What to Do When Your Weight Loss Stalls or Stops

Published on 
May 10, 2024
May 10, 2024
Theresa Link, RD, CDE
Theresa Link, RD, CDE
Theresa Link, RD, CDE

Ask Theresa is a weekly advice column by Theresa Link. A Virta Health Coach since 2015 and a loyal follower of the ketogenic lifestyle, Theresa is a Registered Dietitian who is an expert in living a metabolically-healthy life. 

This week, Theresa takes you on the roller coaster ride that is weight loss, including the zips, the zooms, and the sudden stops that give you whiplash. Strap in tight because it’s gonna be a bumpy ride!

Question:

Theresa,
I've been on a plateau for a couple of months. In the last week I have gained back 6 lbs and I feel doomed. I am rereading all my material and trying to focus on keeping my carbs below 30 grams and protein up. I'm starting a journal today to keep track of everything I eat. Is this normal?

Sincerely,
Feeling Doomed

👩🏻‍💻 Theresa:

Dear Doomed,

To quickly answer your question:yes, this is absolutely normal. I’ll be daring and proclaim that 100% of people who have ever attempted weight loss have hit a patch of “doom and gloom” at some point. I've experienced it even over the course of my own health journey.

Weight loss is like a roller coaster ride. The coaster speeds up, slows down, and sooner or later comes to a screeching halt (and not necessarily in that order). Occasionally, it even rolls backward, which can be a blast at Six Flags, but not quite as exhilarating when it’s your bathroom scale doing the backsliding. Here’s how to cope with every lurch, turn, and stop.

Your weight loss slows or stops

Imagine this: you’ve cut out bread, pasta, cakes, and even your coveted morning jolt of Mountain Dew. You’re counting carbs and reading food labels, wondering why on earth they put sugar in spaghetti sauce. You’re carefully monitoring your protein portions and adding butter and salt to your veggies. Delicious! Your clothes are getting loose, you have more energy, and your bathroom scale is reading numbers you’ve not seen in over a decade.

Then suddenly, panic strikes as those big drops on the scale start to shrink, at times refusing to budge altogether. Stay the course. I repeat: stay the course. We both know that your previous habits were not getting you where you wanted to go, so reverting back to them isn’t the answer. Although rapid weight loss might seem appealing, the reality is that shedding pounds too quickly can lead to a loss of lean body mass. This not only slows down your metabolism but also complicates your weight loss journey, making it harder than keeping a cat in the bathtub.

Again, it's normal for your weight loss to slow or stop at times. Setbacks don’t mean it’s not working. Setbacks are normal. Stay the course and your body will catch up, often when you least expect it.

Your weight loss picks up speed.

WAHOO!

In my experience, the sudden acceleration of weight loss often feels like a pleasant, yet confusing, surprise. “Hang on a minute… I haven’t exceeded 30 grams of carbs for two weeks… and then yesterday I ate way too many carbs and I LOST weight?” If you’ve ever said this to yourself, remember that true fat loss is a result of consistent behavior change, not one day’s eating. So that downward trend on the scale is likely a result of many positive behaviors adding up. Don’t make the mistake of thinking those office doughnuts helped you lose weight. They merely couldn’t outshine all the other healthy choices you’ve made!

You gain weight

You’re doing everything “right”, yet you gain a few pounds. What the heck is going on? At this point you really have two options: (1) throw in the towel and decide this just isn’t working for you, or (2) pause and recognize that this is a lifestyle change; this is your new identity, and like it or not, setbacks are just part of the deal. You’ve gotta give yourself a break. 

That said, I don’t want to downplay weight regain. There are a million reasons this can happen (such as stress, sleep changes, illness, new exercise routine, unintentional carb creep, and so on) and I’m sorry to disappoint, but I don’t have the silver bullet. This is where your Virta Health Coach comes in, so reach out to them. And tell yourself this: just keep going. My body is changing. The scale will catch up.Adopting a healthy lifestyle is very challenging in our society. In fact, it’s one of the most difficult things you can do. You are an imperfect person who prioritizes your health. C’mon, that’s beautiful. Step back and embrace the journey.

This blog is intended for informational purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or any advice relating to your health. View full disclaimer

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