Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
18 Feb

Break Through Your Weight Loss Plateau

Pat yourself on the back: You’ve lost weight! Or, at least you had lost weight, but for the past few days or even weeks, the scale hasn’t been budging. You don’t feel like you’re doing anything different with your diet. You’re keeping carbs low, eating the appropriate amount of protein, and you’re moderating all of it with a consistent exercise program.

For most people attempting to lose weight, there comes a time when they reach that inevitable plateau where their motivation is soaring but they’ve stopped seeing results. If you’re nodding right now, don’t worry. What you’re experiencing is totally normal. Plateaus, whether they relate to weight, to your job, or your closest relationship, are a call to charge things up again, refine your strategies and keep moving forward.

So rather than give up and maintain your current weight, or worse yet, drown yours sorrows in a half dozen donuts, there are numerous actions you can take to reignite your program.

Here are our top 5 picks for breaking through your weight plateau:

Consider Intermittent Fasting

Although Conventional Wisdom tells us that fasting forces the metabolism into slow motion causing your body to cling onto fat stores, recent scientific studies have suggested otherwise. According to an article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, alternate day fasting may result in an improvement in insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake, as well as decreases in fat mass. While science is still unearthing the precise mechanisms for why and how this occurs, the previously-held idea that you have to eat six meals a day or more in order to keep your metabolism stoked to lose weight simply isn’t true.

Lucky for you, intermittent fasting (IF) can be done in a number of ways. From daily fasting, by only eating during a 5-hour time period, or setting aside one to three days a week to fast, the combinations are virtually endless. The important thing is to know is what kind of intermittent fasting technique will work best for you and your lifestyle, and this can only be determined by a little experimentation. As long as IF is done correctly, it can kick your body off of its weight plateau in just a matter of days. And keep in mind that IF is not about starving yourself. It’s about eating in a manner that mimics the natural irregularity of Grok’s eating patterns.

Write it Down

A slice of bread here, a handful of tortilla chips there – it all adds up. When we start to lose weight, we might be inclined to loosen the reins on what we can eat. Even though occasional indulgences should be enjoyed guilt-free, when you’re still trying to lose weight, those seemingly benign snacks still count.

So for one week, write down everything that you eat. Everything. From the sugar packet you dropped into your coffee to the two bites of of Cherry Garcia you snuck from cousin Sal’s dessert bowl at your niece’s sweet 16, write it down. A food diary is an honest look into what you’re actually eating, not what you think you are eating.

Need more convincing that you might not be being honest with yourself? According to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, those who kept a food diary in a 20-week study dropped double the weight of the dieters who did not chronicle their food choices. Keeping a food diary makes you accountable for what you eat because it forces you to consider your actions before you take them. This is an effective safeguard against mindless snacking or emotional eating.

If you’re looking for an online food journal, check out the one at FitDay.com. It’s free and super easy to use.

Side Note: The Primal Eating Plan is meant to be intuitive and easy. One of the great things about Primal eating is that you don’t have to count calories and track every bite of food you consume. This is why we only recommend the food diary as a temporary method to uncover any dietary indiscretions. Once you’ve honed in on and refined your behaviors we say ditch the journal and get on with eating Primal in a natural way that requires little to no effort.

Switch Up Your Workouts

They say variety is the spice of life, and this holds true when it comes to your workouts. Without change you might find yourself dreading the monotony of regular gym sessions and simply lose motivation. Additionally, your body can become used to to the same caloric burn and muscle exertion as it becomes more efficient at completing regular movements. Give your brain and brawn the wake up call they need by shaking up your usual routine with some new additions.

Try increasing the speed as you exercise and do short bursts of intense exercises (such as sprinting) for one to two minutes followed by small rest periods. These short bursts of anaerobic activity will stimulate your body to release human growth hormone, which helps to burn fat while maintaining muscle mass.

If that doesn’t do the trick, try getting super Primal by ditching the gym, shoes, and structure for some free form activity. If this doesn’t keep things interesting we’re not sure what will.

Keep in mind that 80% of your body composition is a result of your diet. The remaining 20% is determined by how you effectively manage your sleeping patterns and stress levels, how you exercise and other lifestyle factors. Increasing your workout intensity is but one way to tweak an otherwise optimized weight loss plan.

Reduce Carbs

Try reducing your carb intake to 50-100 grams per day to reduce insulin production and fire up your fat metabolism. Make sure that you’re eating enough protein for your weight (we suggest using the .7-1 gram per pound of lean body weight formula), eating the right vegetables and snacking on high-fat foods to keep you feeling satisfied.

