Unstoppable: Turning Challenges into Victories to Break Through Plateaus and Setbacks

July 3, 2024
Webinar Q&A

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What Are Weight Loss Plateaus and Setbacks?

A weight loss plateau is a period of time in your weight loss journey when you stop losing weight even though you’re still trying.

A setback, or lapse, is a period of time when you go back to one or more old behaviors. Here are some examples. 

  • Eating chips while watching tv instead of cycling while watching tv
  • Staying up late and sleeping later instead of taking your morning walk
  • Ordering in instead of prepping meals at home
  • Eating meat and potatoes with your family without adding a salad for yourself

When Do Plateaus and Setbacks Happen?

You’re more likely to experience a plateau if you:

  • Had rapid initial weight loss
  • Have inaccurate food tracking
  • Have just hit a milestone
  • When in weight loss journey
  • After 6-8 weeks
  • Every few months if you’re on a long-term weight loss journey

Why Do Plateaus and Setbacks Happen?

  • Slower metabolism - from reduced calorie intake or loss of muscle mass
  • Physiological fatigue - lack of energy
  • Psychological fatigue - “tired of dieting”

Get Weight Loss Moving Again!

There are some ways to change your setpoint.

  • Adjust caloric intake
  • Change your exercise or physical activity plan
  • Change dietary choices (protein, vegetables, fiber, macronutrients)
  • Focus on supportive behaviors like sleep, stress, and mindfulness

Other ideas

  • Eat lower-calorie snacks
  • Drink lower-calorie beverages
  • Increase physical activity
  • Choose lower-calorie condiments

Create Your Plan to Overcome Plateaus and Setbacks

Step 1: Clearly describe the problem. What caused it?

What setbacks are you experiencing? For example: 

  • Plateau or regain
  • Skipping workouts
  • Choosing less healthy snacks again
  • Going back to eating to manage emotions or stress
  • Managing cravings by eating high-calorie foods

What may be some causes? For example: 

  • Life changes causing stress or lack of time
  • Lack of motivation
  • Feeling let down after achieving initial goal(s) or milestone(s)
  • Feeling discouraged if not achieving initial goals or if plateauing 
  • Exhaustion (physical, explaining to family, cooking)
  • Injuries or pain

Tip: Be honest with yourself. Often, we know (deep down) the causes

Step 2: Identify some options for solving the problem

Swap nutritious foods for low-nutrient ones

Make healthy or lower-calorie swaps

Plan ahead

  • Grocery shopping
  • Meal plan
  • Prepare foods ahead of time

Watch portions

Log food accurately

Manage emotions/stress

Increase motivation

  • Make a new list
  • Keep it visible to remind you

Be more physically active

  • New goals or activities
  • Track activity
  • Make time or multitask

Get help

  • Can housemates eat healthy? 
  • Find exercise partners
  • Ask for support
  • Join support groups

Tip: Let the ideas flow! You can narrow them down later.

Step 3: Choose the best 1-2 options

They should be: 

  • Realistic: Is it realistic to cook healthy dishes on weekends if you hate cooking?
  • Doable: Is it doable to store frozen vegetables at work if there’s no freezer?
  • Specific: Precisely which activities or foods are you planning to use?
  • Flexible: What will you do if your schedule changes or you run out of a certain ingredient?
  • Enjoyable: Do you like the foods that you’re planning to eat, and do you look forward to your planned physical activity?
  • Action-oriented (behaviors): consider what you can choose to do, like eating fruit instead of candy bars, rather than focusing on weight or another outcome like a specific blood sugar measurement.

Tip: Choose 1-2 realistic and manageable options to boost chances of success

Step 4: Make an action plan - what will you do?

Ask yourself: 

  • Where I will do it: for example, packing healthy lunches in the kitchen
  • When I will do it: for example, every night while cleaning up from dinner
  • How long I will do it: for example, for a month
  • Challenges I might face: for example, forgetting or having trouble transporting food
  • How I might cope with those challenges: for example, setting a timer and purchasing appropriate containers

Tip: Make your action plan as specific as possible so you can carry it out

Step 5: Try it

Put your plan into place

Does it work?

Refine it as needed or go to another plan

Health Coach Q & A

Are we going to receive a handout once the webinar is done?

