7 Tips to Conquer a Weight-Loss Plateau with MyFitnessPal

Jenna Braddock
by Jenna Braddock
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7 Tips to Conquer a Weight-Loss Plateau with MyFitnessPal

Let’s get one thing straight about weight loss: It is not a destination but a journey. A lifelong journey. I know that sounds cliché, but it’s 100% true. It takes work every single day of your life, and by work, I mean making choices to continue on your journey. There’s one thing I can almost guarantee will happen on this journey: Your weight will plateau.

After working with hundreds of people on their journeys to a healthy weight, I can assure you that weight-loss plateaus are very, very normal. Weight loss is a dynamic process. Your body needs time to catch up with what’s going on and get used to the new body changes that weight loss creates. In essence it’s deciding whether it’s in survival mode or a healthy state. I think of a plateau as actually a good thing because it means your body is done changing and is now adapting.

When weight-loss warriors hit a plateau, one of these things usually happens:

  • They assume what they are doing isn’t working and therefore not worth it. Outcome: Throw in the towel.
  • They become obsessive over the details of their new diet and weight-loss plan. Outcome: Neglect other important areas of life.
  • They think something is wrong with them and they are the only ones on the planet with this issue. Outcome: Self-loathing.

None of these outcomes is very positive. I think these feelings are among the reasons why “dieting” is so despised. No one likes feeling this way about himself or herself. Instead of going down one of the negative paths listed above, think of plateau-busting as troubleshooting. It’s time to go through your lifestyle changes one by one and determine what is still working and what needs a tweak. Many people believe that what worked for them once will always work again, but that’s just not the case.

MyFitnessPal is the perfect tool to help you troubleshoot because it makes tracking your food and exercise so easy. Many times we think we are doing something positive (e.g., eating more vegetables, eating less sugar, drinking fewer high-calorie beverages), but when we track, the truth comes out. Oftentimes there are several lifestyle areas that need to be re-evaluated and simply tweaked to get you back on track and losing weight.

From my experience, people are hesitant to track because they are embarrassed about what they might learn. These feelings come from a dieting mentality that says we should be A+ eaters and never struggle. However, I see tracking as simply data on our bodies. It is not supposed to be used for grading how good of a person you are but rather give you a state of the union on your lifestyle to help you identify necessary changes. Here are ways you can use this helpful tool to break through a plateau and make tracking your food and fitness easy:

1. Choose a realistic calorie goal.
This might be the No. 1 mistake I see my clients make that contributes to plateauing. When setting up their profile they choose the option to lose two pounds a week, the most MFP will allow. For some people, this rate of weight loss may set a calorie level lower than they’d realistically be happy eating for a long period of time. Even worse, when you are not fueling your body with enough energy, it’s not comfortable burning fat stores and thus prevents weight loss. I recommend starting with half to one pound per week when setting up your profile. Slow weight loss, while not as exciting, is usually more sustainable weight loss.

2. Calculate the Nutrition Facts for your favorite recipes.
Do you regularly cook a handful of recipes from your favorite websites? If you said yes, then it would be helpful to have more accurate nutrition info for those foods. Just because a recipe is deemed “healthy” does not mean it’s the right calorie level for you. Analyzing your most-used recipes will help you know exactly how many calories the recipe contains and whether it fits into your weight-loss eating plan. While this sounds very complicated, MFP makes it incredibly easy. All you do is paste the URL from your favorite recipe into the Recipe Importer, do a little tweaking and — voilà! — MFP gives you all the Nutrition Facts.

3. Do track your water.
I used to think that drinking water was too simple of a behavior to notice. But, after my own experience tracking water intake I’ve learned that being properly hydrated is crucial for feeling good and ensuring your body works at tip-top condition. It also helps ensure that your hunger is true hunger and not just thirst! (See my post Benefits of Drinking Water: Better Mood for more info.) It’s always a good idea to do a water checkup to make sure you are drinking enough and setting yourself up for weight-loss success. You can easily track your water intake in your MFP Food Diary by clicking the water glass at the bottom.

4. Focus on fiber.
Increasing your fiber intake is a simple and effective strategy to improve your diet, and it could promote weight loss. Fiber provides a fullness factor to your food, helping you eat less and manage your appetite, as well as improve your health by preventing many diseases. The daily fiber goal is 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men. Start tracking your food, and see where you stand. Then, begin choosing foods that are higher in fiber, like whole grains, nuts, fruits, vegetables and beans, to see whether you can meet your daily goal.

HI-TECH TIP: To view your fiber intake, click on Reports, then choose fiber from the drop-down menu.

5. Write in the Notes section.
The Notes sections in MFP allows you to reflect on your food and fitness each day and identify changes you can make to get over your weight-loss plateau. I encourage my clients to take notes on meals, foods and workouts that produce positive or negative feelings or experiences. Did a particular breakfast energize you all morning? Make note of it. Did you feel sluggish one afternoon after a lunch out? Write that in. Did you enjoy a new workout or fitness plan? Type it in so you don’t forget about it. Your Notes help you evaluate how your overall food choices are helping you achieve your goals. This is a crucial step that many people overlook, and it could be key to breaking through your plateau.

6. Track your weight weekly. Weighing yourself regularly can be a controversial recommendation, so I must emphasize that this is not for everyone. Keep in mind people who track their weight tend to have a better connection with how their lifestyle choices are impacting their body. However, many people think they should track their weight daily, and they fret over every change that occurs. Taking a weekly weight is a more balanced and accurate reflection of change, as many factors impact daily weight fluctuations. Tracking your weight weekly in MFP is a great way to connect with when you are feeling discouraged at a plateau. It’s very helpful to go back and look at how much progress you have already made and celebrate it! Remember how I said at the beginning that this is a journey? This tool will help you remember that.

