How to break through the weight loss plateau

Reaching the point where you stop losing weight can be the hardest part of a weight loss plan. Here’s how to break through the weight loss plateau
Simon Lovick
min read
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Quick summary

There are many different ways to lose weight, whether through dieting, rigorous exercise, using GLP-1s like Ozempic or Wegovy, or indeed a combination of all three. But with any weight loss plan, there usually comes a point where you’ll notice your weight loss starting to slow down and even stopping. 

This is known as the weight loss plateau, and can often be the hardest part of losing weight. But don’t despair—and certainly don’t give up on your weight loss journey. There are a number of ways you can keep your journey going and break through the weight loss plateau. 

What is a weight loss plateau?

The slowing down of weight loss is almost guaranteed, and can happen for a number of reasons. It could be to do with falling back into old eating habits, or taking your foot off the pedal with exercise. But most likely, it is in fact a positive response from your body to weight loss. 

This is related to your body’s set point, the desired level of stored fat. [1] When your body registers you losing weight, it responds by lowering your metabolism and trying to store fat in order to maintain this set point. This can last for between 8 to 12 weeks. Eventually, the body will lower your set point and you will start to lose weight again. It’s for this reason that we often see weight loss journeys as fluctuating—and that it's very common to regain weight before you then shed it again. 

Even with the help of medication like Ozempic, Wegovy, or Saxenda, you’re likely to experience a weight loss plateau. In this case, it’s advisable to continue taking the medication (coming off it may result in you regaining weight). At the same time, contact a health professional as they may have advice on how to adjust your medication accordingly. 

There are a number of other things you can do to help you break through the weight loss plateau:

1. Exercise more, and remain active

Exercise should be a central component for any weight loss journey: and when it comes to hitting the weight loss plateau, it can prove invaluable to breaking through. 

As you lose weight, your metabolism progressively decreases. But exercise is proven to counter this, as it builds muscle mass which can impact how many calories you burn during exercise. Resistance training (any weight lifting, bodyweight, or powerband exercise) is particularly effective for this [2]. Even just 20 minutes of daily resistance training can prove effective for this. 

At the same time, don’t use an increase in exercise as an excuse to lapse activity across the rest of your routine. We all know that feeling of coming home from the gym and flopping on the sofa—but make sure you remain active and exertive where possible. 

2. Decrease carbohydrates, increase protein

Paying attention to your diet can help with breaking through the weight loss plateau. 

Reducing your carbohydrate intake can have a really significant impact on your weight loss journey. Some nutritionists believe that carb restriction can increase fat burning and lead to other metabolic advantages that can help you lose weight; but in general, the feeling is that eating fewer carbohydrates reduces hunger and leaves you feeling fuller for longer. 

Conversely, increasing your protein intake can help. Protein digestion is much more effective at calorie burning, boosting your metabolic rate far more than carbohydrates [3]. It can also help stimulate hormones like PYY that reduce your appetite and leave you feeling fuller [4]. On top of this, it helps to preserve muscle mass which, as mentioned above, can increase your calorie burn rate when exercising. 

Broadly, lower carbohydrate/higher protein is the basis of a ketogenic diet, which has become an increasingly popular way to lose weight. 

3. Drink more water, tea, coffee

Water in general is your best friend during a weight loss journey. Quite often feelings of hunger are actually just thirst, and so keeping well hydrated can be a good way to keep you feeling full. 

But when it comes to the weight loss plateau, water can be particularly helpful. Drinking water after a meal can boost your metabolism, and is proven to be a huge asset to weight loss. [5]

Tea and coffee can also really help here. Caffeine has been shown to increase fat burning and boost your metabolism. Certainly don’t overdo it on the caffeine though, but potentially have a tea or coffee after a meal, or after you exercise.

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4. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep

It’s often easier said than done, but getting enough sleep can have a huge knock-on effect with your wider physical health, particularly when it comes to losing weight. 

There is a close link between sleep and appetite. A lack of sleep can impact how your body regulates ghrelin and leptin, neurotransmitters which are connected to your feeling of hunger [6]. Getting sufficient sleep—7 to 8 hours each night—should lead to a more satisfied feeling of fullness. 

Sleep is also linked to a wider point around stress, and the impact this can have on weight loss. Stress can lead to comfort eating and a lack of motivation to exercise. But there is also a direct correlation, through the production of cortisol (known as the stress hormone). As a way of responding to cortisol production, the body can increase fat storage, making it harder to lose weight [7].

5. Eat more vegetables

It’s a message that’s hammered into you since childhood—but eating more vegetables can be one of the most effective ways to lose weight. By packing out your plate with veg, you are filling yourself up on low carbohydrate, low calorie food.

In addition, vegetables are typically high in fibre, which has huge benefits regarding breaking through the weight loss plateau. Soluble fibre (ones that dissolve in liquid) slows down the movement of food through your digestive system—the result, you feeling fuller for longer. [8]

High fibre vegetables include carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, beetroots, and much more.

In conclusion, the weight loss plateau is a natural phase in the weight loss journey, often influenced by various physiological factors. Employing a holistic approach that includes lifestyle adjustments, dietary modifications, and ongoing medical support can help individuals overcome this plateau and continue on their path to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.


[1] Willner, T. (2023). Weight-loss plateaus explained, Second Nature, retrieved November 8th 2023. Accessible here

[2] Hunter, G., Byrne, N., Sirikul, B., et al (2008). Resistance training conserves fat-free mass and resting energy expenditure following weight loss, Obesity (Silver Spring), May 2008, 16(5). Accessible here

[3] Westerterp KR (2004). Diet induced thermogenesis, Nutr Metab (Lond), Aug 2004 18;1(1). Accessible here

[4] Batterham RL, Heffron H, Kapoor S, et al (2006). Critical role for peptide YY in protein-mediated satiation and body-weight regulation, Cell Metab, Sep 2006, 4(3):223-33. Accessible here

[5] Boschmann M, Steiniger J, Hille U, et al (2003). Water-induced thermogenesis, J Clin Endocrinol Metab, Dec 2003, 88(12):6015-9. Accessible here

[6] Newsom, R., Truong, K. (2022). Weight Loss and Sleep, Sleep Foundation. Accessible here

[7] Warne JP (2009). Shaping the stress response: interplay of palatable food choices, glucocorticoids, insulin and abdominal obesity, Mol Cell Endocrinol, Mar 2009, 300(1-2):137-46. Accessible here

[8] Anderson JW, Baird P, Davis RH Jr, et al. Health benefits of dietary fiber, Nutr Rev. Apr 2009, 67(4):188-205. Accessible here

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