You are making awesome changes in your body when suddenly your progress grinds to a screeching halt. Those pounds of fat that were once falling off effortlessly are now clinging to your body for dear life.

No matter what you do, nothing is working. Maybe it’s been a week, or two, or even a few months, but your weight is not budging. You are ready to shrug your shoulders, throw your hands in the air and say “I quit”.

Why can’t you lose any more weight? What are some solutions to break through your stubborn weight loss plateau?

This article will delve into the dynamics of a weight loss plateau and offer you solutions to overcome it.

Weight Loss Plateau Vs. Fat Loss Plateau

A weight loss plateau is a period of time during which your body weight remains at the same level. So if your weight doesn’t change for 2 weeks, does that mean your results have stalled?

Absolutely not!

The phrase “weight loss” does not differentiate between changes in fat, muscle, and water.

The primary purpose of tracking your body weight is (1) for accountability and (2) as a proxy for measuring fat loss. When you get on the scale and the reading goes down 1lb, the hope is that 1lb represents pure fat – not muscle, or water.

If you are weighing yourself every day, or multiple times per day, you probably notice your weight can fluctuate substantially by 3-5lb. Most of this weight fluctuation is due to changes in water retention.

For example, if you eat a lot of sodium, carbohydrates, and drink little water, you will retain a ton of water, which will increase your body weight. If on the other hand you drink plenty of water, moderate carbs and low sodium and just finished an intense workout where you sweat buckets, your weight can decrease by several pounds. It may seem counterintuitive, but the more water your drink, the less you retain it.

The unpredictability of water retention is one reason to weigh yourself only once per week with Monday Morning Weigh-Ins, unless you find weigh ins every morning keeps you more accountable. Weighing yourself multiple times per day, or at different times each day is the fastest way to kill your confidence and mess with your head.

A weight loss plateau and more specifically a fat loss plateau should be defined as no change in body weight for 3 weeks. The first week may be because of water retention, along with the second week, but the third week indicates that maybe your body is not changing as you have hoped despite your best efforts.

Weight Loss Plateau Facts To Keep In Mind

Before delving into some solutions to help you break your weight loss plateau, here are some important facts that you should know:

1) Weight Loss Plateaus are VERY common

If you do not experience a weight loss plateau as you approach your ideal body weight, consider yourself very, very lucky. Weight loss plateaus are to be expected as you are losing weight. Our bodies are resistant to change. A large chunk of people who reach their ideal weight have experienced as many as 2-3 plateaus lasting several weeks. Remember that if changing our bodies was easy, then everyone would be walking around with a six-pack.

2) The More Weight You Lose, The More Weight Loss Slows

This comes down to simple mathematics. Take a guy Mike who is at 230lb and loses 1% of his body weight in fat per week (0.5%-1% is a solid pace of fat loss). Mike would then lose roughly 2.3lb of fat per week. Now if he gets down to 200lb, losing 1% of fat is now 2lb, or 15% less than 2.3lb. As Mike’s weight decreases further, less weight would be lost as a percentage of his total bodyweight so weight loss inherently slows down the leaner you become.

3) Losing Weight Becomes Harder The Closer You Get To Your Ideal Weight

Not only does the pace of weight loss slow down, but your body will work harder to hold on to your fat stores the leaner you become. We are left with a sobering fact – the ability to lose more fat decreases and it becomes even harder to do so. The most common plateaus I see for guys is first around 20-22% body fat, then around 12% body fat (for those guys looking to break into single digits).

3 Steps To Break Your Weight Loss Plateau

Now that you understand the difference between weight loss plateaus and fat loss plateaus along with the basic dynamics of weight loss, here are some tips to follow to help break through the toughest plateau.

Step #1: Re-evaluate Your Calorie Intake

As you lose weight, not only does it become harder to lose, but your metabolism decreases. Now don’t go searching for those “how to boost your metabolism” articles – your metabolism is supposed to decrease as you lose weight.

Going back to our friend Mike, if he continues the same workout regimen at 200lb as he did when he weighed 230lb, his metabolism will be roughly 15% lower at 200lb vs. 230lb. Why you ask? He has less body mass, which means his body does not require as much energy to support a smaller frame.

That’s why every 10-15lb you lose (if you have a lot of weight to lose), you can reevaluate your calorie intake to ensure you are eating less calories than you are burning. For more, check out How Many Calories Should You Eat to Lose Weight?

Step #2: Control the “Calorie Creep”

My estimate is 90% of all weight loss plateaus are related to “calorie creep”, or more generally, eating more calories than you think you are eating. Combined with a decrease in metabolism from weight loss, plateaus are almost a certainty.

The calorie creep can come from mindless eating, eating out at restaurants that serve huge portions, or simply condiments like dressings, spreads, and sauces. Maybe you don’t realize that small 100 calorie bag of “healthy” chips is really 400 calories because there are 4 servings in each bag. Alcohol also goes on the calorie creep list.

The best place to start is to track your food intake if you are not already doing so. There are many great reasons to keep a food journal, so tracking your nutrition intake (even for a few days) is possibly the smartest and most important step you take to improve your nutrition.

Step #3: Progress Your Body, Don’t Confuse it

While nutrition is likely the culprit for the stall in your weight, making sure you are progressing the intensity of your workouts can only help improve your results.

There is a lot of hype about “muscle confusion” because it’s an easy sell; most people want to be entertained with constantly changing workouts. In the extreme case, choosing a different workout every time you hit the gym is not confusing your body as much as you think, but it’s definitely curtailing your results. If you want to maintain the results you have, changing things up is awesome, but not if you want to maximize your results in a muscle building, or fat loss program.

Continuity in your exercise program is more important than switching things up all the time. Without continuity, you will not be able to track improvements and make the workouts harder, which is the goal. In our BuiltLean Programs, some workouts may change slightly from week to week, but the exercises and structure of the workouts are the same so that you can track changes in your strength and fitness levels.

What happens if I still can’t break my weight loss plateau?

The chances are very likely if you follow the preceding 3 steps, you will be able to break your plateau. Again, 90% of the time it’s a matter of not balancing calorie intake with calorie burn. But for those in the 10% category, here are some issues/solutions to consider:

1) Starvation Mode – The opposite of the calorie creep is not eating enough calories to help sustain your body. While your metabolism will not drop if you skip a meal, or even a few, it will drop with chronic calorie deprivation. If you are a 180lb guy eating less than 1,000 calories per day for let’s say 3 weeks, you can bet your bank account your metabolism will take a nose dive. There are a host of other negative issues with extreme starvation diets (lack of proper nutrients being one of them). If you are chronically in starvation mode, it’s advisable to up your calorie intake.

2) Calorie Cycling – If you are in starvation mode, or have just been dieting for more than a month, or two, your metabolism can and will likely slow down above and beyond the range if you were eating more calories. There is no scientific evidence supporting calorie cycling as a superior way to lose fat, but I must mention it given the large number of respected experts who support it. Furthermore, science is not exactly ahead of the curve. Alternating low calorie with high calorie days MAY prevent this starvation response from occurring (i.e. 3 days low, 1 day high). Strategically placed cheat meals may also be helpful.

3) Hormones – There is a vocal contingent of nutrition experts who describe a stall in fat loss not as a calorie in/out issue, but as a “defect in fat metabolism”. The total amount of calories burned and how those calories are burned (fat loss vs. muscle loss) can be affected by hormonal imbalances. What’s the solution? Unfortunately, a simple answer is not possible, other than to seek medical assistance and test your hormone levels such as adrenal, testosterone etc. If you are taking medications, you may want to check to see if that medication can prevent weight loss because some do.

As you continue on your journey to reach your ideal weight, keep in mind that changing your body is a marathon, not a sprint (See: body change vs. maintenance). The sooner you can appreciate this, the better off you will be in the short and long term.

I hope this was a helpful overview of the true dynamics of weight loss and how to break a stubborn weight loss plateau.

Have you ever experienced a weight loss plateau? What did you do to break it?



  1. profile avatar
    Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT May 23, 2012 - 10:18 #

    The current article rating is a 3.7 out of 5. How do I make this article into at least a 4.5+?

