Your Plan

Weight Loss Plateaus: Here's What You Need to Know When the Scale Isn't Budging

They happen to all of us. Here's how to get past them.

So, the scale's not budging.

Frustrating, right? Unfortunately the road to losing weight and keeping it off doesn’t go in a straight line. There will be good weeks and not-so-good weeks. But if you’re losing less than ½ a pound for at least four weeks in a row, you might be at a plateau.

What is a plateau? 

Plateaus are a common part of the weight-loss process and occur when the scale is at a standstill (or almost) for several weeks. If your weight stays the same for just one or two weeks, or the rate of weight slows but doesn't stop, it's not a true plateau. 

What causes plateaus?

  • Physiological changes that occur during weight loss. (Weight loss can lower your metabolism.)
  • The loss of lean muscle tissue that commonly accompanies weight loss. (It also lowers metabolism, which means fewer calories are burned daily.)
  • You’ve been loosening up what you eat and how much you exercise, or not tracking or measuring as carefully as you once were.

To determine if you’re actually plateauing, figure out your average weight loss, starting at your Week 4 weight (this eliminates the higher-than-usual weight loss that sometimes happens in the first 4 weeks). 

How to power through it: 

When you’ve reached a plateau, here are some tips to turn it around:

  • Get back to basics — eat right, measure and track. Research has shown that people routinely underestimate what they consume daily*. Go back to some of the habits you honed in the beginning like tracking diligently, and measuring all of your portions whenever possible.
  • Eat more fruits and veggies. It may seem counterintuitive, eating more fruits and vegetables might help. Fruits and veggies are of course low in SmartPoints values (fruits are zero, as are most veggies). But they’re also high in fiber and packed with vitamins and minerals. Adding them to your meals and snacks throughout the day will help keep you feeling full and satisfied.
  • Increase your physical activity. Look for simple ways to sneak in more activity: Take the family (or the dog) for an afternoon walk, park the car farther away, or get off the bus a stop or two away from your destination.
  • Focus on your non-scale successes. Remember that your journey isn’t just about that number. Non-scale wins (like looser jeans, better sleep, or more energy) matter, too! And don’t forget to keep your ‘why’ close by. By that, we mean remember why you joined Weight Watchers in the first place. It will keep you motivated and heading in the right direction, which at the end of the day is what will keep you on track and on the path towards your ultimate goal. 

*Hill RJ, Davies PSW. The validity of self-reported energy intake as determined using the doubly labelled water technique. Br J Nutr 2001;85(4):415-430.