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Stuck on a Plateau?

Get that scale moving downward again
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Has your weight loss come to an abrupt halt? Does the needle on the scale simply refuse to budge?

I know you must be frustrated. After all, you're eating more healthfully, getting more physical activity, trying to lose weight at a slow and steady pace -- and just not getting results.

Don't lose hope, though. It's not uncommon for Weight Loss Clinic members to be plugging along, losing weight, and, all of a sudden, get stuck somewhere above their goal weight. It's hard to fathom that one week, your eating and physical activity program was taking the pounds off just like clockwork, and the next week, the scale has come to a dead stop!

There are several things that can cause a weight-loss plateau.

First, keep in mind that when you first start a weight-loss plan, you're often losing fluid along with fat, so you may lose more than the expected 1-2 pounds per week. But the Weight Loss Clinic plan is designed to help you lose fat, not precious muscle or fluids, so the rate of your weight loss will most likely slow down after that.

To keep it in perspective, one pound of fat equals 3,500 calories -- and that's a lot of calories to cut from your diet and/or burn during physical activity.

Beware of Calorie Creep

Another common reason for a plateau is that you may be eating more than you think. It's easy for portion sizes to creep up, and before you know it, you end up eating more than your plan prescribes.

A simple way to get back on track is to pull out those measuring cups and spoons and measure your portions for a few days. Eating just a few extra calories every day can slow down your weight loss.

Here's another possibility: If you initially lost weight on the plan -- and are following the prescribed portions exactly -- your body may have adjusted to your new calorie level. If this is the case, you may need to lower the calories on your Eating Plan. Go to Create New Plan and choose Option #3, "Reduce my calories," to cut calories by approximately 200 per day.

This is also a great time to add or delete foods from your plan. Want more fruits and vegetables? Select Option #2, "Modify my plan," choose fruits and veggies more often in the questionnaire, and more will show up on your new Eating Plan. Remember that eating plenty of high-fiber fruits and vegetables is the ticket to long-lasting weight loss.

Your cooking techniques may also be costing you more calories than you realize. Make sure you count the fats you use in cooking on your eating plan. And if you use oil, margarine, or butter in the preparation of your food, don't add more fats at the table.

Calories add up, whether they come from slightly larger portions or a little something extra in the pan. An extra ounce here, or teaspoon there, can make a difference. Tighten up your preparation to make sure you keep your calories in check.

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