  2. profile avatar
    JD May 23, 2012 - 11:54 #

    Hi Mark,

    I rate your article a 5+. It came at the perfect time and you answered some questions that I have had for a long time. I have had periods were I retain water, and I have always wondered what caused that. Are some people just genetically more likely to retain water or does it just have to do with food/water intake and exercise balance. Maybe you can do an article expounding a bit more on this topic in the future.

    Anyway, I thought it was an excellent article and I just want you to know that I LOVE your site and your program. Everything is solidly science based, balanced and practical. Thank you!

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT May 23, 2012 - 12:51 #

      @JD – Thanks for the comment, JD. I agree I think a great post would be delving into the details about water retention and how it works. I don’t think it’s as much a matter of genetics as it is about carb, sodium, and water intake.

  3. profile avatar
    Werner May 24, 2012 - 02:16 #

    Hi Marc,

    I’m going to rate your article a 5. It’s a great read for people who hit a plateau and it also takes a cold, hard look at one of the main reasons for persistent plateaus: calorie creep. I experienced this myself a couple of months back: although I was doing my usual routine, suddenly the scales stopped moving downward. After 3 weeks i started charting everything I ate in an xls sheet and came to the conclusion that I was consuming too many calories. Meanwhile the issue’s been fixed, the only thing that sometimes pops up -I live in an extremely hot climate- are bouts of water retention that sometimes last up to 10 days and make the scale go up (6 pounds over 3 days in my case). Then all of a sudden and without any cause I can identify…whoosh…and it gets evacuated almost overnight (but can reoccur). My personal message after going from 117 kg (257 lbs) to 81 kg (178 lbs), I’m 182 cm (6ft) over 6 months: a) focus on your diet but don’t starve yourself, it’s a hell of a lot easier to control what goes in than to sweat it off later b) keep going to that gym no matter what (I’m going 5-6 times/week), continuity is the message and c) don’t give up when you seem to hit a wall, just continue, you WILL break through. If you’re still stuck after a month, look at the calorie intake first, look very hard. Only if you’re certain that’s ok, look further to water retention (which in my opinion will normally fluctuate) or metabolic causes. Don’t delude yourself.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT May 24, 2012 - 11:23 #

      @Werner – Awesome! Congrats on your success and you offered some pearls of wisdom!

  4. profile avatar
    Nicholas May 24, 2012 - 08:24 #

    Very good article! When I read the title I immidiately opened it up, and you hit the problem right on the head. I am approximately 12 % body fat and before two weeks ago I was losing weight at a fairly consistent clip of two lbs a week. Last two weeks, zilch. Taking a look at this article and my own experience, I think the body does get to a point where it will compensate for the weight loss. For example I find myself getting ravenously hungry during times I never have before in between meals. I did keep a food journal when I started and stopped after I got to a certain point. Lately I did it again and found where I should be calorie wise felt so uncomfortable for my body, more then the usual. I thought to myself, it couldn’t be my metabolism because I am lighter then before! I think hormones have a lot to do with that, and it’s fight to keep from wasting away (or so your body thinks) ie lepin and ghrelin. Maybe you can give some insight to that? It’s not fair, once you get over the environmental temptations like family trying to feed you too much and advertising everywhere and you make good progress, the last and final hurdle is your own body fighting you! Thanks Marc!

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT May 24, 2012 - 11:27 #

      @Nicholas – Thanks for sharing and I think you are exactly right that our bodies resist losing fat in many ways such as by increasing our hunger. It’s really tough to get into the single digits in terms of body fat percentage.

  5. profile avatar
    Christin May 24, 2012 - 11:23 #

    Good article. I’m soo frustrated! I feel like my body is fighting me! I’m 29 (30 next month), female, 5’4″. I cant seem to get under 190/191 lbs. Summer 2010 was definitely my highest weight ever in my life, probably reached close to 220. August 2011, I think I was 207lbs according to my doc. I quit smoking in September 2011 and started working out and the weight just wasnt coming off!! So I broke down and started working with a trainer 1-2x a week since March 2012 and I’ve lost maybe 10 lbs. My goal was to get to around 150 lbs by July. I’m eating clean, high lean protein, high veggie, lower carb (but starting to add some carbs like whole wheat bread/pasta back in after workouts now per the trainer). I eat about 6 small “meals” per day with total daily calories between 1200-1500. I do cardio at least 3x a week, usually 4-5. And I do strength stuff 2x a week with the trainer, and other days on my own when I can, like ab stuff after cardio, or legs while watching tv, etc. Pretty sure I’ve been fluctuating between 191lbs and 195lbs for at least 3 weeks. I stopped taking Yaz BC thinking that might help (heart health and hormones). I’ve also stopped taking my RX appetite supressant Phentermine everyday, because it only works for short-term and since I’m working out and eating right, I dont need it. I have noticed changes in my body and I’m probably a size smaller, from a 14 to a 12. And I also have noticed my level of fitness is improved. I can run/bike for much longer and at a faster speed, etc. I feel like a skinny girl trapped in a fat girls body. HELP!!! Why is it so hard? My trainer suggested that I increase my calorie intake per day, which I am trying to do. But I just always thought that cutting calories = fat loss. Its so confusing. Is it my metabolism that is extra slow or something? Shouldnt it be higher by now? What can I do?

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT May 26, 2012 - 11:29 #

      Hi Christin, congrats on your success so far. I’m having some trouble following you. It sounds like you are getting results and you are not in a plateau. Losing 10lb since March is around a few pounds per month, which is solid. I also think it’s great you’ve been able to get off those medications due to your increased physical activity and improved health. Decreasing calorie intake to around 1200-1500 for someone your size could be helpful, but you need to trouble shoot it which is what it sounds like your trainer is doing. Keep in mind as I stated in my article this is a marathon, not a sprint. If you feel you are mentally exhausted, take a couple weeks to “mantain” your body, which is much easier. In other words, you can follow a healthy lifestyles and diet without trying to lose fat and just stay where you are. When you are ready for battle again, you can then take your calories down. See body change vs. maintenance.

  6. profile avatar
    Mark May 25, 2012 - 09:22 #

    Marc, I think this article is a 5 as well. Hitting that plateau has always been the motivation drain for me. What I love about your website is you explain things so simply and give people the tools to reach their goals. I bought your program last night after doing the sample BuiltLean workout for the past week … and dropping 3 pounds and 3/4 of an inch off my waist even though I still have my third workout of the week to do today. Could I ask a question here? I’m cranking through three supersets, with three sets of each, in about 20-25 minutes because I’m focusing on minimal rest. Should I fill the balance of my 45 minutes with HIIT cardio or should I keep adding sets to the weightlifting part of the workout?

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT May 26, 2012 - 10:57 #

      Hey Mark, very happy to hear you took the positive step to buy the program. That sounds great you are ripping through the workouts. The workouts will get much harder soon. If you can, or are not doing so, complete 3 sets for each exercise. If you have the energy, you can absolutely include a little HIIT, such as 3-5 rounds of 1 minute on, 1 minute off using the cardio of your choice. I’m assuming you are a Level 2, or 3 exerciser with this advice. The minimal rest is key, so keep that up. While everyone else in the gym is sitting around watching the gym TV, you are going working hard getting results!

  7. profile avatar
    Brandon May 25, 2012 - 11:07 #

    Marc, I wanted to ask you about something in regards to this article. I am also trying to drop down my BF % much lower. I was 210 lbs and am down to 156 lbs. I have a lot of lean muscle mass, but actually being ripped and getting rid of the last bit of body fat is tough. Since you have a very lean muscle mass, and a strict exercise routine, what is your calorie intake like? I was doing about 1900-2000 per day on a 6 day per week routine. And when I was in my workouts, I didn’t have the energy I needed. Lightheaded and blood sugar levels low. I re-evaluated everything and upped my calorie intake to around 2300-2400 per day. And I have good energy levels and I’m not as hungry between meals as I was. Would this be d/t having a large amount of muscle and high exercise routine, I’ve increased my metabolism so much? I’m losing body fat very slowly now, but if I drop my calorie intake, I am starving when I shouldn’t be and don’t have the energy I should.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT May 26, 2012 - 11:02 #

      @Brandon – One thing you can try is bringing down you calorie level again to 1800 and increasing your carb intake to 50% of total calories, which would be around 200 grams. If you were going far below the 150 gram level before, that could definitely effect your energy levels. Everyone reacts differently to different levels of carbohydrates. Sounds like you may handle them well. The sweet spot i think is around 150 grams, but carbs in particular can really effect your energy levels. You also may consider having a preworkout snack like an apple before your workouts, which can make a big difference. I think given your body weight, it may be tough and take a long time to get any leaner on a 2400 calorie diet. That’s probably not too far from your total calorie burn despite working out 6 days per week. Another thing to consider is eating foods with a lot of volume that pack few calories. Like adding a cup of veggies to lets say some grilled chicken and brown rice can help increase satiety a lot.

