Personal trainer Emmet Rushe helps us understand why weight loss can slow down and why giving up shouldn't be an option.

Weight loss stalling when dieting is not uncommon. In fact, I’d hazard a guess that weight loss stalls are the downfall of the majority of diets

If you have ever been on a diet before, when weight (fat loss) loss stalls a few things will happen.
People will usually get;

  • Confused
  • Angry
  • Upset
  • Disheartened
  • Feel like giving up

Why do we do these things?

It is mainly because we do not understand what is happening and why it is happening.

First thing that I will mention is this.

It is impossible to consistently lose huge amounts of weight.

What I am talking about here, is the expectancy that people have when they think about weight loss.
We are programmed to think that anything less than 5-7lbs per week is a failure and that it is actually possible in the long term.

This IS NOT TRUE,  and we really need to get this idea out of our heads.

Your goals are still in reach – don’t give up!

The first thing we need when weight loss stalls is PATIENCE.

This is something that we lack at the moment and it can be your downfall.

What is a good rate of weight loss per week?
How long is a piece of string?

Everyone will have differing results from dieting and you cannot compare your weight loss to someone else’s.

If you are losing 1lb per week, and you do this every week, you will have 52lbs off in a year.

That is an amazing achievement for anyone, most do not have that amount to lose, but if you told someone who was starting training and dieting that they would lose 1lb per week, they wouldn’t see this as good, when it is amazing.

The second thing we need when weight loss stalls is to ASSESS OUR DIET. 

If you are eating a sensible diet for weight loss, are in a calorie deficit, eating protein at each meal and have been losing weight, when it stalls you need to re-assess how you are eating.

Yes, that way of eating may have worked at the start, but if a stall happens, does this mean that it no longer works?


It just means that you may need to readjust your calories.

If you were on 1800 calories and your weight has plateaued for 2-4 weeks, you may need to drop calories by 200-300 per day in order for weight loss to kick off again.

Keep protein the same and readjust your calories.

Stick to this for 2-4 weeks and if weight loss starts again, stick with this until you reach your desired goal.

So, let’s say you were 150lbs and you were eating 1800 calories per day. (150 x 12 = 1800)

Your weight dropped to 140lbs and stalled.

Then you need to reset your new weight loss calories, (140lbs x 11 = 1540)

Your new weight loss calories are 1540 calories per day.


The 3rd thing we need to look at when weight loss stalls is DO WE NEED A DIET BREAK?

In the past these would have been known as a ‘cheat meal’ or ‘cheat day’.

I do not like these as it is an excuse to binge for an extended period of time and it also give negative connotations to the break.
The word ‘cheat’ automatically makes you feel guilty for ‘cheating’ on your diet.

So look at it as a diet break instead.

This is where you take your calories back to maintenance levels for your current weight.

So we will take you back up to your new maintenance calories (140lbs x 14 = 1960)

So, you can increase your calories, mainly by increasing your carbs, up to 1900-2000 calories for 1-2 days and then go back to your weight loss calories.

Other things you may need to look at if weight loss stalls.


Are you getting enough sleep each night?

If not thing could be having an effect on your appetite and therefore your calorie intake. 

Menstrual cycle:

Are you around your monthly cycle?

If so, this could be the reason for the stall and you have to allow any fluid retention and bloating to dissipate so you can get a better reading if weight has actually stalled.

Taking a monthly average of your weight is a better way to estimate how things are moving due to this.


If you are under constant stress, this can have an effect on your fat loss in a similar way to lack of sleep.
Both together can be a recipe for disaster.
So look at ways to reduce this in your daily routine.

You had a bad weekend

If you ate a load of carbs and drank a load of alcohol over a weekend, your weight WILL be up the next day.

This is due to fluid retention from the extra carbs and the alcohol.

This doesn’t mean that you have put on all this from fat, and if you get back on track, it will go as quickly as it came on.

But giving up because of a bad weekend is a sure way to gain all the weight you have lost back and probably more along with it.

Fat loss stalls and plateaus are part of dieting and you have to expect them to happen.

As long as you know this and realise that they will come and you know what to do about them, you will be more prepared to understand and deal with them when they do.