Keep on Keeping on

Remember that losing 10 lbs when you are starting at 300 isn’t nearly as difficult as losing 10 when you are approaching your ideal weight (say, going from 170 to 160 for a male). Don’t let this come to you as discouragement. Just recognize that changes might not come as quickly as they once had and resolve to stay the course.

Also, know that The Primal Blueprint lifestyle is about long term goals. Though you can lose weight quickly on the PB, keep your head straight and remember that the emphasis should always be on a healthy, Primal lifestyle – not a get-fit-quick routine. You can do it, but it may take time.

Final Tips

If you haven’t done it already (or even if you have!), consider taking the 30-Day Primal Health Challenge. It may sound daunting, but employing the “act as if” tips will be sure to get you through those tough moments when a piece of dry toast looks better than a killer omelet (does this really ever happen?).

If you’ve tried all of these strategies and you’re still stuck, don’t hesitate to hit us up with a comment. Our experienced Primal community will likely be able to help.

Further Reading:

The Primal Blueprint: The Ultimate Way to Break any Weight Loss Plateau

A Primal Blueprint Sample Menu

Oprah Hits 200 Pounds. Again.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Oh, those dreaded Plateaus! I found that if I cut way back on the carbs AND did IF by shortening my meal window (eating within 8 hours and fasting 16) I got off the plateau within a few days. Keeping a food journal has been a boon to me on this journey.

    micki wrote on April 19th, 2010
  2. I think that the best way to break through a weight loss plateau is to constantly change your workouts to challenge your body. Most people keep the same intensity level throughout their workouts.

    If you are doing this you will most likely reach a plateau and it will be very hard to get past it until you intensify your workouts.

    Sometimes it could be something as minor as tweaking your diet a little to get past that point.

    Patrick Kallie wrote on July 9th, 2010
  3. HIIT is also great. The original Tabata method only takes 4 minutes

    Jeff wrote on November 10th, 2010
  4. Hey Mark, this is a great article; I always wondered how to break past this cycle.

    Many of the people in my inner circle are always complaining how to get past their plateau. This is a GOLDEN article I will take to heart.

    Thanks again,

    Ontarian

    Ontarian Hawkins wrote on November 22nd, 2010
  5. This type of training worked as a short-term kick, and resulted in some good gains. But, it’s important to remember that this type of training isn’t for everyone; and for the long term, I believe it’s not for anyone.

    Asian Tv wrote on June 24th, 2011
  6. I was at 300 pounds at my heaviest, which was in mid-February. Right now, I’m at about 225, and that’s where I’ve been for about 3 weeks now. I’m working out as hard as ever, my diet could probably be a bit more strict, but I’m doing very well. I had a goal to get to 220 by July 4th (as well as 200 by Labor Day and 180 by New Year’s). As of a few weeks ago, 220 looked easily attainable, but it might be tough to lose these 5-7 pounds in a week. Any tips?

    Pat wrote on June 26th, 2011
    • I know you posted this a year ago, but I am in almost the exact same position you were in when you wrote this. I started at 317 and am right now at 225. I have been stuck for going on 3 weeks. The weight came off much easier earlier. What’s the update and can you give me some suggestions on what you did to progress on your journey?

      Kevin Turner wrote on June 22nd, 2012
      • Hi:

        Funny, you should mention that. It has taken me 9 months to lose 12 lbs. I seemed to hit plateau after plateau. I am on another one now.

        My advice is to stick to it and please do not give up. Your body has to get used to that weight for awhile, and if you can keep that at the same number for awhile you will keep it off. Don’t be in a hurry, I promise you, it will start coming off again. Sometimes we get sloppy and end up eating more rice in the pot when we put it away. LOL Be aware of what you are eating and maybe cut back on your carbs a bit.

        Good luck and I hope you start losing weight once again. I know you will.

        Cheryl wrote on June 22nd, 2012
  7. If you really Struck weight loss plateau then you had really doing nothing still now . But by eating Green Vegetables it really help me to reduce upto 2 % within couple of weeks . Also the TRIMMY exercise that give a great lift to me to reduce really the shape of my body. I can see real change in my look now.

    babu wrote on July 26th, 2011
  8. I broke through my plateau by reducing carbs down to 50-75g a day + calorie reduction.
    Actually when I reduced my carbs which came primarily from RAW milk and fruit, then automatically calories were reduced.
    I used to not worry about it because I felt so great but could never get rid of the last bit of flab on my belly. But I got greedy and wanted to be ‘perfect’ so had to take a new approach.
    My calorie intake used to be 2500+ with around 150-200 carbs a day drinking a Quart of milk a day.
    Now I’m below 2000 calories a day with carbs around 50-75ish and I’m getting leaner. Already lost ~4 lbs within 3 days.
    I’d like to lose another 5 lbs of body fat so I can brag my 6-pack around.

