A Better Name for a Weight Loss Plateau

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Weight Loss Plateau

One topic that keeps popping into my mind these days is weight loss plateaus and maintenance. When I was on the Dr. Oz show several years ago, he said that losing weight was great, but it was seeing people maintaining their weight that made him happy. And that’s exactly how I feel.

I lost a lot of pounds over the 10 years that I was obese, but I never was able to maintain or sustain the weight loss. I probably lost 100 pounds over those years but never kept any of it off!

The term weight loss plateau is accurate, but a name I like to use in addition to plateau is temporary maintenance. 

You know, I’ve read a lot of blogs over the past 4 years and one thing that I notice is people losing weight at a good pace and then having their weight loss stall.

Sometimes the stall occurs when they are close to their final weight and other times it occurs when they have quite a bit left to lose. It’s a normal part of the weight loss process to have a stall. After all, it would be the rare person who loses the same amount of weight week after week or month after month.

The thing I like to see the most is that the person is not giving up in spite of the stall. I know it can be frustrating to not lose any weight for a while, but it can also be a great learning experience.

I like to call this period of time: temporary maintenance.

Temporary maintenance is a good thing. It’s a more positive phrase than “weight loss plateau.” Sometimes this temporary maintenance is deliberate and other times it just happens. But either way, it can be a really important part of your journey. Why?

Because when you are in temporary maintenance you are maintaining. Not gaining. And maintaining is your ultimate long term goal. Sure you have a long term goal of losing “x” number of pounds, but more importantly, a longer term goal should be the maintenance of the loss of those “x” pounds!

So temporarily maintaining a weight loss, be it for two weeks or two years, isn’t always a bad place to be. It can be frustrating, but if you try and look at that time as a learning experience then perhaps the frustration and inevitable temptation to fall back into old habits can be squashed.

Here are some positive things about temporary maintenance:

♥ You aren’t gaining

♥ You can focus on eating healthy

♥ You can exercise consistently

♥ You can “play” around with food intake, determining where the balance point is

♥ You can try new things

When I was losing weight that final times, I didn’t have any really long periods of temporary maintenance – but there were the occasional week or two where my weight seemed to stabilize. It seemed to stabilize about every 50 pounds. At 250 it stopped for a bit, at about 199 it stopped again. Both times, instead of getting frustrated I remembered how far I had come and how happy I was to be where I was right then. Focusing on the positive aspects of all I had accomplished really helped me.

How do you react when you hit a temporary maintenance point? Diane


  1. says

    I like that term a lot. It does give you a “taste” of what is to come. As my first, wonderful Weight Watcher leader always said, “When you do reach your goal, you’ll just keep on doing what you have been doing.” :)
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  2. says

    You have such a positive way of looking at it. I love it. Both times that I lost a decent amount of weight, I hit a plateau too. It frustrated me to no end because I felt like my efforts should have been rewarded. But you are absolutley right- temporary maintenance mode is a great way to look at it.

  3. says

    this is such a positive way to look at plateaus…I just keep going, I shifted my focus from weight loss to the effort towards the final few pounds

  4. Dita says

    Hi Diane,
    Great article and an excellent reminder to anyone who is trying to lose weight and seems to “get stuck” at some point. This is a good way to look at it. I guess the body is trying to “adjust”. Also, sometimes the body is telling you, “Hey you reached your optimum weight loss”…

  5. L says

    I hit a TM point and stayed there for 7 months one time. My reward in being patient and continuing to stay the course was when a acquaintance heard what I had been doing and said, “Wow, good for you, I never could have waited that long. I would have given up long before now.” That was the moment I knew I was in this for the long haul. And ironic as it might seem, soon after that my weight began to go down once more. I think it was a God wink, and a way for the greatest Teacher of all to say, “Well done. You aced that test. Now let’s proceed.”

  6. says

    I like the reframing of a weight loss plateau to temporary maintenance. When I’m doing well, I will try to analyze the plateau to see what is causing it. The most typical reasons for me is that (1) I’ve lost some weight so I’m not burning as many calories before and I have to increase activity or cut calories, (2) I’ve lost some intensity with exercise so am burning fewer calories, or (3) I’ve gotten a little sloppy on eating and so don’t have the calorie deficit. All of which means that I’m on a plateau or temporarily maintaining because I’m not creating a calorie deficit. It could be worse, obviously, as it is better than gaining. The risk is that I get frustrated by the lack of progress and give up.
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  7. Sarah says

    Thank you for a very useful article.Many give up when the weight stalls after a couple of months and think “that was it” now i can’t lose more – or i am doing something wrong…You are right about focusing on continuing the healthy path and don’t get hooked up in the “stop”.I have been there many times and i understand the frustration.

  8. says

    I’m definitely stuck in this category at the moment. I understand the positive elements of temporary maintenance, but at times the frustration of being stuck can be so overwhelming :/
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  9. says

    LOVE THIS! I actually plateaued a long time ago and got so frustrated, but then I realized I was giving myself a chance at maintenance to maintain the 40 lbs I’d lost. And you know what? It’s worked! I’ve kept it off a couple years now rather than gaining it all back like I did the first time. So while I thought it was horrible at first I’m now grateful for the temporary maintenance and hope to knock off the next chunk of weight.

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