You can always come to the Lark webinar hub and see recent webinar recordings, summaries, and question and answer sessions. 

How long can a plateau last?

A plateau can last for a very long time if your body has reached a setpoint - that is, if your body is happy at the weight it’s at given the behaviors you’re choosing. If you can change your behaviors soon, your body will usually get through the plateau within days or a week.

I heard today that you should eat your veggies first then your protein and carbs last so I will be trying this method

That’s a great strategy. The reason it works is because you’re eating the lower-calorie, more filling foods first. That means you’ll be less hungry for the high-calorie foods later. If you eat the high-calorie foods like high-carb foods first, you’re likelier to eat larger portions of them, and not find low-calorie vegetables as appetizing afterwards. 

Will we have access to this power point?

The webinar recordings are always available afterwards at the webinar hub! https://www.lark.com/live-coaching-hub

What if you are measuring your food ? Should I decrease my intake?

Well, there’s a more positive way to look at it! You can increase your intake of a lot of foods! Add more vegetables, fruit, and lean protein, and you may naturally decrease your intake of higher-calorie foods and lose weight again!

Here are some examples of ways to reduce intake by 100 or more calories while you eat more food.

  • Instead of a burger and fries, have grilled chicken, 2 cups of broccoli, and 1 cup of baked sweet potato sticks, and a tangerine
  • Instead of 16 ounces of orange juice, have 16 ounces of water, plus half an orange, plus a low-fat string cheese stick
  • Instead of ½ cup of granola with 1 cup of whole milk and half of a banana, have 1 cup of plain Oat O’s with 1 cup of almond milk and 1 banana
  • Instead of 2 half-cup scoops of ice cream, try 1 half-cup scoop plus 1 cup of berries and 1 tablespoon of sliced almonds
  • Instead of a 2-ounce candy bar, opt for a 4-ounce apple and 1 tablespoon of peanut butter

Is there a meal plan I can use?

Yes, we have several! Here’s one option! Here is another, and here’s another!

You can also check our Lark blog and search for “meal plan,” and you can always email the Lark coaches at coaching@lark.com for more personalized support!

Do you recommend electrolytes in addition to water?

That’s a great question, and it’s especially relevant in summer when it’s hot! Electrolytes are minerals like sodium and potassium. They help your body maintain fluid balance and are necessary for your nervous system and for your brain to send signals to your body.

For most people, you can get plenty of electrolytes from your diet. Sodium is in salty food, and the average American gets far more than needed. Potassium is in many fruits and vegetables, including starchy vegetables like potatoes and butternut squash. It’s in beans and other legumes, yogurt, fish, and some other nutritious foods.

Most people do best when they just drink water while exercising. If you exercise hard for an hour or more - say, running for an hour in heat - you may need a sports drink to maintain electrolytes. Otherwise, a general guideline is to drink about 6-8 ounces of water each 15-20 minutes while working out. Here and here are some additional resources. 

Can you explain daily fluctuations in weight? 


Your body's a living creature! It’s always changing. Many of the changes affect the amount of water in your body, and that has the biggest impact on rapid (minutes, hours, or days) changes in weight.  

Here are some examples of why the amount of water in your body may change.

  • Sweating hard - water will decrease
  • Eating a lot of carbs one day - water will increase because stored carbohydrates hold water, but you won’t gain as much fat as the weight that may show on the scale
  • Being on certain medications - some of them make you retain water, or excrete less water as waste, so the scale goes up
  • Eating a lot of sodium (salt) - your body will hold more water to dilute the sodium and pr]event it from harming you
  • Being stressed out - your hormones can lead your body to hold water so weight appears to increase

Of course, food in your stomach affects weight, too. If you eat 2 pounds of broccoli, you’ll immediately weigh 2 pounds more when you step on the scale…but you’ve only eaten 350 calories, which doesn’t translate to 2 pounds of fat! Instead, most of that broccoli’s weight comes out as waste.

Another example of a quick weight change is if you run for an hour in the summer. You might lose 3-4 pounds due to sweating. That doesn’t mean you lost 3-4 pounds of fat. Instead, most of it is weight from water that you lost, and it’ll come right back as soon as you rehydrate.

We suggest weighing in twice weekly, and more often is good. That’s because weighing in more often keeps you accountable. It also helps you know what’s going on with your body. 

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