How to Lose the Last 20 Pounds When You Have Hit a Plateau

High-intensity exercise can help you break through a weight-loss plateau.
i Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images News/Getty Images

You’re working out, eating right and the weight is falling off. You feel better, look better and nothing can stop you from reaching your goal. Then, with just 20 pounds to go, the scale refuses to budge. No matter what kind of weight loss journey you’re on, you’re bound to hit at least one plateau. Hitting a plateau doesn’t mean your weight loss will remain stalled forever. While frustrating, a plateau can be an opportunity to jump start your weight-loss program. By changing up your workouts, diet and outlook you can get the scale moving in the right direction again.


    Write down everything you eat. When you started your weight-loss program, you likely measured your portions and stuck carefully to your diet plan. Over time, it’s easy to become more relaxed with your eating. Record everything you eat and drink and watch out for extra calories that sneak in throughout the day, one bite or sip at a time.

    Cut a few calories. If your weight loss has stalled, you are probably eating the amount of calories needed to maintain your current weight. Try reducing your daily intake by a moderate amount that won’t leave you feeling hungry or deprived. At meal time, fill half of your plate with lower calorie vegetables and fruits.

    Avoid skipping meals. Going too long without eating causes an increase in cortisol, a stress hormone that slows your metabolism. Women experience an increase in ghrelin, a hormone that triggers hunger, when they exercise. Women should eat a meal or snack that combines carbohydrates and protein when they get hungry.


    Increase the intensity of your workouts. The more fit you become, the harder you have to work to maintain or improve your fitness level. Keep an exercise journal to keep track of the number of reps, distance or amount of time for each workout.

    Rev up your metabolism with strength training. If your weight loss has been based on aerobic workouts, strength training will build muscle to help you burn more calories.

    Learn some new moves. If you’re used to strength training with gym machines and free weights, try using a kettlebell or medicine ball instead. Incorporate squats and extensions with your lifting to pack more of a calorie-burning punch.

    Get out of the workout doldrums by learning a new sport or activity. Take a dance class, hit the bike trail or grab a tennis racket. Try something new and you may find a fun form of exercise you love.


    Reevaluate your weight-loss goal. Be sure your goal is realistic for your height, build and lifestyle. It may be healthier to maintain your current weight rather than make drastic changes to lose another 20 pounds and then gain it back.

    Avoid slipping back into old habits. When you feel discouraged about your stalled weight loss, it can be easy to slack off with exercise and portion control.

    Look back at how far you’ve come on your weight-loss journey and take pride in your accomplishments. Consider the benefits you’ve reaped from losing weight and let that motivate you to persevere.

    Things You'll Need

    • Food journal

    • Workout journal


    • Try to stay active throughout the day, even when you’re not working out. Take the stairs, do some heavy chores, walk or cycle instead of driving -- anything to keep moving.

      Consider eating a high-protein breakfast to get you going in the morning. Manuel Villacorta of the American Dietetic Association claims that eating plenty of protein can increase your metabolism by 35 percent.


    • Don’t cut too many calories from your diet. Women should eat at least 1,200 calories per day, and men should eat at least 1,500 calories daily.

      Losing weight takes time. Try not to pressure yourself into losing that last 20 pounds by a particular deadline or you could be setting yourself up to fail.

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