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Calorie Count Blog

When the Scale Won?t Budge


By Mary_RD on Oct 22, 2009 12:00 PM in Dieting & You
Edited By +Rachel Berman

It happens to everyone.  You are cruising along, dropping the pounds, and then all of a sudden, Halt!  The scale is stuck.  What can possibly be wrong?  

There are some many reasons why weight loss can stop, but if you back up and play detective, perhaps you can explain it.  Start by asking yourself these questions:

Has your weight been stuck for one week or less?

If yes, then fluid accumulation may have your weight at a standstill.  For women, hormonal changes mid-to late-cycle usually lead to water retention.  In addition, anyone can retain fluid after eating a high sodium meal.  And when the ambient temperature and humidity are high, the body is less efficient at removing fluid.  Fluid retention is a side effect of certain medications, including some oral contraceptives and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Fluid retention could be a symptom of a medical condition, but it would be accompanied by other signs of disease.

Solution:  Drink lots of water and keep your sodium intake low to prevent water retention.

Do you eat more food than you realize?

A bite here, a lick there, a pick while cooking, not to mention another small helping, and a binge we hardly remember.  It all adds up to blow your calorie budget, and unless you keep a food log, how can you be sure?  Counting calories forces you to pay attention to exactly what you eat.  It assures that you know your calorie needs and your food choices stay within your calorie budget.
 
Solution: Keep food logs and calorie counts.  Review your analysis at the end of the day.

Is your exercise sufficient?

To start, if you don’t exercise for 30-minutes or more on most days, then you are missing an opportunity to burn calories.  Cardio-type exercise prevents some of the metabolic adaptation that stops weight loss, and lifting weights preserves and builds muscle - and muscle burns calories.  If you already put in your exercise time, then step up to interval training where you work really hard in brief spurts.  You can also exercise for 60 minutes a day, in two 30-minute intervals before breakfast and dinner.  Or try a completely new activity to burn more calories by taxing new muscles.

Solution:  Kick up your exercise.

Do you get enough sleep?

The body burns calories more effectively when you get enough sleep. Sleep-deprivation alters hormones that regulate your weight.  When you short-change sleep, the level of appetite stimulating hormones increase and the hormones that trigger fullness drop.  Few people realize the harm they create by missing their ZZZZs.

Solution: Sleep eight hours a night.

Have you reached your Set Point?

It's a fact that when a person loses 10-20% of his or her body weight, the body reaches a Set Point and stops losing weight (for now).  Scientists believe that everyone has a genetically determined “set point” or weight range that spans about 30 pounds. When people try to force their weight below that range, hormones kick in to increase hunger and metabolism slows down. To reset your Set Point, increase your average calorie intake to the number needed to maintain your new weight.  Hold that line for about 6 months, and after that (or maybe longer), a low calorie diet will lead to weight loss again.

Solution:  Read Break Through Your Set Point: How to Finally Lose the Weight You Want and Keep It Off by George Blackburn, MD.  Set your calorie budget to maintenance for awhile.

Change your point of view.

Remember this:  When you reach your goal weight, nothing will change in terms of diet and exercise.  You still have to eat a healthy diet and be active to maintain your new weight (and your health).  And so, you are already there.  (Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans....)

Your thoughts....

Does your scale ever "get stuck"?  How did you get it moving again?



Comments


I went from 218lbs (Feb 09) to 192 (Aug 09) after being put on Metformin for PCOS.  However since Aug I have only lost a further 4lbs and have been fluctuating around 188lbs for 5 weeks.  The past 2 weeks I have increased my calorie intake to around 2000 per day and am still excercising 2-5 times per week

Could it be that I have reached my "Set Point" and need to maintain  or could it be something else?



Good timing for this article- my CC buddy and I were just bemoaning the fact that we are 'stuck'! Thanks for all these wonderful articles that inspire us to continue on even when we are frustrated.

Back to counting calories again- we can all do it! Never give up (our healthy goals), never give in (to the cookies, the chocolate, the caviar!).

Onwards and... downwards!



I was stuck for about 3 months. For 18 months I had been typically working out around dinner time (m-f) and the morning (s-s).  After switching to working out in the morning (m-f), I've moved the scale about 4lbs.  I know I should also change up my routines and excercises but I haven't put as much effort into mixing up the muscles that I should.

