Motivation: What To Do When You’ve Hit A Plateau

There’s nothing worse than feeling like you are working so hard toward your goals, but not seeing the payoff you want.

Maybe verbal insults will change the scale’s mind??

You start to ask, “Why am I even doing this?!?!?!”

This is the perfect time to remind yourself that you aren’t just eating healthy and exercising to “look good”. Yes, that might be a big part of it, but if that’s your only motivation it will not last. Ask yourself, “Would you rather be spending your time getting less healthy, higher blood pressure and more out of shape?” Probably not! This doesn’t fix all the discouraging thoughts (I’ll address the rest below), but it’s a good place to start first mentally.

If you aren’t seeing progress, you first need to address what your progress measurements are to see if that is actually true. There should be multiple ways you assess your progress and the scale shouldn’t be at the top of that list.

  • Progress Photos
  • How Clothes Fit/Measurements
  • Strength / Endurance During Workouts
  • Scale Weight
  • Sleep Quality
  • Stress Level
  • Energy Levels
  • Confidence

If you are getting hung up on the scale, like many people do, it’s important to do a little soul-searching about why that number is so important to you. If you’re overweight or obese and your doctor told you that you need to be below X weight, then you can focus more on the scale.

But if you’re in the healthy weight range for your height, it’s much more beneficial to focus on body fat percentage (which will be assessed by progress photos and measurements — or getting a DEXA scan).

Okay, now let’s say you’re not obsessed with the scale but your progress photos and measurements aren’t improving. You’re also getting weaker in the gym. Here are the most common things that could be affecting you.

  1. You’re eating more than you think. No one, NO ONE wants to think they’re eating more than they’re reporting/tracking. But the truth is, most of us are. Even if we are as meticulous as we can be, calorie labels can still be off by 25% so the reasons might even be beyond your control.
  2. You’re moving less. When our bodies are in a calorie deficit for a while, they begin to preserve energy. They fidget less and make us feel lethargic. Tracking your steps is a great way to help combat this, but your body is still going to try to conserve energy. Another way to combat this is to increase the thermic effect of your food (TEF) — the calories you burn via digestion. Protein has the highest TEF, so raise that 5-15 grams. You could also eat more low calorie vegetables, especially ones with higher fiber content.
  3. You get thrown off by carb/water fluctuations. If I go out for pho noodle soup, my weight is up 2-3 pounds the next day. The first time it happened, I was like WOAH. But this literally happens every time. There’s so much sodium in the broth and lots of carb-y noodles. That combination equals a lot more water retention for the next day or two. Most people’s reaction: freak out (increase cortisol), question their whole plan, restrict food the next day, become ravenous two days later, eventually overeat due to restricting food and emotional stress. Proper reaction: don’t freak out, drink water and notice that you’re probably peeing a lot that next day or two, eat normally, move on with life.
  4. Your cortisol is too high. Cortisol is our body’s most famous stress hormone. When cortisol is habitually high (due to poor sleep and high stress), the body doesn’t want to burn fat. Fat is comfort and security to our body. If your body thinks it’s getting chased by a lion (or work deadlines, life stress, etc.) it’s not going to be worried about getting rid of extra body fat.
  5. You’re impatient. We are so accustomed to getting what we want whenever we want it. Change takes time. It take time to burn fat, build muscle and change our bodies. That is why we must also try to enjoy the journey/healthy lifestyle and not just focus on our appearance.
  6. You don’t think you can succeed. At the Tony Robbins event I went to recently he said something to the effect of, ‘Your belief in whether or not you will succeed, determines your actions and therefore your outcome.’ If you’re behaving like you don’t actually think you will be successful, you hurt your chances of being successful. Someone who doesn’t believe they can lose weight won’t worry about an extra bite or two of food or a missed workout. Someone who does believe they will succeed, might act differently.
  7. You’ve been in a calorie deficit for too long. If you’ve been in a calorie deficit for quite a while and your metabolism has adjusted accordingly, it might be time to do a muscle building or maintenance phase for a few weeks/months to boost your metabolism before going back to your weight loss goals. Often clients who do this end up seeing some great physique and strength gains in the process!

I really hope this helps and you found something here than relates or can help you! If not, email me at and we can set up a free call just to let me pick your brain and see if I can identify what is holding YOU back from your results!

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