Here’s Why You’ve Hit a Weight-Loss Plateau, According to Research

by | Jun 13, 2024 | Weight-Loss

When you start losing weight, it can feel like the kilos are practically falling off your frame. However, this downward slope can (and usually does) flatline, leaving you at an impasse in your weight-loss journey. Maybe you’ve tried everything—cutting more calories, adding hours to your workout routine or switching to a new diet— but that final layer of flab just won’t budge. You’ve just hit a weight-loss plateau. Frustrating, we know.

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Turns out, at least according to science, this plateau is part of the journey. A study crunched the numbers behind the ups and downs of weight loss to get raw data to understand why guys tend to stop losing weight at a certain point. What they found is that there’s a reason the new stable of weight-loss drugs is so popular: they might basically double the amount of time it takes for you to turn into that dreaded cul-de-sac, reports CNN.

New Study: How Your Body Adapts to Your Changing Weight

In the study, published in Obesity, the researchers kept tabs on 238 adults for two years. Participants were randomly assigned either a 25% calorie-restriction diet or left to their own devices to eat as they usually did.

The good news? The calorie-cutting crowd was able to shed an average of 7.2kg. Those sticking to their usual fare gained around 1kg over the study’s duration. However, the majority of that weight loss occurred during the first year of the research period. So, what gives?

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The study’s authors predicted that the calorie cutters would need to cut around 800 calories a day to achieve the weight loss reported. However, for every kilogram lost, their bodies responded by developing an increased appetite of around 83 calories for every kilo ditched. So even though they were striving to stick to that 800-calorie benchmark, they started to fall further and further away from the mark.

Can You Get Past a Weight-Loss Plateau?

Falling short after losing big can be incredibly demoralising. But if this recent study illustrates anything, it’s that a disciplined approach will help you strive towards your goals. As you stride further along on your weight-loss journey, it’s important to pay close attention to what you’re eating and how much you’re exercising.

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Your weight-loss will slow down as you get lighter… that’s a fact. As such, you might have to make adjustments. The Mayo Clinic suggests the following:

  • Cut More: An 800-calorie deficit is what the participants in the study needed, but your results may vary. However, this comes with a disclaimer, you should never eat less than 1 200 calories a day as this could lead to a feeling of constant hunger increasing your risks of overeating (or even a health issue).
  • Change Your Habits: You may have become a bit lax about your daily meals. Maybe an extra snack here and there or skipping your label-reading endeavours at the grocery store. You might’ve added more processed foods to your diet or could be gorging on a supposedly “healthy” snack that packs more calories than you might expect. 
  • Train Harder: Baseline you should be aiming for 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week. But to burn excess calories, and to get even fitter, there’s no harm in doubling that target. It’s recommended for those looking to bust through a weight-loss plateau.
  • Get More Active: Workouts aren’t just reserved for, well, your workouts. By sneaking in extra minutes of activity through the day, you’ll ramp up the burn. For instance, you could park further from the office, finally tackle that DIY project at home or take the dog for a few bonus walks. It won’t feel like you’re exercising, but those extra active minutes add up.

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