The set point concept is interesting to me because I started at abotu 250lbs in Jan 07 and I've been in the 186 - 190 range for the past 5 months.  I keep telling myself I'm trying to lose more to reach my psychological goal of 180 but the reality is that I'm basically just maintaining.  I have a feeling that I'm not too far from whatever my set point is since dropping another 5lbs would really require me to adhere to strict regimine.



When I reach set points I eat more meals per day but the same amount of calories. Its quite a pain when you work outside the home, but it fools the body into thinking it has lots of calories and starts losing again. If you were eating 3 meals and 1 snack then pump up to 3 meals and 3 snacks for about 4-5 weeks and when you are comfortable with the weight loss happening then very gradually bump back to 3 meals and 1 snack unless you work well at the 3 meals and 3 snacks.



When my scale gets stuck, I take a good listen to what I'm telling myself. When my self-talk gets negative, when I'm mad at myself or holding onto anger toward someone else, that's when my scale freezes.

Only with the correct mindset -- that food nurtures my body, that I'm enough and can only keep getting better, that I'm worthy of getting everything I want -- will my scale move again.

If a food journal makes you feel good, do it. But if it's one more thing you can beat yourself over the head with at the end of the day, please stop.



I saw a post by Jillian Michaels the other day on plateaus, and she recommended upping calories to a maintenance number for 2-3 days if your plateau has lasted longer than 3 weeks, because your body may mistake your healthy weightloss for a lack of food and kick into survival mode. She basically says that feeding it a little extra for a couple of days will help relax that reaction and get you back on track.



Increasing calories a little for a week or so to maintain, then dropping the amount has worked for me in the past.  Now I'm stuck and I can see that it's a set point situation.  I plan to maintain for a few months before resuming to lose the last 25 -30 pounds.  Maintaining will also give me confidence that I can keep the weight off.



Yeah...Ive lost 30 since June, and I am 2 lbs from a healthy BMI and I am losing sooo slowly now. I was stuck at 155 for 3 weeks. I have finally lost 3 more since then, but the last 2 lbs to a 24.9 BMI seem a mile long. I think that increasing my calories a bit for a little while helped. I only have 12 lbs to go.

I am not really getting upset over it though, cause I can fit a size 6 now :) I was a 12, so I make sure that I stay grateful for my accomplishments and take it one day at a time. It will only take me 2-3 months to lose it, but I will be healthy for life!



I'm assuming set points do not occur unless you are in a healthy BMI range, correct?



Original Post by: valoria44

I'm assuming set points do not occur unless you are in a healthy BMI range, correct?


Temporary set-points occur on the way down to a healthy BMI.  People tend to maintain at a higher-than normal weight-for awhile before dropping again in step-wise fashion. But when we reach the healthy BMI range, we do maintain set-point, ideally, over a 5 pound range.



I have lost 50lbs. in the last 5 months...I have now been stuck for over 5 weeks.  Is this what you call my TEMPORARY "Set Point"?  I'm being patient but want to reviv it up a little...will the cold weather help burn calories faster on my walks?



Thanks for the great information.  The last time my scale got "stuck" it was for about 3 weeks...but my clothes kept getting looser.  I take a weight lifting class for 1 hour 3 times a week along with the cardio 5-6 days and I guess it is true that muscle weighs more...even though the weight stays the same I'm getting results!



I had lost around 76 pounds since April when I hit my first bump. It lasted for over a month!!!! I was so mad! And I was working hard, counting, and I was losing just fine before hand.

I just had to stick through it. I talked to my nutritionist and the women at the health center, and they said I just had to to keep working and pay extra attention to my calories. Eventually, I lost one pound, and then it started rolling again, but at a much smaller pace. I'm at -85 now, and have learned to be quite happy with two pounds. ^^



THANK YOU for this blog Mary! I have been driving myself crazy because I have lost 16 pounds and then for 2 and half months have not been able to lose a pound! I have been watching what I eat, weight lifting 3 x's wk and cardio 4 days a week and still nothing was coming off.

I am going to go the book by George Blackburn regarding breaking through the set point.



i lose 25lbs last  3 months and the last 2 weeks only 1lbs week. sucks. have 40lbs to go. 



Been through this a few times over the past 2 1/2 years.  Plateus, or set points are a frustrating thing-but necessary, I think.  I look at it as a method our body used to catch up to what we are doing.  To give itself a rest, per say.  I just recently have seen the scale start moving again after almost 6 months.  Since I consider this a lifestyle journey for me, and not a diet, I tried to put the stall in it's place.  I am doing everything right for my body, and eventually it will come around and give me my reward!



