Welcome to Plateau Town, population: you.
You've hit the slump. That dreaded, dreaded slump. You've heard that this could happen, that you could be going strong, losing weight like crazy, then BAM. It stops, just like that! So here's the big question: What is a fitness plateau anyway? We've compiled answers, as well as some tips and tricks to help you stay motivated to lose weight.
A plateau is when your body becomes used to the stresses you put on it. In other words, your body has outsmarted your efforts at losing weight. It knows what to expect. In order to push past that pesky plateau, you have to change your routine and push yourself harder. It's easy to become discouraged during the slump, but we promise these 55 tips will help you power through and give you the weight loss motivation you need.
1. Let your body recover. Give your body a break. That doesn't mean you ditch your diet and exercise altogether, but you need to slow it down before you push things back into full gear. Go on walks at night instead of a trip to the gym. This is the first step, and it shouldn't last longer than a week!
2. Keep an eye on your diet. If you've been dieting, chances are that you've cheated a couple times along the way. You start to see progress on the scale and in your measurements, so it wouldn't hurt to eat a couple cookies after lunch, right? After all, you're going to the gym and you'll work it off. Wrong! The more weight you lose, the easier it is to become complacent. Don't lose track of your diet, and guard yourself against little cheats throughout the day.
3. Sleepy time is super important. There are tons of studies about the importance of sleep for weight loss, so why doesn't anybody make sleep a priority? Go to bed 15 minutes earlier for one week, then 20 the next week, then 30 the next. Small increments of added sleep will help your body become accustomed to a longer rest at night. You need that rest for your body to recover.
4. Try something new. If you're trying to lose weight and you can't seem to lose another pound no matter how well you eat and how hard you exercise, it's time to try something new. Have you been taking brisk walks every night for an hour? It's time to add a walk/run routine. Have you been using the elliptical each night at the gym? Try a HIIT workout instead! Your body needs to be shocked into paying attention to your weight loss goals, and the only way to do that is to scare it into submission.
5. Make a new playlist. Your old gym music no longer gets your heart pumping, so it's time to delete it and start fresh. A new playlist with fresh songs and up-beat rhythms will keep you focused on your workout and give you energy. Try our suggested workout playlist here!
6. Get a workout buddy. Having someone who shares your goals will keep you from slacking on nights when you're tired but you know you should go to the gym. Just knowing that someone else is counting on you to work out with them will keep you on track.
7. Get meticulous. Don't let anything slide. Track your weight reps, your miles on the treadmill, your calorie intake—everything! Especially if you're looking to lose weight, being able to compare your numbers day-to-day will help you see the areas that need change. Have you not broken three miles on the treadmill? Time to make it 4, then 5, then 6!
8. Don't get discouraged. Weight loss is not all rainbows, bunnies and fairy godmothers. Sometimes we have bad weeks, and it's important to accept that. Go into next week with the ultimate positive attitude.
9. Change up your atmosphere. It's possible you're getting bored of your workout location, whether that's your basement, neighborhood or local gym. Switch it up a bit and try working out in a new spot.
10. Increase your daily fiber intake. Fiber decreases your appetite, which keeps you from mindless snacking throughout the day. We're all guilty of it, but this is an awesome (and totally healthy) alternative to starving through the afternoon. Try one of our 14 fiber filled fruity smoothies here!
11. Drink more water. You've all heard that drinking water can help you lose weight, but it's not just a rumor — it's true! Believe it or not, water acts as an appetite suppressant, so next time you're craving something to eat, drink a cup of water and see if you still crave it after. Staying hydrated also helps you work out more efficiently, which is exactly what your body needs to break through this plateau.
12. Add little exercises. If you're trying to lose weight, don't be satisfied with just a quick trip to the gym or a jog around your neighborhood. Incorporate little exercises into your day. You'll burn calories and you won't even realize you're doing it! You already know you should take the stairs and park in the back of the lot, but why not try taking the long route to the bathroom, standing instead of sitting, or even playing more rigorously with your kids?
13. Stop when you're full. You're eating out and the salad you got is massive, and oh, so delicious. It's made of spinach after all, so why not eat the whole bowl even though you're getting full? Don't! Listen to your body's signals. When you're full, stop eating, no matter how much you paid for your meal.
14. Rest less during your workouts. Chances are you take breaks between your workout moves. While it's all good and well to give your muscles a break, maybe what you need is to push yourself harder by eliminating some of those breaks. Keep your muscles burning by jumping right into your next workout without resting. You'll feel more exhausted, and know you're making progress.
15. Real fat doesn't just float away. It's one thing to lose a pound or two before bikini season, but something altogether different to lose real fat to bring yourself down to a healthy weight. Real fat takes time to burn. The first pounds you lose are the easy pounds. You've plateaued because your body has to work harder to burn the real fat, the stuff deep down. Keep pushing!
