Management of Weight Loss Plateau

In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan.


Weight loss can be accomplished through various strategies, ultimately coming down to a net caloric deficit. Frequently people who are new to exercising and/or dieting experience relatively rapid weight loss in the initial few weeks of starting. However, as your body adjusts, people frequently experience a weight loss plateau that can be frustrating to overcome. In addition, the psychology of seeing a rapid reduction of weight initially and then seemingly remaining stagnant despite efforts to restrict caloric intake can be very frustrating.

Studies comparing different diets have shown that a similar degree of weight loss can be achieved in an 8 to 12 week period, as long as a caloric deficit is achieved. However, when looking at individuals in the longer-term, 24-weeks and beyond, only about 10 to 20% of those individuals successfully maintain their weight loss. This situation perpetuates a popular phrase called "yo-yo dieting." This phenomenon describes individuals trying a particular diet, losing weight, encountering a plateau, and then regaining weight in frustration due to their perception of the diet failing.

A misconception to beginners attempting to lose weight is that the process is linear. Therefore, one can expect that weight loss will occur more rapidly in the early stages. Still, then in the coming weeks, the weight may stay steady or even slightly increased despite maintaining the established calorie deficit. Understanding why this plateau occurs can help individuals remain consistent with their weight loss efforts and continue progressing instead of regressing. Identifying these challenges and considering various strategies to overcome plateaus will ultimately lead to a greater degree of individuals successfully achieving and maintaining their weight loss in the long term.

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