The Sticking Points – Weight Loss Plateaus

Sep 1, 2017

By Dr. Rhonda Simpson, MD, CPC

Everyone who has tried to lose weight is familiar with this scenario: you start out like gangbusters. Your refrigerator and pantry are full of healthy veggies, lean proteins, and even some healthy fats like nuts and avocados. You make sure you eat your meals on time and plan to take your lunch every day. You never miss a day of exercise whether it’s an hour in the gym or walking at noon. You are weighing yourself at least once a day (and if truth be told, sometimes two or three times a day); you’re excited to watch the scale numbers as they drop.

And then it happens. It comes to a screeching halt. The numbers stop dropping. You wait a day and step on the scale again. Nothing. Perhaps a week goes by with no change… You feel frustrated and disappointed. You start thinking to yourself, “What’s the point?” “What am I doing wrong?” You feel ready to give up altogether.

Hitting a plateau is common. It can feel so frustrating! Know that you are not alone in this stage of weight loss! So what are we going to do? First thing; remember to stop and BREATHE! Remember that your body was designed to remain in balance. Your recent weight loss has thrown off that balance. Centuries of evolution to prevent starvation have resulted in a beautiful web- like structure of hormones that works to restore your body to homeostasis. Those hormones include the hormone leptin (which is partly responsible for helping you to feel full), ghrelin (which makes you feel hungry), cortisol (which increases fat stores and increases under stress), and insulin (which assists in energy metabolism). In addition to these hormones, a number of vitamins and minerals play an effect depending on current energy needs.

This complex web of hormones and nutrients ensure that you have the energy you need when you need it. How beautiful is that? Please spend some time appreciating the complexity of your body, and the fact that if you’re hitting a plateau everything is working as it should!

Now that you’ve stopped to breathe and recognize that our bodies are functioning as designed, what to do next? It’s time for some reflection. If you keep a food journal, take time to review it. Has anything shifted since you first changed your eating habits? Are you perhaps going out to eat more frequently? Perhaps that occasional cookie has become more common? It’s also time to look at your exercise habits. Are you still as active as you were at the beginning of your lifestyle changes?

Are you sleeping well? Perhaps the most overlooked reason for a weight loss plateau is actually increased stress, and therefore increased cortisol levels. Stress management in the form of mindfulness, other forms of meditation, yoga, or regular breathing practices such as heart-centered breathing can play a crucial role in lowering your cortisol levels.

It’s also important to decrease your weigh-ins. This seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? But consider this: we can to be addicted to the numbers on the scale. What do you feel as the number goes up? Down? The negative self-talk that often accompanies a plateau is stressful. It can cause increased cortisol, and therefore actually contribute to some weight gain! Weighing yourself daily to three times a day or more? Decrease the frequency to once per week. Remember that the weight loss will happen in its time. Continue your healthy lifestyle changes and your body will resume its weight loss.

So, if you find yourself at a sticking point during your weight loss journey, remember the following:

  1. All is as it should be.
  2. Don’t panic, stop and breathe!
  3. Review your food diary, exercise plan, your sleep, and most importantly your stress management, to see if anything has changed.
  4. Make time every day for play, laughter, and joy! If you are feeling overwhelmed please remember to reach out for help!!

Dr. Rhonda Simpson, MD, CPC










Join Dr. Rhonda during the September 2017 Mindfulness Coaching Call, or sign up for one of her classes: Mindful Eating: Mindful Life and Coaching Mindful Weight Loss!

Click here to read her full bio.

1 Comment

  1. Helane Fronek

    Loved this post! You are so right, and obviously know this territory. I appreciate your wise, loving approach and reminder of the wisdom of the body as well as the importance of maintaining our presence and mindfulness practices during this process. Thank you!

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