Wow this post came right on time! I started in April at 247 and have been lingering around the 195 mark for the past 3 months.  So frustrated but am trying to stay positive!  This is a life long journey and it took me years to pack on the pounds.  However, it is discouraging when you are halfway there and just can't seem to get things going again.  I can't wait until I'm pass this!



i have lost 47 lbs. since may 23rd of 09' and 15 of that was in the last 30 days,i maintained during august, but from may till then i was dropping steadily just by working out alone. once i started tracking my food in sept. and only weighing myself once a week (monday mornings, with the same exact clothes on, before and after my workout) my weight really took off.



Oh, its so hard!  I hate it all!  That's how I feel today. Glad to hear I'm not the only one! I've been working so hard lately - Over an hour of cardio every day and counting calories too!  I want my "set-point" to be at a healthy weight!   Its not this month! 

BUT WE CAN DO IT! We all have it in us to do it.  I know this to be true.  Its a struggle, but our health is WORTH IT!  I have obese friends in wheel chairs -  I have relatives with horrible degenrative diseases. Yet, I am healthy but for my weight - something I CAN CONTROL!  So, I now choose to control it.  One day at a time.  It feels good to spout off about my frustrations.  Thanks



Thanks for the article.  I had lost 60lbs in 6 months and was feeling great until the scale quit moving down.  For the last month I've been teetering 2lbs back and forth.  I thought maybe I was doing something wrong or I wasn't meant to lose any more weight despite my constant exercise and healthy eating.  I'm going to try to up my calories for a few days and see if it works.  (fingers crossed)



I think that this maybe happening to me right now.  Cry

In the last 1yr 1/2  i've lost 136 [started @ 467 pounds] pounds during that time I went through a few plateaus. Some lasting a few weeks but I've all-ways pushed through them with a slight calorie adjustment and a workout change.  However this time it seems I just can't shake the Yo-yo-ing up and down effect.  I'm happy to know that our bodies have "Set Points" and that there are things that I can do about it. The email that I received this morning about this came just in the nick of time for me.  Now I have a renewed hope that I will make it to my goal.



I am not sure there is such a thing as a temporary set point.  I think the reason most people get stuck is because they do not reset their BMR.

If you started working out at 275 and had BMR of 2300 and lost 30 lbs your new BMR would be 2167.  Lose another 30 lbs and your new BMR is 1981.  To lose 1 lbs a week it is suggested that you cut 500 calories (work out or diet).  In this case you would be eating 1800 calories. 

If you do not reset your BMR to match your new weight you would go from a diet that creates a deficit of 500 calories (losing 1 lb a week) or a diet that left you with a deficit of 180 calories (losing 1 lb in 19 days).

The way to avoid this is to not use your current weight when calculating their BMR but to use your desired weight instead.  This works because if you have a high body fat percentage your are including fat weight in your daily caloric needs.  Fat does not need calories to survive so if you are using a desired weight that is lower than your current weight you are not starving your lean muscle, but at the worst starving your fat cells.

Trying this should keep you in a place where your diet does not need to change and you do not need to increase your work out intensity.  You can keep eating the same amount throughout your entire weight loss journey.

Try this and see if it works.



I lost 15lbs and then came to a hault. I am taking Serequil and Lithium and I think these may be the reason I came to a stop. I want to lose about 35lbs but I wonder if it could be these drugs stopping me, is that possible?



I have been doing The FIRM exercise videos for a few months now, and I love them!  But one of the main things that they tell you to do is DO NOT check your scale on a daily basis!  Muscle weighs more than fat, and you're better off regulating your results by how well your clothes fit and how you look.  I have only lost 2 lbs in the past month, but my jeans that were snug on me 3 weeks ago are now starting to fall off my hips!  That result is wayy more important to me than 2 lbs. :)



Original Post by: cecedawn

I lost 15lbs and then came to a hault. I am taking Serequil and Lithium and I think these may be the reason I came to a stop. I want to lose about 35lbs but I wonder if it could be these drugs stopping me, is that possible?


Weight gain can occur with both lithium and seroquel, which makes it important to eat wisely, exercise regularly, and follow a low sodium diet (with <2000 mg/day) to prevent fluid retention.



I agree with about upping your calories by a little bit when experiencing a plateau. I was plateauing for a little while for the last few weeks, and I couldn't figure out why because I was definitely watching what I was eating, eating small amounts every 3 hours, eating healthy foods, etc. Then one night I decided to have an extra snack with my roommates and the next day I was surprised to learn that I felt a little more toned, so I added an extra snack every day for the next few days and I lost 2 lbs that week.