    Arty wrote on September 28th, 2011
    • Oh Arty thank you so much for this post. I hav been drinking raw milk for the past month and noticed weight gain and visible muscle building. Usually raw milk with one or two coffees a day. It is kicking up my carb intake. As a result, I reduce vegetables to get carb around 5% and ramp up my fat intake to 80% to get full at dinner. While I used to have the same amount of coffee daily, it was just from cafe milk. Very interesting…

      I want to actually decrease my muscle a bit. I think good bye to the dairy for a while and see what happens… It’s a shame, because on raw milk I feel good. Skin is better and energy. But it’s just building this girl up far too quickly. Plus it’s making my boobs and quads feel huge.

      I also do Pump once/twice a week and sprints/cardio during a game of netball. Try an do half hour walks where I can.

      The Superwag wrote on March 24th, 2013
  9. Just want to say your article is as astonishing. The clearness for your submit is simply spectacular and i can suppose you are knowledgeable on this subject. Fine with your permission let me to grasp your RSS feed to keep up to date with impending post. Thanks one million and please keep up the gratifying work.

    diet smart wrote on October 30th, 2011
  10. his is an old post but still relevant so I thought I would comment…TThe notion that we tend to slack off a little once we begin to lose weight is something I observe in clients and in myself. In this case success does not seem to breed more success and if your weight loss has slowed or stopped this is very likely the cause.

    Sandy wrote on November 28th, 2011
  11. Bob thanks for the clarification. I just assumed the measurement of proteins i.e. animal protein was just the weight of the food but of course it also contains water. Canned Tuna has almost no fat but only 25% protein.

    So I many not be eating too much protein after all, which still leaves my question on why I’m not losing weight even though I have a lot of excess fat to lose.

    Have you lost weight on this diet or on low carbing? Did you find you needed to reduce calories and cope with any hunger that comes with doing that? That seems to be the only way I can lose weight on any diet.

    Gary Taubes says you only need to eliminate carbs and sugars as they are more or less the only cause of extra fat storage and your body will begin to burn body fat for energy. I’m not finding that to be the case with me as my body seems to be able to hold on to excess body fat even when I’m only eating protein and fat with zero carbs. I don’t gain weight on the zero carb diet but I also don’t lose weight either.

    Any tips?

    g00na wrote on January 15th, 2012
  12. I’m having so much trouble with weight loss, I know I know .. No scales right? I have an obsession. It wont budge … And the days it does I’m so ecstatic! The days it goes up, is well .. rather horrifying.
    I’m 19 and 134 pounds Mostly fat. OF course the scale yesterday said 130. I’ve come down a lot from (when I was 14) 170 pounds or so. That wasn’t a healthy loss though. I’ve been on and off primal for a while. I’ve officially stuck to it over a month.
    My diet consists of meats, Veggies, nuts, and water usually. I spice it up sometimes with special flowers. But I haven’t acceded 60 carbs at all. And they’re all healthy carbs. Granted I cannot afford grass fed meat all the time, I try my best. I sprint every other day or so, my lungs can only handle small bouts of sprinting a week. I do dancing, and lift weights.

    I was 118 10 or so months ago, I felt healthy and I felt good.
    I want to get back to that good feeling. I don’t even necessarily need to be 118 again, just have a better body composition. And feel good, but alas its February, Summer is almost here. I haven’t worn a bathing suit since I was 12… these things don’t happen overnight. This I know. But … What am I doing wrong….

    KattKovacs wrote on February 21st, 2012
  13. I’m interested in this because of recent weight loss and I’m curiously stuck at my (maximum) goal weight. Not complaining, but I’ve been shooting for an little extra and no go, so I’m wondering: since this is a weight I normally get to when dieting and have not ever been below it, is my body not budging because it’s not “familiar” with this lower weight?

    Emelu wrote on March 15th, 2012
  14. I’ve been eating primal for 2 months. The first three weeks I dropped 13lbs. Since then I have list ZERO. I’ve gotten a bit more strict on my diet but can not seem to find why I would lose so fast and then stop all loss altogether.
    I am female. 5’10”. Stuck at 172#. I have lots of fat left to lose. I would love to be 160#.
    My typical day is 2 cups of coffee with whole cream, cinnamon and Truvia. Eggs and veggies in grassfed butter. Sometimes Bacon. Big salad with lots of veggies, sometimes feta, a whole avocado, and for dressing only seasonings, lemon or ACV with EVOO. Usually, I throw a small piece of leftover meat. Dinner is a meat and veggies. I am not eating fruit anymore. I cut out almost all the nuts, I gave up my occasional red wine and dark choc weeks ago and still nothing.
    I haven’t started any proper workouts, just getting in squats, pushups, etc here and there. I know I need to sprint as well.
    But why would the weight loss stop so suddenly?? Do I need to cut out dairy? Truvia?
    My portion sizes are large. I over eat to prevent snarling on bad choices.

