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Progress and Plateaus in Weight Loss

Many therapeutic plans may include elements designed to achieve weight loss. This can be true for strategies treating osteoarthritis, diabetes, back pain, knee pain, hip pain, and general health

When a person begins good weight loss exercise and lifestyle changes, it’s common to see rapid success. Motivation soars as participants shoot toward their goals. However, it is also common that weight loss progress will reach a plateau somewhere on the way toward the ultimate goal. These plateaus can test a person’s motivation and adaptability.


Three Common Reasons for Weight-Loss Plateaus


Your Current Activity Plan Requires Less Exertion After You Lose Weight

Sometimes, your own success is what causes this plateau. Both normal daily activities and scheduled exercise burn a certain number of calories. When we were five to fifteen kilograms heavier, those activities required more calories. When we are lighter and fitter, we burn fewer calories to accomplish the same task.(1)


More Efficient Calorie Burn

Calorie restriction actually causes the body to burn calories more efficiently. So your body starts burning fewer calories as a result of calorie restriction.(2)


The Water-Weight Effect is Over

With a decrease in calorie intake, a switch to a low-carb diet, and/or an increase in calorie burn, your body dips into its stored energy reserves.  Glycogen is one way the body stores energy just for such events. Stored glycogen binds to water. When we burn that stored glycogen, the body eliminates the water. The loss of stored water causes rapid weight loss, often more than 0.9kg per week. However, this effect is short-lived. When this effect is over, we are left with burning fat, which occurs more slowly.(3)


Individualised Questions to Explore

This is why people who achieve some weight loss may need to periodically change their strategies to continue with that weight loss at a noticeable pace.  Issues to consider:

  • Does your exercise routine strike the right balance between cardio and resistance training for your current fitness levels and goals?
  • Have you kept a food journal to count your calories? Are you consuming more calories than you need based on your current fitness level?
  • Are you consuming the right number of meals at the optimal times of day?
  • Are you consuming the optimal amount of protein?
  • Does your exercise plan have the right frequency, intensity, and duration for your current fitness level and goals?

At Advanced Physiotherapy, you can receive service from both physiotherapists and exercise physiologists. This means our team will be particularly adept at helping clients address issues of diet and weight loss as they relate to therapeutic plans. If weight loss is part of your fitness or therapeutic plan, you may want to schedule an appointment at Advanced Physiotherapy & Injury Prevention for professional coaching.


  1. Benton D, Young HA. Reducing calorie intake may not help you lose body weight. Perspectives on Psychological Science. 2017 Jun 28.
  2. Gerrior S, Juan W, Peter B. An easy approach to calculating estimated energy requirements. Preventing Chronic Disease. 2006 Oct;3(4).
  3. Kreitzman SN, Coxon AY, Szaz KF. Glycogen storage: illusions of easy weight loss, excessive weight regain, and distortions in estimates of body composition. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1992 Jul 1;56(1):292S-3S.

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