An interesting discussion here people!

For my own experiences...I had difficulty getting off the mark in the first place!
moving from 194 pounds to begin with was a massive wait! I began months ago (and still am) working out several times a week (1 hour sessions) and began to walk the short walk to work everyday (5 kms round trip), and also changed my diet drastically (cut down portion sizes and count cals) after a year of VERY sedentary living and a no-holds-bar diet.

 
I have only just- after 3 WHOLE months- started to drop the kilos (pounds) slowly and am now at 187 pounds. In pounds it sounds like I'm going great! But in kilos (i'm in Australia) it is only a shift fro 88 kilos down to 85 kilos. It's very slow moving! 1 kg per month on average. Most people aim to loose 0.5 to 1 kg per WEEK.


So, even though I AM loosing, albeit slowly, I am most definitely feeling the frustration that it seems people who hit a platoe are feeling. It seems like a tonne of effort for a little bit of a reward in terms of visual/physical rewards, but I am persisting, as I physically feel yuck form the extra weight.


My point was (sorry, got side tracked!) that I am feeling the frustration that I imagine people who are at their 'set points' would be feeling right now as I am being impatient, expecting that if I'm doing everything 'right' then it should be melting off. Alas, no. >:/

Good luck to you all and thanks for the advice on how to mix it up and hopefully move some more weight (off!) :)



I'm kind of slowly adjusting my body into maintenance right now anyhow to break my set point! I didn't know it took like 6 months though. Oh well. 



Well I also want to adjust/maintain without gaining a whole bunch of weight :) thanks for the great tip :)



I hadn't given much thought to my body's set point until reading this article. But something "clicked" when I read it.  I have lost 65 pounds over the past two years. The way I did it was to lose about 15 pounds and then "hang out" at that weight for a few months (ate maintainence calories and kept my workout schedule about the same). The thing that "clicked" is that I chose to lose weight that way for pyschological  reasons. I wanted to give both my body and my mind time to adjust to the "new me" each time I lost weight (less calories needed, more fit body, seeing smaller person in mirror, etc). When I felt ready, I would drop my calories to a weight loss level. And, voila, within another few months I'd lose another 15 pounds. I didn't realize it, but I was breaking through my set point! Now that I'm about 8 pounds from my goal weight, I can see how I can go back to that mindset and use my set point to lost the rest.



Hmm, good point.  Well, in that case I've been at a set point for 2.5 years! LoL  Seriously though.  I've lost a lot of weight twice in my life with a long time in between each loss.  Now I have 12 lbs to loose, but have been struggling for years with it.  I realize I have to be more aggressive to make this happen.



I was in a serious plateau (or so I thought) for nearly 3 weeks. I had lost 29 lbs, couldn't lose any more. Then I was reading here @ CC (and also @ Jillian's site) that to break through I should up the calories ~ so I went back to using the phord calculator, and presto! I started losing almost immediately again, went from 216 to 215, to 213, then steadily down from there...

Now, just this morning, only 2 weeks later, I am holding steady @ 211 (making the total lost 33 lbs so far, 62 lbs to go). I lost 2.5 lbs this past week...this is an all-time high for me; I have NEVER lost that much in a week's time before in my life!!

My daughter was telling me that to boost my metabolism, I should follow her nutritionist friend's advice: drink a glass of ice water before meals. Something about the coldness of the ice (I don't really know what it is) will kick-start the burning of the calories. This, plus eating something (usually a piece of fruit) before my workout every morning ~ I was only drinking a glass of milk ~ and I have not had any problems since.

I also added a bit more to my daily workout, but not too much...I will probably add more to that as I notice another slow-down. But for now, at least, I am happily past that first plateau! Laughing

One more thing...I agree with ashleyamber ~ my clothes are also gettting too big on me, again! I just got some new things less than 2 months ago, since what I was wearing was falling off of me; now, I see, I need to go shopping again! I can barely keep my jeans up, lol. All the while I was in my "slump" my waist was getting smaller & my clothes were noticeably looser about the middle. That is indeed an added boost to the ol' ego!