    CAM wrote on March 20th, 2012
  15. Snacking* LOL

    What do I cut back on? My old brain says eat less fat…

    CAM wrote on March 20th, 2012
  16. Wow,fantastic post.

    Dan wrote on March 22nd, 2012
  17. g00na try eating more fat like 80% of your calories from fat, good fats from animals, coconuts, avocados etc. Check out Dr. Peter Attia’s website on the defense of fat http://waroninsulin.com/nutrition/what-i-actually-eat#comment-4656

    Roxy wrote on April 19th, 2012
    • ‘good fats’ is not from animals

      candice wrote on May 6th, 2012
  18. Sadly, I have an athletic injury in my knee; a meniscus tear. I love working out but I have no idea how to work my legs or even my body anymore. In most of my workouts I’d use my legs, but I can’t do that for a few months. What do I do to workout the primal way with a knee injury?

    Brenna wrote on April 26th, 2012
  19. It is appropriate time to make some plans for the future and it’s time to be happy. I’ve read this post and if I could I want to suggest you few interesting things or suggestions. Maybe you could write next articles referring to this article. I want to read even more things about it!

    Terrance Teixeira wrote on May 4th, 2012
  20. I had heard about this problem before, but hadn’t really hit me. However, as I get close to 70 pounds lost, it is definitely slowing down. But, I am still about 40 pounds away from my goal weight of 185. I was a super undisciplined eater before so I am making changes, but I am going slow to make sure I’m changing habits.

    I work out a ton. I walk 6-12 miles daily, sprint once a week, and do bodyweight strength training twice a week. I have noticed that if I stray from my Primal Diet even a little bit now it shows up on the scale. I started doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu again after taking the last 6 months off, but it makes me hungrier. I don’t want to eat more, but also know I shouldn’t be hungry all the time. I am committed to the lifestyle and committed to making progress. Does anyone have any insight on adding more intense training and how to deal with the hunger that goes with it?

    Kevin Turner wrote on June 22nd, 2012
  21. Hi there, thanks for the info! I have reached a plateau and only have 5 more pounds to lose. Can this be for through nutrition alone, or does exercise need to be increased? I have hyper mobility syndrome and fibromyalgia, I manage these conditions fairly well, but exercise triggers flare ups and I suffer bad injuries if I push myself too far.. Im a strong an determined person but I have to be conscious of my limits for the sake of my health. Can I break ever through this plateau?!:)

    Clare Maguire wrote on August 13th, 2012
  22. Is there any truth to grapefuit OR grapefruit pills aid in losing weight…especially in the mid section?

    bev wrote on January 20th, 2013
    • Grapefruit flavone naringenin stimulates the fat-burning gene PPAR-alpha, which is also stimulated by calorie restriction and/or carbohydrate restriction.
      This would be good on a low-carb or low-cal diet, not so good on a high-carb diet.

      George wrote on January 20th, 2013
  23. PLEASE HELP!!!!!! I’m an interesting enigma. Who wants to solve it?!?

    Hi!
    So I’ve been doing IF for the past 3 months. The first 2 months I was doing the Insanity 60 day challenge, which I know is not too favored in this line of primal thought. But in those 2 months, I lost 3 inches of belly fat. Yes, it’s a very slow progress, but at this point I’m used to slow progress like that with my body. I just don’t lose weight quick (I’ve been working out for 2 years before I did the Insanity challenge, so I didn’t go from couch potato to the challenge. I have already seen significant weight loss, but I’m missing 25-30lbs to be gone… I’ve lost a total of about 60 lbs in about 1.5 years. Suuuuper slow. But I’ve done it all myself, naturally, lots of trial and error and doing every workout video in existence)

    I’m 25. Female. Current weight: 160. 5’3″.
    Yes. Sounds like I’m a chubby one, but I think it’s safe to say I have a good 5-6 lbs of hard earned muscle. My thighs are basically ripped, my arms are strong (although there’s still fat around it. ugh). Underneath my belly, I know that my abs are strong and present cuz I have pretty good core strength. My resting heart rate is in the 60s. I’m doing The Asylum now (which is crazier than Insanity). All in all, I’ve been training like an athlete, and I feel strong and fit. I do weight training about 3 days a week too and I lift as heavy as I can.

