How Can I Get Over a Weight Loss Plateau?

Woman lunging with kettlebell on box gym
Hero Images/Getty

"Since I started running four months ago, I've lost 15 pounds. But over the past two weeks, I seem to have reached a plateau. How can I continue to lose weight?"

First of all, congratulations on your new running habit and your weight loss! You should be very proud of your accomplishment. You're losing weight the right way -- slow and steady. Although it's extremely frustrating, it's also common for people to hit a plateau after a few months of weight loss success.

Here are some steps to take to break through that plateau:

  • Find out how many calories you need. As you lose weight, your calorie needs change because it takes fewer calories to maintain your weight. So, if you want to keep losing weight, you have to gradually reduce your calorie intake. Use a daily caloric expenditure calculator to determine how many calories you actually need each day. Once you have that number, you need to create a deficit -- either by dieting or exercise -- of approximately 500 calories per day to lose a pound a week.
  • Track your calorie intake in a food journal or in your training journal. Some people consume a lot more calories than they think. It's helpful to keep track of everything you eat and drink, even if you do it for just a few weeks. You'll have a better idea of how much you're really eating and knowing you have to record every bite and sip will make you think twice before going overboard.
  • Try switching up your running program. If you've gotten into a regular routine of, say, running at a conversational pace for 30 minutes five times a week, try adding some speed to at least one of your runs. Here's a simple speed workout to try: Warm up with one mile at an easy pace. Run two minutes at a comfortably hard pace. You should be breathing fairly heavy (but not gasping for air). Then recover for two minutes by running at an easy pace. Repeat this for two miles and then cool down by running one mile easy. You can also try doing some hill repeats to pump up your calorie burn.
  • Increase your mileage. If you usually go for 3-4 miles every time you run, try to make one of your runs a longer one. Start by adding a half-mile to one of your runs. Continue to increase your mileage by a half-mile until you reach 6 miles. Running longer will burn more calories and fat and build your endurance. (More: How Many Miles Should I Run Per Week to Lose Weight?)
  • Add strength-training. It can be as simple as doing 15-20 minutes of squats, lunges, or step-ups twice or three times a week. By doing strength-training, you'll burn more calories, boost your metabolism, and build lean muscle mass all at the same time. As added bonuses, you'll also feel stronger during runs and be more injury-resistant, which improve your motivation to keep running.

    Keep in mind, of course, that strength training will help you add lean muscle mass, so you may actually gain a pound or two. Try not to get too focused on the number on the scale and pay attention to other measures such as inches lost or how your clothes fit.
  • Don't give up. Try not to let a little bump in the road derail your weight loss efforts. Be patient and keep up the good habits you've already developed. You can and will reach your goal!

    Also see:

Continue Reading