weight loss plateau
Weight Management

Overcoming roadblocks on a weight-loss journey


February 16, 2017

Losing weight can be a challenge. Watch for a few bumps along the road.


Roadblocks are an integral part of a weight-loss journey. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who lost weight without experiencing a few hurdles. Learning strategies for how to overcome challenges will help to boost confidence and success down the road.

Build your confidence

Feeling confident in your ability to change can be hard, especially if you have tried to lose weight before and it didn’t go as planned. However, it is important to remember that your confidence does tend to build as you notice small successes, such as clothes fitting better or being able to climb stairs without getting winded. Changes like these, no matter how small, can boost morale and keep motivation high. So, even if you aren’t completely convinced you can lose weight, take that first step. Build on small victories!

Remember to set goals that are realistic. Achieving a small goal feels much better than falling short of a large one.

Hitting a diet plateau

As people lose weight, they can also lose muscle mass in addition to fat and water. The metabolic rate may become slower to adjust to the new body size, which typically results in a weight-loss plateau around the 6-month mark. These diet plateaus can be frustrating, but they can also be overcome. Vanderbilt registered dietitian Jessica Bennett reminds us “Don’t be defined by the scale; be defined by all the great progress and changes you have made!”

If your weight-loss stalls, try adding more exercise. If you are lacking motivation around this time, too, check out these tips.

Proven strategies for success

There are a few key strategies that research has shown will help lead to weight-loss success:

  • Accountability:  You may keep track of your food and exercise in a journal, with an activity tracker or via a weight-loss buddy. Find what works for you.
  • Self-monitoring: It may feel silly at first, but take pictures and measurements before you begin your journey. Every month, re-measure yourself. This is important because you may not lose pounds on the scale if you are gaining muscle (muscle weighs more than fat), but you will lose inches as your body becomes more toned. Looking back at photos and numbers can give you a boost of confidence and motivation!
  • Flexibility: Don’t be a perfectionist. Accept that life may get in the way of your eating or workout schedule. If you are too hard on yourself for a minor setback, you may begin to associate losing weight with negative feelings. Keep it positive and don’t get too upset over one missed workout. Just accept this setback, and get back on track.
  • Moderation: You can still have dinner out with friends and cake at birthday parties, but do so in moderation — not too much and not too little. Enjoying life in the moment is essential for mental health, and moderation is the key for promoting sustainable changes to last a lifetime.

Need more advice?

If you feel you still need a little extra advice or motivation, look to a professional. Registered dietitians, certified personal trainers and psychologists are all great resources during a weight-loss journey. Research shows that joining a support group can also be incredibly helpful.

Remember, don’t give up – look how far you’ve come already!


Jordan Higgins is a dietetic intern at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Originally from Albany, New York, Jordan received her bachelor’s from Fordham University and completed graduate courses in nutrition from The Sage Colleges. After completing the internship in 2017, Jordan hopes to combine her love for cooking and nutrition education into a unique and inspiring business.

The Vanderbilt Surgical Weight Loss program offers advanced care to help you lose weight and improve your overall health. If you’ve been unable to reach a healthy weight with nutritional and lifestyle improvements alone, surgery might be a better and safer option for achieving your weight loss goals. Our team will work with you to develop a personalized care plan combining surgery, nutrition, exercise and psychological support.


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