      1. profile avatar
        Brandon May 27, 2012 - 03:05 #

        Thanks Marc. I’ll take a look at what I can lower in my diet. Right now, my calorie count is around 2300-2400. The smaller my meals are, the hungrier I will become quicker as opposed to leaving me satiated right now. Instead of holding me off for 3-3.5 hrs, it will hold me off sometimes for maximum of 2. I don’t know whether it’s d/t more lean muscle mass or what. My intake right now is 40/40/20 % being p/c/f. I’m right around 200 grams of carbs per day but still get a bit hungry. When I was at 150, my blood sugar was bottoming out, feeling lightheaded, and didn’t have energy. I keep telling myself that I do need more of a caloric deficit, but it’s tough to cut things out. I don’t thing I’ll have much trouble with it. Thanks.

      2. profile avatar
        Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT May 29, 2012 - 21:39 #

        @Brandon – I definitely understand where you are coming from. In the nutrition section of my BuiltLean Program, I discuss a number of meal ideas and snacks that I like to emphasize because they have a high satiety factor. Here’s an article which touches on a few – top 10 fat loss foods. For example for breakfast, a couple whole eggs with 2-3 egg whites, a grapefruit, and a 1/2 cup of oatmeal is only around 500 calories, but it should fill you up. Then consider maybe some greek yogurt as a snack, which is only an extra 150 calories. Now you are 1/3 of the way done with the day and you are only 650 calories in. The challenge is the leaner you get, the more uncomfortable it is to break to the next level. Just be very careful that your strength levels don’t go down and you are retaining your muscle mass as you take down the calories.

      3. profile avatar
        Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT May 30, 2012 - 18:54 #

        FYI, this research came out recently, further confirming what has been known for many years about the ability of eggs to satisfy – Egg Proteins For Breakfast Keeps You Feeling Full For Longer:
        “Individuals who consume egg proteins for breakfast are more likely to feel full during the day than those whose breakfasts contain wheat protein. Results from the study, conducted by Dr. Nikhil Dhurandhar, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Louisiana, USA, and colleagues were presented at the 19th European Congress on Obesity in Lyon, France.”

  8. profile avatar
    Paula May 25, 2012 - 11:43 #

    Hi Mark

    You’ve already hit the 4.5 rating, but since you’ve asked for feedback, there were two areas I was left with questions:

    Calorie cycling – Yes, you mentioned it, but barely, and there’s no helpful link as you have in other areas. I understand the general concept, but that’s about it. What’s low calorie? -20% of recommended? -30%? recommended, but you can splurge once a week?

    I also would have also liked a direct suggestion that we consider whether we’ve corrrectly assessed what our “ideal” weight should be. Sometimes plateaus are simply nature’s way of telling you that you’ve done about all that’s to be done for your body type/bone structure. Maybe this isn’t as prevalent in men, whom you target more, but too many women I know, who are already maybe a bit too lean, are convinced they need to lose another 10 lbs to reach their ideal.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT May 29, 2012 - 19:09 #

      @Paula – thanks for the feedback. I did intentionally leave out detail about carb/calorie cycling because I wanted to tackle it in more detail in another post then link to it. With that said, here’s a bit more detail. FYI, I gave this answer to a similar question on Men’s Fitness website:

      “There are many carb/calorie cycling frameworks and each varies depending on whether you are trying to build muscle, or lose fat. One of the most popular is 3 days low, one day high. There are a lot of factors to consider (body size etc) to come up with your carb breakdown, but one method during a cutting program is to eat one gram of carbs per pound of Lean Body Mass [bodyweight x (1- body fat percentage)] and double that number on your higher carb day. The challenge with the 3 low, 1 high framework is that it doesn’t fit neatly within a week. I personally prefer choosing 2 high carb days each week, one of which is on your most intense lifting day (such as legs), and the rest are low carb.

      Keep in mind that carbs are only part of the nutrition equation, because you still have to get the calories right, which is more important. In fact, the reason why carb cycling works is arguably not because you are varying carb intake, but because by decreasing carb intake you decrease calorie intake. A quick carb cycling tip is to follow a “carbohydrate tapering” approach where you eat more carbs in the morning and taper them throughout the day on your low carb days. There is no scientific proof this strategy helps you burn more fat, but it makes implementation much easier.” Now in terms of specific calorie levels, I would go something like 35% calorie deficit on your lower calorie days and 0% deficit on your higher calorie days (so you are eating the same amount of calories as you burn.

      Regarding ideal weight, I tried my best to answer your question in depth in the article “Ideal Body Weight Formula” which is based on body fat percentage, which I think is a very smart way to think about your weight. Certainly, some men/women have larger bone structures than others, which would affect the lean body mass value, but overall, it’s a very helpful framework and one that I recommend. So if you know your weight now, you have taken your body fat with a body fat caliper, then all you need to do is plug in your desired body fat to figure out how much more fat you need to lose. An ideal body fat calculator is on the way, but may not be for a couple months!

  9. profile avatar
    Liza May 25, 2012 - 12:34 #

    Thanks for this great article, Marc. It’s very helpful! To be honest, I gave it a rating of just shy of 5 stars because I would have loved to see some practical, easy, quick tips for Step 2 and Step 2. Perhaps something along these lines (because I believe they work and they’re something I can easily add to my day, but do need reminding to do):

    Quick tips to break a plateau (that have worked for me):
    – cut all carbs for a day or two: no fruit, no starchy vegetables; just lean protein and green vegetables (trace carbs). If you MUST have coffee/tea with milk, make that the exception. You WILL drop some weight — even if it’s water — which can be just the catalyst to implement other Steps.
    – have a cup of unsweetened green tea after every meal. make it a ritual. not only good for a nice, warm finish to a meal, but it’s full of good stuff that flushes out bad stuff.
    – make sure L-Carnitine is in your vitamin/supplement pack. it helps fat be used as energy.
    – get into bed an hour earlier, even if you are reading and not sleeping.
    – take a 20-minute brisk walk at least once a day, separate from and in addition to your regular workout.

    Marc, these are just my experience/tips, please correct as needed. I know I need some easy, practical things to implement to get me to the next level, and I hope these might be useful to others.

    And, I need to practice what I preach! ; )

    Thanks, again, for your important, excellent work helping us.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT May 26, 2012 - 11:08 #

      Thanks Liza for sharing your insights. Adding extra structure to a workout/nutrition regimen can be very effective to break a stubborn fat loss plateau. For me personally, as long as I create 1-2 nutrition spreadsheets with what I’m going to eat where I have protein/carbs/fat and calories neatly calculated, I continue making progress like clockwork. What I’ve found is the closer you get to where you want to be, or if you want to break through it, it requires more precision. Winging it doesn’t work for me – either with exercise, or nutrition. I don’t use a nutrition spreadsheet all the time in my normal day to day life, but in terms of busting through a plateau, I would definitely use it. FYI, I talk about the nutrition spreadsheet concept in more depth here – How to Get Ripped.

  10. profile avatar
    Liza May 25, 2012 - 12:35 #

    (I meant “Step 1 and Step 2” — typo). Also, I’d love to hear any quick tips from other people — what’s working for you?

  11. profile avatar
    Tracey May 25, 2012 - 13:09 #

    Thanks for such a great website! I wondered if u ever do one on one phone consults? I have been following program for months but am stil not losing in fact have gained. I am a in shape and young 49 yr old woman who has hormones that might be the culprit. Was thinking of trying carb cycling like Liza suggested above to try and turn on metabolism. I am 5′ 3, 124 pounds and about 21 % bf. Feel best at 117, 17% bf. Eating about 1200 to 1500 cal and workout 5 days a week. 2 lifting , 5 cardio mixed with HIT. Any help frok you or fellow followers would be great! Thank u!

