Preventing Weight Loss Plateaus – For the Overweight and Obese

Preventing #weightloss Plateaus for the overweight and obese
The dreaded plateau.  For the overweight and obese looking to lose weight and get fit, if you are on a traditional low-calorie diet – it will happen.  I can almost guarantee that it happening at least once .  Plateaus are also the number one reason that people quit, gain all their weight back and then some more.


It’s quite frustrating when you are doing well, eating well and exercising – and your weight suddenly stalls.  Not for a week, or a month, but for months.

Why does this happen?

Most people think of weight loss as an energy out vs. energy in balance.  This means that if you expend more energy than you take in, you will lose weight.  Seems easy, right?  So, you drop your calories and you go to the gym and you should lose weight.

Not so fast.

There is a lot going on in the body, and you cannot break weight loss down so simply.


Calorie Deficit

Typical diets, no matter what they are based on (macros, points, calories) put you in a calorie deficit.  This means that the calories that you consume will be less than the calories necessary to keep you going.  So, if it takes a person of my height, weight and age 1,702 calories everyday to maintain my bodily functions, then I would eat  500 calories less each day to lose a pound a week (It takes about 3200 calories to lose a pound).

If I also exercise each day, or 3 days a week or whatever, I would account for that energy that I am expending, and increase the appropriate number of calories to maintain my 1 lb. per week weight loss.

It’s all well and good, right?

No.  Our bodies want to be in state of homeostasis.

What does that mean about “living” for long periods of time in a calorie deficit?  Our metabolism will decrease so that we don’t need as many calories to survive (It goes into starvation mode).  When that happens, our happy overweight/obese dieter plateaus.



How to Not get over a Plateau

So, if we believe our traditional energy in vs. energy out theory – that weight watchers, our parents, our teachers, and our friends have taught us over the years, we would think that we would either need to decrease the energy we put in (cut more calories), increase the energy we put out (do more exercise) or do both.

Being an obese person who is a recovering over eater, it’s difficult to think of eating less than 1,200 calories a day.  I couldn’t imagine eating 1,000 calories or less in a day.  I would starve.  I would never make it.  Plus I’m busy.  I don’t have 2-3 hours to spend at the gym.

But that’s what was taught to us.  When we lessen our food or exercise to excess, what do you think happens?

We get a week or two of weight loss, then plateau (homeostasis, remember?).

What do we do then?  Eat even less?  Exercise even more?

Besides being hungry and tired, now we have self esteem issues because we only lost a small fraction of weight, and  now we are a quitter.


Calorie and carb cycling to prevent plateaus


You need to exercise plain and simple.  It will help you be stronger, be leaner and look leaner.


Calorie and Carb Cycling

Calorie and Carb cycling means that you change it up.  You give your body a different look each week.  You prevent yourself from being in a calorie deficit every single day.  It’s like a refresh for your metabolism.

Calorie Cycling

I keep track of my macros everyday.  So, based on my activity for the day (my calories are always based on my daily training regimen and how active I am that day).  On a day I have a particularly hard workout (a lot of plyos, or a major leg day) – this is my high calorie day.  On my high calorie day – I eat the amount of calories necessary to maintain my weight.  This means, I am not in a calorie deficit this day.  If I say my basal amount of calories is 1,702  – I eat 1,702 (approximately) calories that day.

The other days, I work with a calorie deficit – because remember, I must have a overall deficit in order to make my 1 lb. a week weight loss goal.

Even if you are not keeping track of calories or macros, you can easily add on 400 calories on a hard training day and not gain weight – because you will live in a calorie deficit the rest of the week.

Remember the purpose is to keep your metabolism guessing and pushing forward.

You want to do this at least once a week.

Carb Cycling

Carbs are not bad.  We need carbs for energy.  I chose to get my carbs from fruits and other natural sources rather than breads but that’s my choice.

Carb cycling is similar.  Personally speaking, on my higher calorie day, I allow myself more carbs.  It’s more energy in to do the hard work that I need to do during the day.  Of course, when you cycle your carbs up, you need to cycle your fats down.  If your carbs are high and fats are high, you will gain weight.

Likewise, on a rest day, I will cycle my carbs down for the day.  For me, this is usually Sunday.  I’m not exercising, or I’m not exercising as vigorously as I would the other days of the week, therefore, I really don’t need as much “energy”.   Note, I am still eating the same amount of calories.  I am just increasing my healthy fats.


I know that this seems complicated and a lot of work.  But it’s really not.  The work is losing a bunch of weight, getting discouraged, and gaining it back and then some more.

For the little thought that it takes, it’s so worth it in the long run.


Have you had an experiences with calorie or carb cycling?  I would love to hear about them!

About Lisa

Hey! Thank you so much for stopping by. I'm Lisa - a homeschool mom of 3 (2 boys and 1 girl). I care about the strength of the family in America, and often blog about babies/kids, natural parenting, homeschool, and marriage. Before you leave, please sign up for my monthly newsletter (on the top right). If you do, you will be well rewarded with notification of all giveaways and sales - which will not be announced on the blog. Google+ Profile


  1. Hugh! I never knew that… I have always heard the calories in/ calories burned philosophy and get so frustrated that I’m living on tiny portions of food, feeling like I’m starving myself and getting no where. I’ll have to give this a try.
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