16. Don't drink your calories. This is the easiest (and sneakiest) way to gain weight. Drinking gatorade at the gym? Try drinking water instead, and then ditch those crazy-high-sugar Starbucks drinks before work. (Try these Starbucks drinks instead!)
17. Don't starve yourself. "Starvation mode" is common among people who just can't lose anymore weight, even though they've been hugely successful in the previous months. But here's the thing: Creating a huge calorie deficit and "starving" yourself is hugely unhealthy for you, and not something you can sustain. You might lose weight, but chances are you'll gain it back the moment you start eating properly again. Starvation mode kills your metabolism, and we recommend that nobody try it.
18. Eat more protein. Eating protein in your diet means you'll burn more calories during digestion, and it'll keep you full longer so you don't succumb to needless snacking or sugar temptations. Here are eight ways to sneak more protein into your diet!
19. Mistaking foods as "healthy": Not all foods in the health foods section are healthy, folks, we hate to break it to you. Just because something is advertised as low-calorie doesn't actually mean it's healthy, which is super unfortunate. Check for hidden ingredients. Often times products will advertise low calorie but substitute the flavor in others ways, like adding extra carbs or sugar, making the product not healthy — like at all. It's time to keep a discerning eye on which "healthy" packaged foods we buy at the grocery store!
20. High fructose corn syrup: This stuff makes you gain and retain weight. Avoid this stuff like the plague if you're looking to lose weight, because it could seriously backtrack your progress. Here's a crazy extensive list of common foods that contain this yucky poison!
21. Take time to de-load: De-loading is a short period of recovery, which your body desperately needs, especially if you've been going all-out to lose weight for months and months. The best way to do this is to change your exercise to something completely different than what your body is used to. For example, if you're used to lifting weights, go on walks for a week.
22. Cut the stress. We've often heard it said that stress causes weight gain, but we don't ever notice it happening, so it must not be true, right? Wrong! Dealing with stress (work, bosses, bills, naughty children, etc.) takes a lot of energy, so naturally we need to replenish our energy. How? By eating! Cut the stress to cut the excess calorie-intake. This is one simple step to breaking through that weight loss plateau.
23. Evaluate your medications. Some medications actually promote weight gain! While we absolutely hate that this is a side effect and don't recommend you ditch your meds without chatting with your doctor, it's important to be aware that your pill popping could play a small part in the extra weight around your belly.
24. Vary your caloric intake. This is called "zig zagging," or mixing up the calories you eat every day so your body doesn't get used to eating only 1500 calories each day. Our bodies are crazy smart, so if you stick to your calories and only eat so many a day, your body will eventually figure it out. That means one day you eat 1600, one day you eat 1400 and the next you eat 1500. Keep your body guessing!
25. Change your meals. Instead of three big meals a day, eat five smaller meals. This method promotes the thermic effect of eating, which a recent study shows helps burn fat.
26. Hire a personal trainer. While this method might not be comfortable for all, a personal trainer can sit down with you and figure out a solid workout plan that will push you through your plateau onto new weight-loss records.
27. Hire a nutritionist. These guys know what they're doing when it comes to food and diets, folks. If you're confused by your plateau and you've done everything it takes to push through but you're still not seeing results, chat with a nutritionist! They can analyze your current eating habits and pinpoint problem areas that you might have overlooked.
28. Change your workout time. Do you always work out after class or work? Try working out before you leave in the morning instead! Your body won't be used to working so hard at this new time of the day, and this might be the shock it needs to break through the plateau!
29. Cut the dairy products. We love a glass of milk as much as the next person, but all that fat might be inhibiting your progress! We know not all dairy products are bad, especially the raw, nutrient-rich products, but common products you might buy at the store all contain lactose, which doesn't help weight loss one bit.
30. Don't weigh yourself constantly. Nothing gets us down more than when we weigh in every morning and see the same number—over and over. From now on, only weigh yourself once a week. You're more likely to be encouraged by the small change in number (even if it's just one pound) than seeing the same thing every day.
31. Use a smaller plate. Instead of loading your plate with the "healthy" stuff at dinner time, use a smaller plate to condense your portions. Less food fits on the plate, so you'll eat less. It's an easy fix to overeating!
32. Keep thinking ahead. A steady schedule of 30 minutes of exercise five days a week is scientifically proven to extend your life by several years! Just brisk walking, biking or jogging can contribute years to your life. Even if you're not losing the pounds, getting in exercise is beneficial for your body.
33. Combine your activities. You want to hang out with your sister and spend time with your kids, but you still haven't exercised today. What do you do? Take your kids with you on your walk, and see if your sister wants to hang out in the yoga studio instead! For those of you struggling to find time to exercise, combining your social life with your workout routine could actually help get you back on track!
34. Stop eating out. Meals we eat at a restaurant are rarely healthy, and are usually high in calories. Even salads can be pretty calorie-dense, giving us few choices when we go out on the town. If you're meeting up with friends at a restaurant, eat beforehand then just order a drink. You'll be full when you arrive, and this will make resisting the appetizers a lot easier.