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT May 29, 2012 - 19:18 #

      @Tracey – Unfortunately, I don’t do one-on-one phone calls at this time, but I’ll certainly let you know if that changes. I’ve been a bit overwhelmed managing my personal training practice along with writing and editing free articles and answering many great questions and comments on the site. I have considered creating a coaching service for people like yourself who need a bit more granular analysis. I offer it as part of my personal training practice and we also do one off fitness consultations in person in NYC. In terms of breaking through your plateau, not sure if you are drinking enough water and getting enough sleep. Same thing goes with stress. Some Yoga and meditation can make a difference. As long as I don’t get hit by the proverbial bus, we will be adding more articles on hormones and common hormonal imbalances that inhibit fat loss. My man John Leyva is particularly knowledgeable about this topic, so we need to bother him to write a post on it, like 5 hormones that sabotage fat loss, or something like that πŸ™‚ One more thing, doesn’t seem like you are very far away from your goal so keep up the good work.

  12. profile avatar
    Ray May 25, 2012 - 13:58 #

    Hahaha! Thanks for there almost prophetic article! 3 weeks and no weight loss. I’ll be sure to implement all your tips!

  13. profile avatar
    Paco May 25, 2012 - 18:37 #

    I would say that the article would be 5 if you’d add some links with more sources to keep on reading about fat loss plateau, stubborn fat and so on.
    You could link Lyle McDonald, Martin Berkhan, Brad Pillon or John Kiefer

    Anyway the article is useful and common sense.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT May 29, 2012 - 19:25 #

      @Paco – thanks for the feedback Paco. I’m particularly a fan of McDonald and have read over a lot of his stuff.

  14. profile avatar
    hayley May 26, 2012 - 04:57 #

    Loving this article. From experience with my plateau re-evaluation of the calories and making sure I drank plenty of water helped. Not sure how water helped, but it did.

    @Liza thank you for your tips too.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT May 26, 2012 - 11:31 #

      @Hayley – thanks for your thoughts. I’ve heard that before that water can help a lot. Many nutritionists swear by the strategy for their clients. As an aside, water is directly involved in the fat metabolism process – where body fat is broken down into fatty acids which are used by the body as energy.

  15. profile avatar
    Rich May 27, 2012 - 09:01 #

    Great article! As a registered dietitian looking to help my clients break through plateaus, your recommendations could not have come at a more timely manner! I have also read through some of the other comments which has help give me more ideas on how to help people. Your article also reinforced things i have learned and have been teaching my clients- which is always refreshing! Thanks Marc for your passion and commitment to helping others lose weight.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT May 28, 2012 - 12:05 #

      @Rich – Thank you Rich!

  16. profile avatar
    KEN May 27, 2012 - 21:16 #


    I give this article a 5! I am in a plateau, and I am now re-evaluating my calorie intake, because I think I was in a slight creep state. I was not putting on weight, but I was stuck at a weight. Also, I was wondering about the “re-feed.” When I hit a plateau for 2/3 weeks, I will take one day and eat a ton of food to hopefully jumpstart things again.

    The best point I think you make that nobody realizes is that the lighter you get, the slower weight loss is. On the flip side, as you get lighter, you can visually see the change in your body even if you only drop 1 or 2 lbs.

    Great Arcticle!!!

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT May 29, 2012 - 21:45 #

      @Ken – thanks Ken. Helping restart your metabolism with a re-feed can definitely make sense. A couple days of eating more calories (maintenance, or maintenance + a few hundred) may help make a difference.

  17. profile avatar
    Steph Jun 01, 2012 - 19:48 #

    This article is exacly what I have been going through. Last august 2011 I realised my health was taking a nose dive. I am a short girl and being at 242lbs was a major wake up call for me. So I saw a dietrition monthly and joined a gym. since then I have lost a total of 30lbs. My health has improved amazingly. But for the past few months I have been stuck In a plateau. I started pushing my workouts harder and doing more weight training. I managed to lose a couple pounds. However I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing by adding more weight training to my usualy intense cardio workouts. I do 40mins of cardio then 20mins of crunches, sit ups, weights and I usualy finish up with yoga stretches. I just feel like my body doesn’t want to lose anymore weight. What should I do with my work out to improve my odds? And my calorie intake is 80% of the time balanced. I do have a treat once a week( a cheat day).

    I do feel my strength improving significantly and my waist is still getting smaller. but the scale isint moving much. Will the weight loss eventualy just pick up if I continue? Thanks alot for your advice and the youtube videos have helped me a lot too! πŸ™‚

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jun 03, 2012 - 17:40 #

      @Steph – congrats on your success. If your weight isn’t going down but your waist is decreasing, that’s a very good sign. I certainly would not consider that a results plateau, even though technically it’s a weight loss plateau. I think making your cardio workouts more intense and doing more full body exercises can help. So a workout could be 30 minutes intense full body strength training combined with some HIIT training.

  18. profile avatar
    Becky Jun 06, 2012 - 17:54 #

    I lost about 40 pounds 5 years ago and have pretty much kept it off, but I am starting to notice my the scale number creeping up the last few months. I used to weight around 118-120, but now I can’t get under 125 lbs and it seems to all be going to the belly. I run 2-3 times a week and do interval training using the Insanity DVD set workouts.1-2 times a week. Could this be because my metabolism is slowing down due to menopause? I will be 50 in July and wonder if I need to cut my calories, beef up my workout or both.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jun 11, 2012 - 22:53 #

      @Becky – I’m going to see if our Technical Editor John Leyva can give you an answer. It sounds like your plateau is related to hormones, which is not simple to answer. As I mentioned in the article, we do plan on tackling the hormone questions in more depth, but they can be very complicated and difficult to pinpoint.

    2. profile avatar
      John Leyva Jul 10, 2012 - 23:20 #

      @Becky – This is hard to answer as there are a couple of different reasons why this may be happening. Here are some of my thoughts:
      A – As you age, your metabolism will definitely slow down, due to both a decrease in overall fat-burning hormones, but also a loss in muscle mass. Also, you didn’t mention whether or not you do any strength training workouts. I don’t consider the Insanity DVD’s strength training workouts, because at best they’re meant to be metabolic in nature and not a building up of strength. Strength training workouts are best at keeping your muscle, which has a direct impact on your metabolism and fat-burning hormones, especially as you age.
      B – Menopause will cause a decrease in estrogen/progesterone levels which can do a number of things and can be a article (if not a book) in its own right.
      C – Belly fat is generally due to an increase in visceral fat which is increased due to high cortisol levels (chronic stress, which can include constantly challenging workouts can increase cortisol levels).
      D – If I were you, I would start with adding dedicated strength training workouts (the BuiltLean Program can be a great option for you) while increasing the quality of calories you consume – more veggies, healthy protein sources, etc.
      Hope that helps.

  19. profile avatar
    Jeanice Jun 11, 2012 - 15:53 #

    Great Article! Ive stalled for 2 weeks and am awaiting my 3rd weigh in on Saturday. Im a former figure competitor so getting out of that mentality I need to do 2 hours of cardio to get lean is something I need to drop! Hopefully this week the scale is nice to me!

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jun 11, 2012 - 22:19 #

      @Jeanice – that sounds great. I have A LOT of respect for figure competitors and I have no doubt you’ll get through the plateau. I’ve certainly went through my bodybuilding/fitness model workout routine phase. Here’s an article you may anjoy – 7 Reasons NOT To Use A Fitness Model Workout Routine

  20. profile avatar
    donna Jun 15, 2012 - 08:51 #

    Hi I am actually writing this for my daughter she is 65kgs 168cm high and has been trying to lose weight for 10 weeks now. she is on around 1300 calories a day and exercises doing cardio and weights 5 times a week for around 50-70 minutes. She has not lost anything at all she has actually gained 2 kg we are at a loss as to what to do now?? should she up her calorie intake?

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jun 18, 2012 - 18:01 #

      @donna – that’s a long time not to lose any weight. I’m going to speak with one of my associates and see if he can help out. Sounds like your daughter may have some type of hormonal issue, or simply has an unusually slow metabolism.

