What to Do When I Hit a Weight Loss Plateau


weight loss plateau

Adaptation is a unique feature of the human body. Thanks to that feature we survive by adjusting to the environment, to stress and to living conditions.

When starting a diet (aka eating clean, whole, natural food in a appropriate qiantity for YOU) and/or a workout routine the body faces new conditions to which it has to adapt in order to survive. For example, a diet which focuses on calorie deficit whose purpose is to burn fat is stressful for the body. The body starts adjusting to the diet, at a certain point it succeeds and the regime that has worked up until then ceases to give results or has little effect.

This is the moment when the body has to be faced with a new stressor or the adaptation has to be terminated in some way. The minute people stop losing weight their first response is to limit the food intake further more. I know this because I keep in touch with clients on a daily basis and 90% of them want me to cut back on their food intake only after a month because their purpose is to go back on the fast weight-losing track. It sounds logical – you eat less and you lose more weight.

But in case of a plateau I increase the food intake. The logic behind all this is the following. If you decrease the food intake every time you hit a plateau, you will finally have to face an empty plate. Severe fasting is not a way to become thin. After a period of food deprivation fats build up as a priority. I already know that from personal experience!

In case of a weight loss plateau the food consumption has to be increased for 2–3–4 days, the purpose being to interrupt the body’s adjusting to the lower energy intake. This is effective for over 90% of the people! You sacrifice several days during which you only get enough energy to maintain your weight. During these days you don’t cut back on the fats for the sake of accelerating weight loss after you go back on the low-calorie intake regime.

After a low-calorie diet and a food intake increase the weight rises immediately by at least 1 kg (2 lbs) – this is mainly water. In my nutritional regimes carbohydrates are limited (but they are not carb-free; I include fruits, oats, rice, potatoes, bread, quinoa, buckwheat, manna croup and a lot of vegetables) and in case of a plateau I usually provide people with a choice of several types of carbohydrates (even chocolate) in order for the client to pick what they want to add to their diet. I select delicious and preferred carbohydrates so that the person is both able to fight the deadlock and at the same time take a bite of something they love and which they have probably been depriving themselves of up until that point. Both tasty and beneficial for stepping up the weight loss.

There is an important distinction between a little/slow loss of weight and a standstill. Measurements do not shrink when you hit a deadlock although it is impossible to take all your measurements and you have to know yourself well in order to be sure whether you really are at a halt or you just think you are because my clients often think they are at a plateau when they actually are not 🙂 .

The moment the carbohydrate intake is increased you start retaining water. A client of mine shared with me she drank water for a whole day after a carb-loading – that’s normal. If you eat carbohydrates your body needs water so you drink water Of course, your weight increases in days like these so my advice is not to jump on the scale but since no one takes my advice I want to add – don’t pay attention to the weight, keep track of your measurements. If you drink enough water and go to the toilet every 1.5–2 hours you will not retain water and your measurements will remain unchanged. In this period, in order to avoid going crazy over the idea you are regaining the kilograms you’ve lost you have to keep an eye on your measurements

Let me sum up: When you are on a diet that is low on calories and you reach a plateau increase the food intake for several days, treat yourself to something you love. After that go back on your nutritional regime and you will see you’re making progress. After the first 4 weeks of the diet it is normal for such loading to be done 2 days every week or every other week with intervals of 10–14 days.

I will go a bit off topic now and will reply to some questions I received via personal messages.

Two readers asked me about carbohydrate cycling. I don’t want to write about this because it is a method used by professional fitness models and bodybuilders (meaning low percent of body fat) and most people don’t need this routine. It does work. I haven’t tested it personally but I know people who’ve achieved great results by means of carbohydrate cycling (this reminds me of a joke in which somebody knew somebody else who knew something about somebody else …). My focus is on changing one’s lifestyle and carb cycling is, in my opinion, only a temporary routine which cannot fit the lifestyle changes I am promoting. But if you have high goals and you believe that this is exactly what you need, give it a try and see what happens.

How do I exercise – barefoot or wearing sneakers?
The thing that comes most naturally to us is walking, running and jumping barefoot. People however have lost that ability and it’s not rarely that they get injuries when practicing sports barefoot. If you, ladies, can exercise barefoot – then that’s great. If this however leads to pain and aches in your feet, ankles, knees and waist, then work out wearing sneakers. I like working out barefoot, usually in the summer. In winter it’s too cold for me to do that.

Sports and smoking
I haven’t researched the issue and there is nothing I can say from a scientific point of view. The common belief is that smoking leads to serious disorders. It’s a matter of personal choice whether to smoke or not.