Original Post by: cherylemery1952

I have lost 50lbs. in the last 5 months...I have now been stuck for over 5 weeks.  Is this what you call my TEMPORARY "Set Point"?  I'm being patient but want to reviv it up a little...will the cold weather help burn calories faster on my walks?


how did you lose the 50 pouds though?>



ususally anything that makes your body work harder to warm up, will burn more calories



Te best way to move your scale is to do a low carbo diet for one or two days, lots of protein and that's it, it moves down again, also drink lots of water to get rid of the Cetosis created by the protein, and then keep on doing the low calorie diet.



Original Post by: cecedawn

I lost 15lbs and then came to a hault. I am taking Serequil and Lithium and I think these may be the reason I came to a stop. I want to lose about 35lbs but I wonder if it could be these drugs stopping me, is that possible?


Hey cecedawn. It is possible your meds are interfering with your lack of weight loss lately. I was taking Celexa until March of this year and noticed I had to work so much harder and drink a lot more water than I do now. I've been steadily losing while on the Meds but when I was taken off them, I lost much easier.

I also noticed the meds affected my appetite for sweet foods or candy. I'm glad I'm off of the meds now mentally and physically. Currently I'm watching my caloric intake since I'm not all that physical right now. I'll consume around 1500 calories a day, and have kept that steady for a few months now. At first, it was rough. Headaches and cravings were the worst, but now my body has adjusted and its much easier. I do give myself permission from time to time to eat something indulgent, but I find I wont eat all of it. My new habits are causing positive eating habits in the long term. Eventually I may raise my caloric intake but for now, since I'm not very active my body doesn't need the extra "fuel"

I don't know if you're using the Food Log but it's done wonders for me. I've noticed keeping a log and having to hold myself accountable for eating whatever I eat, I pay more attention to how good or bad it is for me. 

Let me know if you need any pointers or suggestions!! I'm happy to oblige!



Original Post by: 189pounds

An interesting discussion here people!

For my own experiences...I had difficulty getting off the mark in the first place!
moving from 194 pounds to begin with was a massive wait! I began months ago (and still am) working out several times a week (1 hour sessions) and began to walk the short walk to work everyday (5 kms round trip), and also changed my diet drastically (cut down portion sizes and count cals) after a year of VERY sedentary living and a no-holds-bar diet.

 
I have only just- after 3 WHOLE months- started to drop the kilos (pounds) slowly and am now at 187 pounds. In pounds it sounds like I'm going great! But in kilos (i'm in Australia) it is only a shift fro 88 kilos down to 85 kilos. It's very slow moving! 1 kg per month on average. Most people aim to loose 0.5 to 1 kg per WEEK.


So, even though I AM loosing, albeit slowly, I am most definitely feeling the frustration that it seems people who hit a platoe are feeling. It seems like a tonne of effort for a little bit of a reward in terms of visual/physical rewards, but I am persisting, as I physically feel yuck form the extra weight.


My point was (sorry, got side tracked!) that I am feeling the frustration that I imagine people who are at their 'set points' would be feeling right now as I am being impatient, expecting that if I'm doing everything 'right' then it should be melting off. Alas, no. >:/

Good luck to you all and thanks for the advice on how to mix it up and hopefully move some more weight (off!) :)


This is truly interesting and fascinating. I can 100% relate to the quoted comment and from my own experience. I've been using CC since May and have lost ZERO pounds!! How frustrating it must be for those who've lost and have now stalled. In either case, it can leave us feeling like we're 'done'. It's a place none of us who still have weight to lose want to be, so every suggestion to start things up again is worth the read. Back some time ago I received advice on how to mix it up and have implemented ALL of the suggestions. Alas, it is the same for me...I'm doing everything 'right', but the pounds are not melting off. Matter of fact, they are not even budging a pound. It's little consolation, at this point and after all this time, to know that all of my (exercise) efforts are making me healthier. However, I'd rather be cardio healthy than sedentary. So for all of you out there who are experiencing the same situation, don't give up, keep positive, take good advice and hopefully something will 'click'. In the meantime, keep the advice coming. I'm hoping for and expecting a miracle.



i am in healthy eating habits  always but i use to skip meals when my hubby is not in town>i do gym 5 days a week from last one year and lost only15lb,i am currently 135lb amd 5ft.3",but stuck from last two months nothing goes......I will try to eat more calories let's see! 



i cant seem to loose any weight i do a gym workout every day and my calories per day 1000 less than what i need to have how can i get past the last 5kgs!



Up your calories ever so slightly 100 cal / day but spread it out over the course of 6 small meals per day instead of 3 meals and 1 or 2 snacks. It worked for me when I ran into a slump.



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