  21. profile avatar
    MommieRed Jun 18, 2012 - 17:17 #

    This is perfect πŸ™‚ I too..and at a weight loss stall..and I believe I am in starvation mode πŸ™ I have been a strict low carber since November..and it has allowed me to drop 60 pounds..but the last 25? HA! I have been stuck for 2 1/2 months. Very committed exerciser..1hr cardio at least 6 weeks..with weight/core/leg work alternate days 5 times week. I started today on a carb cycle. It is an EXTREME jump in calories on the high days and I am very nervous… Fingers crossed… Weight loss isnt about exercising and lowering calories it? My next a doc visit. .but I’m much prefer it be too low of calories. We are so programmed to think the lower amounts you eat…the more you will lose. I’m still learning this weight loss game πŸ˜‰

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jun 18, 2012 - 18:54 #

      @MommieRed – Thanks for your comment. Check back and let us know how it goes.

  22. profile avatar
    tina Jul 01, 2012 - 23:46 #

    hi, well i decided to start a diet because i was just so fed up with the way i looked. Everybody always told me i have a gorgeous face, but i want the body to go with it. Im 5’2 and a teenager and last summer was the heaviest i have ever been. By April this year i was 232 pounds! SO i decided to do something now its july 1 and i am down to 187 pounds! which is great but im so upset. i have hit a plateau and i just can loss weight, its horrible. I only take in 1000 calories a day and lose about 400 calories when i exercise which is everyday for about 1 hour.My goal weight is 108 pounds to be average and i need it fast. I need help!

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jul 02, 2012 - 21:37 #

      @tina – I would recommend following the advice I give in the article and implement them. In addition, if it’s been less than a few weeks, your probably not in a plateau. Also, consider drinking plenty or water, because sometimes that can have an impact. As I stated in the article, weight loss plateaus are completely normal.

  23. profile avatar
    Dave Jul 02, 2012 - 07:45 #

    Just a little whining here… went from 233.6 (old electronic scale, since broken, replaced with balance beam) to 229 within 20 days, then the next 40 days just oscillated between about 227 and 230. After a lifetime (I’m 65) of failing at every single attempt to eat less, I now refuse to attempt to “diet”, and instead just crank up the exercise. I’m up to 1200 calories on the elliptical most days I exercise, and I exercise most days, just taking a break yesterday after 7 straight days. Have stopped looking at the immobile scale until I accumulate another 10,000 calorie deficit since my last weighing 11 days ago, should happen later this week. If no change, I’ll increase exercise until it does. Like I said, just whining, but after accumulating 33,000 calories of deficit, which should have equaled about 9.5 lbs of loss, and only losing 6, my body owes me 3+ lbs of loss, and I just feel like whining a bit. And sign me… grimly determined.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jul 02, 2012 - 21:52 #

      @Dave – Sometimes you gotta let it out! Persistence always wins. For a little extra motivation, check out this post where Marty lost 150lb and is now ripped!

      1. profile avatar
        Dave Jul 03, 2012 - 12:16 #

        Hi Marc,

        The impossible continues, as the the calories required to lose a pound is working out to something like 5200 since I started trying to lose weight, and about 7200 calories per pound over the last couple weeks. I wouldn’t mind an opinion as to how this could possibly happen, or whether you’ve heard of any similar occurrences. I’m counting the calories I eat, without attempting to much restrict them. My metabolism, according to the calculator in WEB-MD, should be about 2270 or so for a 65 year old guy and setting the activity box at inactive. I’ve been putting the calories I eat over that into the spreadsheet as offsets from it, and then the calories I exercise, about 1000 most days, and… I take about 7200 calories of deficit like that to lose a lb. Thought it was supposed to be 3500. Going to take me 2 years to lose the 46 more lbs I’m trying to lose unless something happens… Any ideas?

      2. profile avatar
        Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jul 05, 2012 - 13:28 #

        @Dave – 1lb of fat has approximately 3500 calories. I would consider double checking your calorie intake to see if that’s working. Also focusing on whole, natural foods can help. Finally, if you have been eating a calorie deficit, exercising effectively for a couple months and nothing is working, it may be worth seeing your doctor to get your hormones checked out (i.e. testosterone, cortisol etc.). Also, you may consider getting your metabolism checked out using a metacheck analyzer.

      3. profile avatar
        Dave Jul 06, 2012 - 00:47 #

        Hi Marc,

        I think I’ve figured it out.

        I believe that, instead of following the rule-of-thumb 10X my body weight for my metabolism, I believe I am consuming quite a bit less due to my inactivity. I think I’m close to basal rate, because a few weeks ago, I started “staying off” a foot that has a heel spur, that I’m trying to get to heal. Doing therapy with an orthopedic therapy unit, but otherwise, I’m sitting mostly. That’s the key, I think – extreme inactivity.

        I’ve corrected for this in my spreadsheet, and now the numbers track much better. The spreadsheet is now tracking my real weight.

        Cure for losing weight will be to consume about 400 calories less, or exercise 400 calories more per day. Either will be hard to do. But i know how to get there now, I’m pretty sure. I could go back to doing yard work, too, that I stopped doing in an effort to help my heel, heal.

      4. profile avatar
        Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jul 09, 2012 - 22:30 #

        Sounds great, Dave. Yes, inactivity can have a major impact on total calorie burn, so definitely want to take that into account.

  24. profile avatar
    Anderson Warrick Jul 02, 2012 - 13:35 #

    Wow, great article.Much thanks again. Much obliged.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jul 02, 2012 - 21:53 #

      Thanks, Aderson.

  25. profile avatar
    Diandra Jul 12, 2012 - 11:51 #

    YES! Just what I needed. I thought it was just me but now I see this is a known issue. I’ve been stuck at 180lb for MONTHS. I’m a 24yr old girl that started to lose weight about 3yrs ago, I started at 215lb. I am so happy about my accomplishments but I want to lose more, I still have alot of body fat I want to shed but it’s just clinging to my body. Last time I got my body fat measured was on 1/30/12, I had 37% 184lb.
    I know something for sure, i dont eat enough and thats because I don’t like veggies and at days I’m just fed up and rather starve than eat vegetables (i get nauseous).
    I guess I’ll have to pay the doc a visit and get my hormones checked.
    I’ve been told I have to stop with all the cardio I do cuz its not helping me any longer and start weight lifting…what can you tell me about that?
    Oh and I just learned something new, drinking water helps with water retention…nice.

    would really appreciate some extra tips.
    Thanks Marc for the time put into these articles.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jul 12, 2012 - 16:59 #

      @Diandra – Happy to hear you have had some great success losing weight. Congrats. John had some interesting thoughts to share in his comment to Becky here. I do think strength training/interval training can be beneficialy from a hormonal perspective. The challenge with strength training is it can be difficult to learn. Think about strength training in terms of movement patterns:

      1) Squat
      2) Lunge
      3) Push
      4) Pull
      5) Twist

      For more, check out this workout, which is an example – 20 Minute Circuit Training Workout. Regarding interval training, you can do it, you just need to be careful and choose activities that make sense for your fitness level. So a workout could be 20-30 minutes of strength training followed by 10-15 minutes of interval training. It’s a very solid workout that can help maximize fat burn and it’s the same framework I use for the workouts in my BuiltLean Program.

  26. profile avatar
    Amy B Aug 09, 2012 - 09:38 #


    About two years ago I hired a trainer and started a new hormone therapy (thyroid, adrenal, progesterone, etc. too low). After years of trying to lose the baby weight from two pregnancies, I started losing weight. By October of last year, I was down to 145lbs from 178 and in fantastic shape. I even competed in my first duathlon. The weight loss stopped so I took a short break in December to just relax after obsessing about my diet, exercise, and weight for years. I got right back into my grueling 4-6 day a week workout but started a med for anxiety. Between January and now, I have gained back 10lbs of the weight I lost. I have working out almost daily for 1-1.5 hours and consuming 1600-1800 calories a day for the past 6 weeks only to have the scale creep up another 2lbs. I am in excellent shape with great muscle tone and can run the hills around here for miles. I don’t get it. I eat really well, drink tons of water, exercise like a mad woman and the body fat isn’t going anywhere. My husband is concerned and doesn’t want me to drop my calories to 1300-1500 because of my high levels of activity (I never sit down). I just want to get this extra body fat off and finally start looking how I feel (in shape). What would you suggest?