How to get toned without losing too much weight?
/Eh, this question will never stop haunting me. Apparently there is something I do which attracts it (if you know how to ban this question forever, please, help me!)/

Getting toned means you don’t have a lot of body fat. No matter whether you only have to get toned or lose 10–20 kilograms the way to achieve it remains the same – diet and exercise. Getting toned is harder. Don’t think that if you only have a kilo(couple of lbs) of excess body fat it will be easier for you than to lose 10 kilograms of fat. That’s not the case. Getting toned/fit takes time, efforts, willpower, patience and since you are not obese you think the time to achieve your goal is directly proportional to the kilograms you want to shed. On the opposite – it is inversely proportional to it! If you have to lose 1 kilogram of fat (because what you want to get fit and tight is fats and fats do not get fit and tight), this takes a lot of time in most cases.

Arm with patience, keep track of your measurements because when you start getting fit the kilos will mislead you. You will gain 500 grams (1 lbs) of muscle mass from the workouts and you will be wondering why, on earth, doesn’t the number on the scale go down. It doesn’t because if you haven’t been working out up until that moment your body will be adjusting to the new stress (the workouts) by building more muscles because this is its way of taking the pressure you’ve been putting on it.

How do I shrink my saddlebags
Unfortunately, there is no way to lose weight from a particular area. It’s a matter of pure luck – genetics, hormones. I cannot offer you an effective recipe. Your only shot is to follow a diet, exercise and hope for the best.


  1. Katerina 26 December, 2013 at 01:09 Reply

    I am not a fan of weighing and measuring, but that’s because I don’t have a particular goal anymore. I learned to love my body and I am happy with my weight and look. I have reached a point where I just want to be happy and healthy. Your workouts challenge me physically and mentally and they provide me with time exclusively for myself. When it comes to diet, I like to plan my meals 5 days a week, so I have enough energy to go to work and workout. On weekends I relax, but I still eat a lot of vegetables.
    I think I avoid plateau because I have different regimes depending on the season. In summer I workout early on an empty stomach, and in winter time I workout after work. Where I live the temperature difference in summer and winter is huge, so this way I adjust to the change. I also listen to my body, and when I feel like avoiding a certain type of food, I just do it. For example, for months I ate carrots and bananas every day, but now I just don’t feel like eating any. I used to be more strict about cravings, but now I don’t worry that much and if I want to eat, for example, a lot of dates and nuts, I just do that. I still avoid processed food filled with salt and sugar, most of the time.
    I learned a lot from you and I really like that you don’t give advice unless you are sure about the facts, or have tried the method yourself. The amount of work you put into doing research deserves a lot of respect, you are a true professional 🙂 Thanks, for the answers to the questions form your readers, they are really helpful.

    • Rumi 26 December, 2013 at 01:14 Reply

      Katerina, thank you for your support and takinf time to express your thoughts! I don’t follow diets too and and sometimes I eat lots of dates because I watn to 🙂 Changing workout time is a good approach to challange the body in a new way. My new addiction is grapes, last year I ate lots bananas and cheery tomatoes 🙂

  2. osteoDH 26 December, 2013 at 01:34 Reply

    Hi Rumi ,
    I recently discovered your workouts and my attention was drawn to your eating approach.
    I am still looking for a method to get rid of my sugar cravings . I’m a carb craver since very young. And i did not like meat at all. I love veggies and fish.
    A few years ago I really got interested in the way food affects us. Now general findings in medecine come to conclusion that high amounts of carbs are responsable for a very large amount of degenerative diseases and premature ageing. So another reason I had to fight this carb addiction.
    Nowadays I try to not eat processed food at all and I try to replace the carbs by the healthy fats ( avocado , nuts fish). Anyways seems like my body still needs these carbs especially after dinner and supper. Seems like I need them to stimulate digestion.
    My question : If I try your methode, can i still eat high fat during the carb loaded days? Or do I lower them to see results?
    Thank you for your time!

    • Rumi 26 December, 2013 at 01:50 Reply

      🙂 I would not worry about carbs if they come from fruit and veggies 🙂 Eat your carbs and be happy. Personally I ate lots of carbs too, but only from natural sources like fruit and veggies. Sometimes I have potatoes, rice, quinoa (I don’t eat gluten) but never cook them with big amount of fat. When you do carb loading theory says to limit fats 🙂 My approach is to eat fat foods like – avocado, fish, eggs but not to add fat to food (actually I add fat when I cook but very limited quantity). For example when I cook potatoes I may add a spoon of butter because they taste better this way, but 1 spoon is for me and my boyfriend. Or I add 2 spoons of olive oil to the salad, again this is salad for 2. I think these are cases I add fats when I cook 🙂

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