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Breakthrough Fitness

Don't let plateaus turn into backslides! These are opportunities for progress and improvement.

Bust Through Plateaus With These Tips

Four months ago you put your words into action by dedicating time each week for exercise. You also made the choice to give up drinking alcohol during the week and drastically cut back on processed foods. During this time you have watched the scale steadily decrease. You are now 20 lbs. lighter!

But for the last month, you haven’t dropped a pound. You’ve hit your first weight plateau.

Weight plateaus are not setbacks or failure. They are opportunities for improvement.

It’s always easy when things go our way. Fortunately for us, there’s rarely a straight linear path to achievement.

At times, the path will be wide open and easy to follow. Other times, it will be overgrown with thorny bushes and doubt. Sometimes the path may even appear blocked. Sometimes you think you need a new path with more hours dedicated to workouts and more restrictions (no carbs, less social time with friends because you drink more wine).

Most of the time you need to stay on the path and focus more on the quality of the process.

It helps to think of weight loss plateaus as chances to evaluate and refine your habits, goals, and lifestyle. 

Check out all these opportunities during a plateau.

1. The opportunity to rejoice and celebrate.

Rejoice and celebrate the changes you have made that led to this point.

Above, I used the example of losing 20 lbs. That’s is no easy task! Take time to appreciate and enjoy your success. Buy some new workout clothes to celebrate your weight loss. Treat yo self! You’ve built a solid foundation out of creating new habits and behaviors.

  • During your celebration, remember that there were daily struggles.
  • Remember all the good choices you had to make to be at this plateau.

2. The opportunity to evaluate and refine your current fitness and nutrition. What can change?

  • Have I been as consistent as I was when I started?
  • These 5 lb. dumbbells feel super light now; maybe I should lift heavier ones.
  • I have been enjoying an extra small glass of wine here and there; I can cut back.
  • I probably could speed up my pace during my treadmill walks/runs.
  • I could use some help learning more about strength training.

3. The opportunity to learn a new skill.

  • That kettlebell swing exercise looks interesting. Maybe I can learn it and add it to my program.
  • My friends love their Instapot. I like what I hear about it. I think it can give me more options to prepare meals for my family.

silhouette of two male runners

But before you start adding more, take a look at all the things that could be limiting your potential.

It might be that your current habits and routine are no longer working for you because you haven’t been sticking to them properly. Here are some areas where you might need to get back on track.

Food Choices

  • Eat less processed foods.
  • Cook at home more instead of dining out.
  • Get more vegetables into your diet.

Eating Behaviors (we talked about this last week)

  • Eat slower and more mindfully.
  • Control your portions. Watch out for empty calories in your diet.
  • Are you dehydrated? Drink less caffeine and more water.
  • Make sure you’re eating enough food.
  • Stick to a regular meal schedule.
  • Stop controlling your emotions with food.

Exercise and Activity

  • Increase the intensity of your workouts instead of adding more time. (Most of us don’t have more time).
  • Focus on more daily life movement.
  • Join a community gym like Breakthrough Fitness.
  • Join a recreational sports league.
  • Play catch or wrestle around with your kids.


  • Improve your sleep quality.
  • Manage your stress.
  • Make sure your nutrition matches your lifestyle.

Food and Cooking Skills

  • Read food labels.
  • Take your nutrition into your own hands; don’t rely on convenient, manufactured foods as much.
  • Create five go-to meals that are easy to prepare and that you enjoy (chili, smoothies, eggs).


  • Remind yourself that steady progress will get you to your goals, not fad diets and insane workouts.
  • Believe in your abilities.
  • Keep your thoughts positive.

Life Skills

  • Start meal planning and scheduling.
  • Create boundaries so your co-workers, family, and friends know your goals.
  • Eliminate the people criticizing or sabotaging your efforts. (This is a hard decision, but worth it in the long run.)


  • Make sure your home, work, gym, and all the places you frequent are not hindering your success.
  • Examine your cultural beliefs. Lots of people live their lives around “facts” that are actually myths.
  • Lean on supportive relationships.


Embrace the plateau; it’s a great time to learn. Choose a limiting factor that could be holding you back and get to work.

Keep moving,

Coach Dom

The lessons is this article are from the textbook, The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition.