Engine Stalled? How to Get Past a Plateau

Engine Stalled? How to Get Past a Plateau

The Definition of a Plateau

If a pause in weight loss is a genuine plateau, I require that it meet the following criteria:

  • You have experienced no weight loss or loss of inches for at least four weeks. (Increased muscle mass will deceive the scale because muscle weighs more than fat-but inches will continue to disappear.)
  • You have not started a new medication, such as hormone therapy, altered your exercise regimen or made any other significant lifestyle change.
  • You have examined your physical state carefully and are able to conclude that you have no symptoms indicative of a diet-related disorder or a thyroid problem.
  • You can take a close look at your eating habits and honestly say that you’ve adhered to the same healthy, controlled carbohydrate eating plan that has brought you success up to now.

Now let’s examine these criteria one by one.

Losing Pounds Isn’t Everything

For too many of us, trying to lose weight induces a fixation on the bathroom scale. I have patients who get upset when the scale doesn’t show a change for three consecutive days, so you can imagine how crazy they get when it doesn’t budge for four weeks.

Remember two things: First, your body is not a machine. Nor is it a duplicate of anyone else’s body. It has its own system, its own agenda, and its own timetable. In the long run, it nearly always responds to sensible management by the person in charge-you. But, in the short run, your body may decide to go its own way, for its own reasons, which perhaps we don’t understand. Don’t get mad at it. It’s a good body or it wouldn’t have gotten you this far. Be patient; you can afford to outwait it.

Did Something Happen?

If you’re losing neither inches nor pounds and four weeks have passed, let’s consider the next possibility. People frequently get frustrated after a week or two without weight loss, when a little reflection would tell them what’s gone wrong. Certainly if you’ve been put on some new medication-including hormone treatment or birth control pills-around the time you stopped losing, you’ll need to consider its possible metabolic effects. Medications are a common and often formidable obstacle to weight loss, and I outline many of the problem drugs and chemicals in that chapter and offer alternatives that a physician may be able to prescribe for you.

Yeast, Food Intolerances and Thyroid Problem:

Perhaps, as you have moved through the weight loss phases of Atkins, you have inadvertently added into your regimen a particular food that is triggering a metabolic reaction. This reaction can cause you to hit a weight loss plateau. In Part Four, I discuss problems that I’ve long referred to as diet-related disorders. These aren’t problems that arise from embarking on a weight loss program. I’m using the word diet in its larger sense, to signify, simply, the types of foods you eat. So let’s take a quick look at some of those disorders to see if they might account for your plateau.


I believe that food allergies (more properly called individual food intolerances) to substances other than yeast can be a major roadblock to weight loss. Without knowing it you may have added to your meal plan a food to which you are allergic. Wheat and wheat products are frequently culprits. Other common problem foods include milk, cheese, eggs and soy. Eating a food to which you’re allergic may cause symptoms such as gastrointestinal or respiratory problems, joint pain and skin eruptions. From the point of view of someone trying to slim down, the most damaging aspect of eating a food to which you’re allergic is its tendency tc cause cravings, which, if indulged, can lead to unstable blood sugar.


The other diet-related disorder that can cause a weight loss plateau concerns the thyroid gland. This remarkable little butterfly-shaped organ regulates the production of energy in our cells. If it becomes underactive-a condition called hypothyroidism, which is not uncommon as you age or develop hormonal imbalances-you will become sluggish and overweight. Whenever a person is incapable of losing weight on the best weight loss program available (namely, this one), my first suspicion is a thyroid problem.


If you’re serious about following Atkins for life, I must reiterate that you have to invest some energy in exercise. Contrary to the messages our society generally sends us, your body was meant to move. Sitting around is unnatural. Working in an office is unnatural. A whole lot of modern life is unnatural. Parking in the far corner of the parking lot is not a mistake. It’s where you should be, because exercise is not optional. It’s an integral part of doing Atkins. It’s often neglected and sometimes quietly scorned, but if you think you’re doing the program and you’re not exercising, you’re not doing the program. Building exercise into your lifestyle is one of the most intelligent ways of cracking through a plateau

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