    But I’m overweight still. I don’t understand why. I do IF, I drink almost a gallon of water a day, I workout while I’m in a fasted state and eat like 2 hours after I’m done working out. My eating window is like 6-8 hours every day. I do not eat white rice, or pasta, or bread. My meals usually consists of oatmeal (with chia seeds, flax seeds, some nuts, berries, almond milk some times), big bowls of salad (spinach, kale) with olive oil and vinegar dressing, beans (seasoned with herbs and all natural stuff), shredded wheat cereal from Trader Joes (which I think I should stop consuming actually), greek yogurt sometimes, butternut squash, and my guilty pleasure, this whole wheat homemade bread my mom makes with flax seeds and nuts. It’s delicious. And it’s nutritious but it’s carbs nonetheless. Sigh. Still I don’t eat it every single day. And if I do it’s no more than a slice. I barely eat meat, and when I do it’s chicken or turkey. I don’t drink soda coffee, nor juices. I drink green tea, no sugar, everyday. All sounds pretty decent right? For someone who exercises as much as I do, I should be skinny minnie.

    This past month I fasted for 24 hours, twice, one week apart. And I also did the P90X and The Asylum hybrid work out… I burned 11,400 calories (heart rate monitor) this past month… and guess what? I did not lose a single inch. Never mind weight on the scale. I don’t care about that. But when I measured myself and saw no progress I wanted to curl up in a ball and disappear.

    So ok. As a woman, and probably cuz of hormonal issues I lose weight very slowly. Plus I sorta stress about it alot. I get it. But it just doesn’t make sense. Why is my body holding on to fat that isn’t good for it anyway!?
    I lost inches those first 2 months, but I really expected to lose some more this last month. So that means, I plateaued. What do I do? Do I eat more? I don’t want to!
    Do I rest for a week? (Please don’t tell me to do that. I’ll go crazy) I just don’t know. Help me please.

    My goal is for a month from now to be 3-4 inches thinner. I set this goal months ago. I don’t know what I’ll do if I don’t reach it.

    My current measurements are:
    Waist (as in the curve part) 33″
    Belly (right at the bellybutton) 35″
    Chest: 37″
    Hips: 39″
    Arms: 12″

    My goal:
    About 2-4 inches less of each body part.
    I’d be happy with a 29-30″ waist. I wanna look strong not necessarily super lean, altho that’d be nice, but I feel like it’s too much to ask =/

    Thank you. Help me please since I’m considering that HCG diet just to be thinner. Save me?

    Ginel wrote on February 26th, 2013
    • Ginel, I can tell that you’re a strong, goal oriented woman. Here are my two cents about your situation:
      1. Ditch the grains, even the so-called healthy whole grains and replace them with meat, vegetables, eggs and seafood.
      2. Slow down your workout routine. It’s too intense and too frequent. It seems like your cortisol levels are sky high as a result, and your body isn’t getting a chance to recover.
      3. IF is a great tool for weight loss, but women sometimes respond to it differently than men. Read Mark’s post on IF for women, as well as Stefani Ruper’s work on the subject.
      4. Conventional wisdom teaches us to believe in a lot of myths about food and exercise that Mark dispels in his book and the website. You should get Mark’s 21 Day Total Body Transformation book. It will be enormously helpful in helping you make changes that will help you lose weight quickly. Good luck!

      Sabrina wrote on February 26th, 2013
      • thank u so much Sabrina! I will look into everything you’ve said!

        Ginel wrote on February 27th, 2013
  24. Ginel:

    What you have to do is to find which foods are highly reactive for you. Some foods even though are healthy, just are not good for our bodies. Find the foods that are the least reactive, and eat more of those, and less of the highly reactive foods.

    Cheryl wrote on February 26th, 2013
    • Thank you so much! I actually cut corn out of my life because I always felt like I got a bit of an inflammation after eating corn or products with corn in it. So I avoid as much as humanly possible, since everything in this world has corn in it. I will pay closer attention. I’m so bad at observing myself. Thanks for the tip!

      Ginel wrote on February 27th, 2013
  25. Ginel, I can’t agree with above person enough. Your cortisol levels must be through the roof, which also messes with thyroid and estrogen/progesterone levels. You need to cut your exercise down. Only two short duration high intensity cardio days max and lift a few Times. Fighr tout away to get more meat in your diet. I am a former triathlete who trained 14 hrs a week, weight trained, and kept a meticulous diet. I looked good but never could lose the last few until I slowed down, did less, and let my hormones recover. I have loads more time and energy, and actually look better!

    christina balzly wrote on March 20th, 2013

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