until last, but it’s absolutely huge. If you’re restricting yourself to a measly 1200 calories all week, but bingeing at the weekend, you’re not being consistent. It’s much better to change a few habits at a time, embed them so they’re second nature and part of your routine, and then move on to more changes. Slow and steady wins the race!
Or perhaps you like to go all-in with a diet plan or strict routine? Aiming for perfection rarely works because it’s impossible to achieve that 100% level of motivation all of the time. It usually only takes a bad day or stressful event to completely derail us into binge eating.
Here are some things you can do to change habits a bit at a time and stay consistent:
- Create some motivational visual reminders to come back to – your detailed goals written down, making a vision board, an inspiring picture, an affirmation on the fridge.
- Grab my gift ‘4 Steps To Kickstart Weight Loss‘. My clients start shedding the lbs by following these principles!
- Don’t take on too much. If something feels beyond challenging and just really hard, that’s usually a sign you’re not quite ready yet. Build tiny habits – doing 5 min yoga for 2 weeks, then building up to 10 mins, etc. You can also stack on more than one habit at once.
- Don’t completely cut out a type of food – there’s no such thing as good and bad foods, and when we think that it can lead to disordered eating and a poor long-term relationship with food. Everything is available to you, but ask questions such as: will this nourish me today? When was the last time I had this? Am I really hungry?
- Read mindset books! Even just 10 minutes per day can boost your mood and make you feel empowered. I highly recommend ‘You Are A Badass’ by Jen Sincero.
- Write down small wins from your day that have nothing to do with the number on the scale. Did you manage not to binge eat today? Did you feel good? Found a new recipe you like? It’s all progress! Make this a daily habit.
- And if you do eat something less nutritious? Enjoy every bite of it and then move on. Often, eating one unhealthy meal can lead to ‘all or nothing’ thinking, where we give up completely and binge eat. The better solution is to accept that it happened, that you can’t change it, and refocus on your goals immediately.
- There are some additional fantastic tips from myself and other health and fitness experts on this guest post right here.
“How do I get past a weight loss plateau?” is a question that clients ask me all the time! When we work together 1:1, one of the key things we tackle is WHY you’re not losing weight right now. Whether you’ve failed to lose weight for years, or you just feel stuck at a certain number, we can get you moving again! If it’s not any of the above, it’s likely another small tweak that you’ve overlooked. It’s all about finding out what’s stopping you from hitting your next goal, and putting easy measures in place that you can fit into your everyday life.
I got you, boo! If you need more personalised support and accountability in becoming your best self, I invite you to apply for my 12-week program ‘Lighter, Leaner and Loving Yourself‘. The amazing women that have gone
through this program know exactly what to do to feel good in their own skin, blast through any weight loss plateaus, and make life easier. I know we can get you to that place too!
If you’re not quite ready for that yet, let me know below what you think may be causing your plateau. I’d love to hear from you, and I reply to all comments to help you out.