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Aug 16, 2012 - 08:46 #

      @Amy B – It’s a really tough call because meds etc. can definitely affect hormones and your ability to lose fat. I’ve seen it happen many times, even with some of our training clients in my training practice. I’m not sure I could suggest anything other than finding a qualified fitness/nutrition professional (I understand not easy to find) who could do a thorough assessment. Eating less calories may in fact help, but you need to be careful and pay attention to your energy levels. Good luck!

  27. profile avatar
    Colleen Aug 09, 2012 - 22:54 #

    So this was so very helpful ! But my question is how do I determine if m in starvation mode?

  28. profile avatar
    Colleen Aug 09, 2012 - 22:56 #

    I’ll post my weight & activity if u need it I JUST NEED HELP IM GAINING INSTEAD of losing which has me thinking I may be not eating enough

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Aug 16, 2012 - 07:01 #

      @Colleen – It sounds like it may be worth setting up an appointment with a nutritionist/doctor to go over your nutrition/exercise habits and get your metabolism checked out. There is a metacheck analyzer that analyzes your metabolic rate.

  29. profile avatar
    Mark Aug 10, 2012 - 23:48 #

    Hey Marc, I’m the same Mark that commented up above. This has got to be one of the best articles on the site. I keep coming back to it. I’ve been stalled out at 175 for 3 weeks now but have lost a quarter inch off my waist. I have to remind myself that the tape measure change counts as progress, too.

    After rereading this article I think I can attribute the plateau to not recalculating my calorie needs, not drinking enough water, and letting the calorie creep come into play. So thanks again for the great article!

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Aug 16, 2012 - 07:18 #

      @Mark – Really happy to hear that! Thanks for the kudos.

  30. profile avatar
    Will Aug 14, 2012 - 12:19 #

    Hey Marc,

    I just stumbled across this article and I want to congratulate you on a really great job. I especially appreciate that you tried to explain how plateaus can occur even when you ARE sticking to your diet. Even though you say calorie creep is usually to blame, you also left open the possibility that that’s not always the only explanation. Conversely, the article on WebMD has 10 tips for beating a plateau, and ALL 10 are wholly based on the assumption that plateaus occur only because folks stop following their diet regimens as closely. I found that incredibly annoying–in a way it assumes we’re too dumb to monitor our own intake without 10 reminders.

    Anyway, thanks so much for the good ideas. I’ve gone from an ex-athletes extra-padded 225-lb physique to a much fitter 198, but the weight loss has completely stalled even while following my diet and workout regimen JUST as closely. I think shedding another 10-15 would be optimal (I might be around that 20% plateau you mentioned. After reading your article, I think the reason must be that my metabolism has slowed either because I’m not as big now, or because I’m flat out eating too little (or a combo of both). I’m gonna try upping the exercise to another level and chugging more water.

    Thanks again!!

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Aug 16, 2012 - 07:45 #

      @Will – Thanks Will. I appreciate the comment, good luck!

  31. profile avatar
    Amanda Aug 14, 2012 - 21:44 #

    Great article! I am going to take all of this into consideration when I rev up my routine the next few weeks. I’m 24 years old, 5’5, and currently hovering at 119 lbs. I know you may think, why do you need to lose anymore weight!? I was 130 this time last year and pushed myself extremely hard to get where I am now. I have maybe 1 or 2 full pounds left of belly fat that I’m DYING to get rid of! My legs are nice and muscular, arms are toned and progressing, abs are definitely there but are still covered by this layer of fat I’ve been carrying my whole life. I know I should keep a food journal but just never do… I think it’s time to start! This article really helped me understand that in spite of the fact that I do great things for my body, this is normal and I CAN get out of it! THANK YOU! πŸ™‚

  32. profile avatar
    Baak Aug 23, 2012 - 08:53 #

    I’ve been losing weight since may roughly, and I’ve gone from roughly 190 to now, around 164. My problem is, I’ve been hovering around 165-164 since 4th of August, and my caloric intake has been around 1500. I eat healthy and on the whole I think my calorie calculations are accurate, I log everything. What do you think I should do?

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Aug 23, 2012 - 10:25 #

      @Baak – Tough to say. I’m not sure I could tell you anything more than what the article says. From the little information I know about you, I would likely stick with what you are doing and give it a little more time.

  33. profile avatar
    Lee Sep 01, 2012 - 20:02 #

    Hello Marc,
    I came to your website on a website search and have read almost all the links and comments on here. You sir are a credit to all who are in need of advice. I see that you reply to many people who ask for your advice. I am a male who is 5’5 weighs 176 pounds, i go to the gym three times a week for cardio and go on the bike for 20 minutes, the rower for 20, then swim for 20 minutes. The other three days i lift weights in the hope to manipulate the muscle and not let it get taken in the weight loss. I have been intermittent fasting (20-4) eating from 12 noon to 4pm for tree months. I always do my work outs from 9am – 11:30am. In my four hour window of eating i consume around 1400 calories . Around 130g protein, 175g carbs, 30g fat and 21g fiber.
    I have done many online calculations on body fat % and lean body fat/weight.

    It all adds to me getting to 155 pounds. I started this fat loss in May and have lost 42 pounds in that time but have reached my plateau. I would like to lose 20 more pounds and break this plateau but the questions are – Is my calorie intake sufficient for fat loss? Is my goal to lose weight also restricting my gain in muscle? I have a cheat day on Saturday and my calories on a Sunday do differ from my weekly intake but i do not abuse the intake on calories. Any advice would be gratefully appreciated. Lee from Derby in the UK.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Sep 05, 2012 - 14:38 #

      @Lee – I would say “Yes” to your question about your diet affecting your ability to build muscle. Generally speaking, you must eat more calories than you burn along with plenty of protein to build muscle. Building muscle is very difficult in my opinion, more so than losing fat. In terms of your plateau, it’s really hard for me to offer any more suggestions other than those I already have in the article. Also, congrats on your impressive results.

  34. profile avatar
    Jean Sep 03, 2012 - 10:16 #

    The article is currently rated at 4.5 out of 5, I rated it a 5. You hit the possible causes, the explanations, behind the causes, next steps, and encouraging notes. Given “article” paramenters, there isn’t a lot more to add other than individual questions for specific issues (which is tough to isolate for the masses).

    The additional in-depth how-tos are in the 20 page guide that you provide free and have a link for.

    I am 5’1″, 106-109 lbs in any hour on any given day. Weight is not the issue for me, body fat is. My husband is 5’10”, 268 lbs (from 288 lbs 5 weeks ago). He has worked on weight at various committment levels for decades. This article and, more importantly, the guide are as pertinent to me as it is to him. Thank you for both bodies of work. They are truly valuable .

    I hope you are getting some deserved commercial success from your efforts.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Sep 05, 2012 - 14:41 #

      @jean – Thank you very much for the kind words regarding the website! It really means a lot.

  35. profile avatar
    Alexandria Sep 03, 2012 - 20:00 #

    This is a great article! Thank you! I was elated when I achieved 50% of my weight loss goal … and then I promptly hit a plateau. At first it was so easy – like putting butter into a frying pan, the pounds just melted away. My workouts have become progressively more intense and longer lasting, but I enjoy them. But barring a ridiculous 5-hour workout, it seems like nothing works anymore! When I reduce my calorie intake, my body makes me feel terribly hungry. I know that this is because it wants to maintain its current weight, and the hunger pains are sometimes too hard to resist. At times like this I use my exercise regimen to negate the effects of food when I’m unable to reduce my intake (although now that I’m writing this down, I can see the folly in it). From your article, it seems the route I should try is to focus more on calorie intake and less on exercise as a deterrent, and to really use some mental energy (rather than physical energy) to adjust myself to a reduced caloric intake. If only exercise were everything…

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Sep 05, 2012 - 14:45 #

      @alexandria – yes, I think that’s a good idea. Keep in mind the quality of calories has a large impact on how full you are after eating. As an example, 250 calories worth of a chicken breast will fill you up far more than 250 calories worth of a doughnut. So my personal nutrition strategy is to eat nutritious food that is not very calorie dense, so I’m able to eat a lot of food that is very satisfying without eating too many calories. Also, keep in mind thirst vs. hunger can be tricky. Sometimes drinking a glass of water can stave off a hunger pain! For more information, check out this article on how to stop food cravings.