35. Pack up the leftovers. Instead of leaving the plate of zoodles and potatoes on the table after you've eaten, pack them up and throw them in the fridge. This will keep you from mindlessly eating seconds and thirds, and will save more for tomorrow. Eating healthy foods is great, but overeating them isn't. Stick to your serving size, or you might spend more time in the "plateau zone" than you wanted to.
36. Chew gum. Chew gum to keep from snacking at work, before dinner and when you're watching television at night. The calories we add throughout the day through snacking can add up fast, even if we don't realize it.
37. Same habits = same results: If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get the same results. Don’t be afraid to try something new, from a new type of fitness class to a veggie you haven’t tried before!
38. Try a desk workout. Sitting at your desk for an eight-hour workday can zap your metabolism and rob you of your energy. Lucky for you, we have some killer desk exercises to keep you alert and energetic. You might even burn some calories in the process.
39. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. Processed foods are rarely stocked on the outside edge of your grocery store, which means you'll be less likely to make impulse buys on "healthy" crackers, popcorns and sweets if you stick to the perimeter. You'll come in contact with more fresh foods—like fruits and vegetables—which you need in your diet if you're going to break through this weight loss slump!
40. Find motivation in others' success. Sometimes hearing an awe-inspiring weight loss story is just the jump you need. After all, if they can do it, so can you! Read our Real Fit Moms success stories here!
41. Take a shopping trip. This might sound a little out of the ordinary, but finding cute workout clothes can boost your confidence, and give you more energy when you're rocking the weights and HIIT routines.
42. Utilize your apps. Whether it's your alarm, Fitbit or My Fitness Pal, don't forget that technology can really help you when it comes to keeping you accountable. Set an alarm when it's time to take a walk, get up from your desk, or do some squats. You won't forget to exercise, and the time to work out will already be set aside in your schedule.
43. Start tossing: This might seem like a waste, but if you've reached a weight loss plateau, then you're willing to do anything to get back on track! Head to your pantry and fridge, and start tossing any and all junk food. Ridding yourself of the temptation to snack will help so much in the long run.
44. Invest in at-home equipment. You're sitting at work dreading your nightly trip to the gym. So why not work out from home? Our solution is simple: Invest in a kettlebell and some light hand weights. The workout options are endless, and you'll still get a great pump from your basement!
45. Take advantage of TV time. We know you want to watch "Fixer Upper," and so do we! But instead of vegging on the couch during the commercial break, break into fitness mode instead. Do a wall sit, lunges, squats or jumping jacks. In fact, we even have a fitness game you can play with your kids, husbands, or alone (with your cats of course.) Check it out here!
46. Sit up straight. Quit slouching! It causes your body to release the hormone cortisol that causes stress — and weight gain. Getting your posture back on track will work your abs, and your back and neck will thank you too.
47. Focus on different muscles. If you only take long walks, you're burning calories but only using a certain part of your body. Focus on your upper body now instead! Once you've switched your focus area, you'll probably get sore—which is a good thing! That means your body isn't used to the exercise, and will have to work harder to build those muscles.
48. Beat the boredom. Maybe your workout is just getting boring, and that's why you've reached the plateau. You can't spend 30 minutes on the elliptical anymore without going crazy! Switch up your music, grab a new machine or routine and focus on pushing—and pushing hard!
49. Use visuals. It's time to take mirror pics. Get down to your sports bra and underwear and grab a photo. You might have already lost weight, but you need to re-program your mind to think this: "Today is the new beginning, my new Day 1. This is my new start photo." Resetting your mindset and keeping yourself accountable through visuals, like mirror selfies, will keep you on track.
50. Target the weakest link. If you're looking to start over, target your weakest link. That could be weak muscles, an exercise you particularly hate, or even just your diet.
51. Adjust your plate. When you first started your weight loss journey, you thought cutting calories was hard. However, now that your body is even smaller, it needs even fewer calories — so it's time to cut again. It might take some getting used to!
52. Ride your bike to work. This one might not be feasible for some people, but it's certainly worth a shot, especially if your commute isn't too long. This will wake you up before you even get to work, and you'll feel invigorated long into the morning.
53. Keep an eye on the calendar. Never go more than two days without exercise.
54. Wave goodbye to McDonald's. It's time to permanently say goodbye to all fast food restaurants. By avoiding them completely, you'll avoid the temptation of the shakes, fries, burgers and chicken fingers, keeping your diet on track.
55. Cook with spices. Using spices like garlic, oregano and turmeric will give your food more flavor so you don't have to use unhealthy sauces like ranch, soy, or teriyaki.
Remember that Einstein quote? "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
Yeah, that applies to diet and exercise pretty perfectly. In order to see a change, you have to mix it up. The easy fat is gone—now it's time to lose the hard fat, the real stuff that's deep down and doesn't want to budge. The plateau is a totally normal response to months of hard work, but don't let the difficult fat win! Make some changes in your lifestyle and you'll see yourself back on track in no time.