  36. profile avatar
    Cindy Sep 04, 2012 - 09:56 #


    I am 55 years old and started on a diet in January. My starting weight was 170. I started a low calorie diet, with a lot of veggies and low calorie protein and lost steadily for 5 months. I am now at 145 lbs. I am stuck, and have been for four months! I want to lose another 15 lbs. I have asthma and copd so do not exercize at all. I do stand for 8 hours daily at my job. How can I break this plateau, I think I may be eating too little, and frequently do not eat all day? Help, please!

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Sep 05, 2012 - 14:57 #

      @cindy – I really don’t knot of a good solution for you. Losing any more weight without exercising my not be such a good idea, because you may strip your body of muscle it needs to function. I never recommend anyone attempt to lose weight without exercising because of muscle possibly being stripped away. Of course, your situation is unique, so I would check in with your doctor to see what he/she says.

  37. profile avatar
    Samantha Sep 06, 2012 - 21:04 #

    This was everything I needed to hear right now. After losing 60 pounds by the time my baby was 6 months old, I haven’t lost anything in over 2 months. You just validated everything I was already telling myself. I need to kick up my workout and pay closer attention to calories. Ive been slacking and I still have 20 pounds to go! I was just doing the recommended cutting 300 calories and burning 300 calories to burn 1 or 2 pounds a week and I think it’s time take it up a notch. My goal was and is 80 pounds in a year and I think I can still do it!

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Sep 07, 2012 - 13:06 #

      @Samatha – Sounds great, Samantha. Good luck!

  38. profile avatar
    G.R. Sep 10, 2012 - 10:13 #

    Hi Marc, Very useful information! I am in week 3 of total body conditioning with cross training 2x per week to build muscle and I do cardio for an hour+ 6 days a week. I have only lost 3lbs since starting, although my jeans are so much looser and my body shape is changing. I am so discouraged. I don’t understand why the scale won’t budge with all my hard work. =( I eat very healthily. Lean protein, veggies, fruits, etc. Is my body confused with my drastic exercise regimen? Usually when I start a weight loss program, I will lose 5-6lbs during the first couple of weeks ~without~ long cardio sessions. Now I’m working out vigorously with no results. HELP!

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Sep 12, 2012 - 12:13 #

      @G.R. – the article is about weight loss plateaus, but yet you haven’t hit a plateau, you are getting results. I wouldn’t be concerned. If you are losing much more than 1.0% of your body weight in fact per week, I would bet money it’s most likely muscle, or water. 1lb per week is a solid pace of fat loss that most bodybuilders and fitness models shoot for as well.

  39. profile avatar
    steve Cameron Sep 10, 2012 - 18:57 #

    I’m glad I found your article. I am training for a climb up Kilimanjaro, but recently have hit a plateau.

    I’ve been working out since Jan (2012), and I had lost about 27 pounds by June (Started at 257 lb). I continued to work out between June – July ( 45 min, 4- 5 times a week) but the weight wasn’t coming off (too much beer and burgers probably). Aug I started to get serious again and I lost about 12 pound in 2 weeks, but for about 3 weeks now I have not lost a pound.

    I am keeping a food and excercise diary and I am not cheating. I’m eating about 1600 calories a day, and doing 2 to 2.5 hours of cardio daily and burning about 1800 – 2200 calories. My food usually consists of 45% carbs, 30% protein, and 25% fats. I’m also taking daily multi vitamins to ensure I’m getting the required nutrition. I am drinking lots of water (more then 10 glasses daily).

    I have not had any problems with will power, but I am getting frustrated that my extra cardio efforts are not showing results on the scale. I know I am getting much stronger, but is it possible that I could be adding that much muscle to offset any fat loss or could it be something else all together?

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Sep 12, 2012 - 12:18 #

      @Steve – It’s quite possible you are retaining water, or your cortisol levels could be really high if you are not getting enough sleep but really pushing yourself in the gym. I would consider doing higher intensity interval training cardio for shorter periods to see how your body reacts. Other than that, just keep up the good work. It’s only a matter of time before you start heading in the right direction again. Congrats on your success so far.

  40. profile avatar
    Gabe Sep 11, 2012 - 22:51 #

    Great article. I’ve lost a lot of weight in the last 4 months with plenty of diet and exercise and just ran into a brick wall for the last 3 weeks now. I’m still bust my butt with absolutely ZERO results and ts driving me nuts. I track my calories with the eye of a hawk so I know that’s not an issue. This article sure makes a ton of sense and I’ll be putting them to work ASAP. I’m guessing I might be falling under the water retention issue cause I know I’m not intaking as much of it as I should. Seeing how that is counterproductive hopefully that’ll do the trick. THANKS

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Sep 12, 2012 - 12:27 #

      @Sounds great, Gabe. Keep us posted!

  41. profile avatar
    Bill Sep 13, 2012 - 11:05 #

    Hi Marc, great article! I’m currently struggling with a weight loss plateau that I have been trying to break for the last two months.

    I used to weigh 260lbs back in November (2011-11), as of today I’m about 185 (2012-09). I worked my way up to running 3-10km 5 days a week and lifting weights once or twice a week. I used to lift weights 3-4 times a week but have supplanted this with running. I’m 6′-1″, 35 years old.

    As far as diet goes I’ve been a vegan for the last 15 years, I don’t eat out and always cook my own food — my diet is mostly raw these days. Calorie creep is *not* a problem with me.

    I use a website to track what I eat, it suggested 1300 calories a day for a 2lb per week weight loss. I add onto this the calories burned from my running. (I use a Garmin Forerunner)

    I used your article “How Many Calories Should You Eat To Lose Weight” and came out with 1,813 calories per day: 2590 (185*14) – 777 (30%) = 1813. A 500 calorie difference!

    All the fat has disappeared from my body with the exception of a little bit under my chin, a little bit on my inner thighs and the rest in my gut, it’s huge!

    I have noticed I get fatigued in the middle of the day like clockwork this has never happened to me before. I’m looking for conformation that I have hit a weight loss plateau and increasing my caloric intake will get my metabolism + weight loss back into gear. Thank you very much!

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Sep 15, 2012 - 17:30 #

      @Bill – Congrats on your success, that’s awesome! It does sound like you are not eating enough calories. Very low calorie diets work well when you have a lot of fat to lose. Now, you are leaner, so I think 1300 calories is too low for someone your activity level and weight. I’ve found 1800 to be the sweet spot for most men around your height/weight. At worst, you should have a lot more energy throughout the day. I find your comment that you don’t have enough energy concerning and an indication you probably need more calories. You’ve done a heck of a job, keep it up. Keep in mind the leaner you get, it gets progressively harder to lose fat without losing muscle, so it’s imperative you keep your muscle.

  42. profile avatar
    Bill Sep 13, 2012 - 11:17 #

    I forgot to add: I eat around 100-120g of protein per day in order to build muscle and help with recovery after runs. Will this make a difference in getting out / into a weight loss plateau? Thank you!

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Sep 15, 2012 - 17:33 #

      @Bill – I think it’s a smart nutrition strategy to help you lose more fat because protein helps satisfy your appetite, has a high thermic effect, and helps to retain your muscle mass. I don’t think there is much chance to build muscle on a hypocaloric diet as you have been using.

  43. profile avatar
    jason Sep 17, 2012 - 13:12 #

    This is where i am right now. i’ll report back in 3 weeks to let you know if your steps helped.

  44. profile avatar
    Gabe Sep 19, 2012 - 13:34 #

    @ Marc-I just wanted to follow up with an update. From the day after I posted my comments I utilized a mix of multiple tips from your article. I increased my water intake to a proper level. I re-evaluated my workout which I have to say was a little difficult cause I felt like it was adequate for my needs. I’m not working out for a longer period of time. It’s just different. Also I took into account my caloric intake. I actually upped it by a few hundred calories with more protein and changed my consumption schedule throughout the day besides pre and post workout. As of this morning I’ve dropped 10.5 lbs. Which I know isn’t typical for such a short period but after stale mating for such a long time I’m sure that weights just been waiting to come off. Thanks Marc!

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Sep 19, 2012 - 15:14 #

      @Gabe – That’s HUGE! Congrats!

  45. profile avatar
    Jessica Oct 13, 2012 - 01:45 #

    Hi Marc,

    I am 22 years old. I weigh 50kg, and I am 162cm. My ideal weight goal is 45kg. I lost 4kg in the past 4 months, which isnt very much. I workout at the gym 5-7 times per week with moderate activity level. I use the treadmill, ellipitcal, and stair machine for 30min, and I do floor exercies for 30min to complete my day workout. I follow the food pyramid, and I eat three small meals per day. I eat a big meal for breakfast, moderate amount for luch, and a light dinner. I try not to eat past 6pm; otherwise, I will end up gaining weight. After reading your article, I can say I have reached my weight loss plateau. Do you have any suggestions?



    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Oct 18, 2012 - 17:25 #

      @Jessica – It sounds like you are already pretty lean, not sure how you figured out your “ideal” weight is 100lb (45kg). I have an article about ideal weight you can check out here: Ideal Body Weight Formula. Also, regarding not losing more weight, it’s ultimately about calorie balance. If sounds like you are exercising a lot, but you may need to take your calories down lower from where they are right now. On average, people overestimate the calories they eat. Good luck!

  46. profile avatar
    Kristin Oct 15, 2012 - 06:16 #

    HI Marc, article is a 5 for me. Quick question. I started at 272 pounds and I am now at 206, I have been stuck there for 3 weeks, I do weight watchers and I am at 30 points, we get an extra 49 points per week but I never use them. I work out 4 times a week, and keep to my points, I tried the calorie cycling but doesnt seem to shift anything. Am I eating too few calories or eating too much fat/ I eat nuts and mackeral and salmon so maybe I am eating too much of those? I let myself have a small chocolate treat 3 times a week and I only eat oatmeal, wheat free pasta and wholewheat pitta breads and brown rice. What can I do to get myself losing again?

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Oct 19, 2012 - 20:20 #

      @Kristin – As I told @donna, my guess is you are eating more calories than you think. In the cast majority of cases, taking down your calories lower will help you lose more weight as long as you continue working out, which can help you keep your metabolism humming. Eating fatty foods makes it quite difficult in my opinion to keep calories lower, but a handful of almonds can certainly work. Congrats on your success so far!

  47. profile avatar
    Kristin Oct 15, 2012 - 06:17 #

    Oh and Marc, 30 weight watchers points are about 1200 calories

  48. profile avatar
    Donna Oct 16, 2012 - 00:30 #

    Hi Marc!
    I am going to get right to the point. I was 258 pounds when i started my weight loss 3 yrs ago. I was 183 but gained 4 pounds back to 187. Lost this weight mainly from counting calories, averaging in the 1400’s. I had started walking on my treadmill last September 2011 when 2 months later it crapped out on me. So for the last year i didnt have one to excersize on. I stuck to calorie counting just the same and continued to lose but at a slower pace. This September 2012 i was finally able to buy a new treadmill. I started walking again twice a day, 30 mins each, 5 days a week (Mon thru Fri). Id walk in the morning and then again in the evening. After the first 4-5 days of doing this, i gained 4 pounds. 3 weeks later it hadnt come off. I then cut back to 3 days a week only walking 30 mins instead, hoping that that would make the 4 pounds come back off. Im not seeing much of a result right now but i just started the 3 days a week program. I am 42 yrs old at 5′ 5″. My goal weight is 140. I am now 185 as of this morning. My fear with adding the walking along with counting calories, my body is now holding onto fat and fluid?? I eat anywhere from 1200 to 1500 calories, averaging in the 1400’s. I dont know if i should wait it out and see what happens or change my routine somehow. Am i doing something wrong? I would appreciate any advice you can give me! Thanks so much :o)

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Oct 19, 2012 - 20:08 #

      @Donna – The chances are you are likely eating more calories than you think. There is a law of thermodynamics, where if you eat less calories than you burn, you lose weight. It’s literally a law of nature. The problem is that sometimes the amount of calories you burn can drop a lot. I would consider doing circuit training in addition to the walking and be vigilant with your calories. Without any resistance training, your metabolism will likely slow down and you will lose muscle. Not a good situation!

  49. profile avatar
    Adam Oct 17, 2012 - 17:56 #

    I was 230 Lbs and 6 months later im at 180. i would like to get to 160 but can not seem to break the 180. i go to the gym 4 days a week and I work in a warehouse lifting stuff all day. I ride my bike 3 days a week and always out doing something to get my heart rate up. Any helpful tips. I dont over eat and try to stick to a protein diet. ie low carb.


    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Oct 19, 2012 - 20:28 #

      @Adam – My best tip would be to add more precision to your nutrition regimen. This is how bodybuilders and athletes get very low body fat percentages. I wrote more about it here – How to Get Ripped.

  50. profile avatar
    jeannett Oct 18, 2012 - 14:38 #

    Hey Mark – great article. I started my weight loss in March at 241 and 5’7.5″ and am now down to 195. I started Couch to 5K running program then also and run 3 times a week (can now run 5 miles) and do strength training 2-3 times a week. I have hit a plateau at 195 for the past two month. I track my food. My macros are at 40/30/30 carbs/fat/protein and log my food diligently on I have been going by my TDEE at 2210 then taking off 500 calories as a deficit so my starting calories for the day is around 1710. I eat my exercise calories back because I’ve already taken into consideration that I’m at a deficit of 500/day anyway.

    Should I be eating more? I’m trying to lift heavier and I’m fitting a lot better into my clothes (from a 20W to a 12/14) but this plateau is frustrating me. Hope you can help!

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Oct 19, 2012 - 20:32 #

      @Jeannett – In my opinion, I generally recommend eating less. Given you have some more fat to lose, going down to 1500, or even lower can do the trick. The idea is you don’t want to be too hungry though. At the end of the day, as I’ve said many times in this thread, if you eat less calories than you burn, it’s a law of nature that you will lose weight. The challenge for some people is the metabolism slows down as you eat less food and there are other reasons like medications etc. that may slow down metabolism, but generally speaking, consistently eating less calories should help you start losing weight again.

  51. profile avatar
    Lamiaa Rifaat Ismail Nov 05, 2016 - 14:21 #

    I started my diet on the 16th of July 2016. l am eating lean protein and vegetables, l do not eat any sugar or rice or pastas or cakes or fat or oil or drink any feezy drinks, or juice. I lost 25kg in three months then I hit a plateau. I would to lose more kilos.

    1. profile avatar
      Kristin Rooke, CPT Nov 07, 2016 - 16:19 #

      It sounds like you’ve done a lot of work to change your nutrition habits and eat healthier. That’s awesome, so keep up the good work! As far as overcoming your plateau, if you’re not currently exercising, I would recommend adding at least 3 full body strength workouts to your routine. Performing strength circuits is a highly effective way to maintain lean muscle while losing body fat. Give that a try! If you have more questions, feel free to reach out to [email protected] and one of our elite BuiltLean coaches will be able to provide you with more individualized advice. Hope that helps!

      -Kristin, BuiltLean Coach & Managing Editor

  52. profile avatar
    Jeffrey T2D Jan 29, 2017 - 13:11 #

    I ran across this article today as I have hit a Stubborn stall. I am a T2D and follow Dr Bernstein’s philosophy of eating. I also utilize Dr Jason Fung’s intermittent fasting as I eat on a 17:7 time period. Many things in your article are just so wrong and so out-dated. For example, the CICO method (Calories In, Calories Out) which has been debunked time and time again, starting with Gary Taube’s “Good Calories, Bad Calories” and “Why We Get Fat”.
    In reading Dr Fung, the Diet Doctor and Dr Kraft, it appears the main culprit for a stall, or plateau, is the amount of insulin your body has floating around.
    What think ye about this?
    I think you should rewrite this post to bring it current with today’s knowledge and science.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Feb 05, 2017 - 17:35 #

      Hey Jeff, calories in calories out is still accurate and up to date. The quality of the calories AND how many calories both matter. The idea that calories don’t matter is factually incorrect. If you have a study that shows participants not losing weight with a calorie deficit, please do share. Calorie deficit = weight loss.

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