7. Track your fitness — cardiovascular and strength training.
When trying to lose weight, many people just increase their volume of exercise and don’t think as much about the type and quality. While simply burning a lot of calories can be a good thing for weight loss, improving your body composition (think: more lean muscle) through strength training is extremely important for long-term weight maintenance. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends strength training twice a week, working 8-10 large muscle groups by doing 8-12 repetitions. (2) Track your workouts in MFP and see whether you are meeting this recommendation. If not, begin to make time for strength training. It doesn’t need to be complicated. Here is my favorite full-body no-equipment exercise you can do almost anywhere.

As you troubleshoot these different areas, remember these important concepts of weight loss: Be patient with yourself, and don’t give up. Don’t let that scale dictate your success. Remember how far you have already come and how good it feels to take care of yourself.


What Causes a Weight Loss Plateau
5 Unusual Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight
6 Tips for Pushing Through a Weight-Loss Plateau

About the Author

Jenna Braddock
Jenna Braddock

Jenna is a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified specialist in sports nutrition. She is a mom to two little boys and wife to a football coach. She shares real-life strategies for better health and doable, delicious recipes on her site Make Healthy Easy. She is active on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest


28 responses to “7 Tips to Conquer a Weight-Loss Plateau with MyFitnessPal”

  1. Avatar jervin says:

    I never track my water on the app because the only serving size available is cups, not a more accurate quantity like mls or ounces. That would be like only being able to track “pieces” of chicken or “spoonfuls” of sugar. I carry around a water bottle which really makes it easy to drink enough water instead of using a glass every time I need a drink.

  2. Avatar Mel likes play says:

    Wow. This blog is perfect timing for me. I’m not an over user of the scale but I stepped on this morning and was 4lbs more than my last weigh in a few weeks ago! This has been happening for a few moths now. Up and down by just a few lbs. I got so discouraged, even though I know that healthy long-term weight loss is not always a linear process. The tips for using the ap and how to tweak what I’m doing were really helpful. I’m definitely going to try them, and will give myself more time to see changes. Thanks!

  3. Avatar Christine Lovely says:

    I really enjoyed this article! The one thing I would add is something I do because I had to- my skinny coach told me it was of the utmost importance to plan my food the day before. So now, I put all my food into the fitness pal the night before and then I refer back to it all the next day. And if I were to eat off plan then I would have to go in and change it- but I barely ever do.

  4. Avatar Karlo Garcia says:

    I’m glad u mentioned at number 5.Write In The Notes Section.I was not really sure what I had to write there but now I know.Thank you

  5. What works for me is daily weigh ins. That way I see the scale as a tool, and it’s now part of my morning routine. In the past it was too easy to forget the weekly weigh in and next thing I knew I was 30 pounds overweight. Daily keeps me on track better. I know the scale will go up and down every day and it’s helpful to ask myself, “if I eat this unplanned treat, how will I feel when I weigh in tomorrow? How will I feel if I resist earring it?”

    • Avatar Christine Lovely says:

      I’m exactly the same way!

    • Avatar Mike says:

      I agree with daily weigh ins. I am a very heavy exerciser, normally adhere to a moderate diet but allow myself the flexibility for the occasional splurge (works for me because I have it all under control overall). The point for me is that because of both my exercise and eating patterns I am subject to some major fluctuations on a daily basis. If I weigh myself daily, I can see and account for things like a big dip from a long run (which just means water loss and will come back as soon as I rehydrate), or a big gain due to water retention from a recent meal higher in sodium than my usual (which will be excreted out within hours). If I weighed myself only weekly and that weigh-in happened to catch an extenuating circumstance such as the above, I’d have a false impression of my progress for the whole week. Not willing to risk it!

    • Avatar Frenchie says:

      I weigh in every day too it keeps me in tack , and plus I write down every thin that goes in my mouth , you’ll be surprise ,

  6. Avatar LiveHels says:

    Great article! I agree that everything mentioned above. It’s important to be patient and consistant.

  7. Avatar Bboy says:

    I hit a weight loss plateau two weeks after I started using MFP. Told myself that my goal is portion control and daily exercise..and that weight loss will follow. It did. My body took a week to adjust to my new (healthy) habits. The next two weeks I lost 3 lbs total. Now I’ve hit a plateau again after reducing my daily goal to 1,500 cals but am not worried. Expecting to shed few more lbs in the coming weeks! Most importantly, I thought 1,500 was a crazy target when i started but now its a breeze! And I cant sleep without doing exercise.

    Thanks, MFP!

    • Avatar robinbishop34 says:

      As you continue to lose, your calorie intake needs to continue to decline (as you’re finding out). As your weight decreases be sure to eat a higher proportion of lean protein and introduce some resistance training while lessening aerobic activity to help ensure you’re losing fat while maintaining muscle. Most people you see with visible six packs and cut bodies do much less cardio than you might think. A high protein, calorie restricted diet coupled with strength training will yield much more impressive results.

    • Avatar texan99 says:

      Same here–I started at 1700 calories and thought I’d never get used to it, but I can drop all the way to 1200 now during weeks when i can’t work out, and I feel fine. It’s surprising how fast it came to seem natural.

  8. Avatar Sarah says:

    I love MFP! It’s such a great tool! I started at a plateauv(so frustrating as I have over 50lbs to lose!) and realized that I needed to balance my protein and carbs (insulin resistance). I use MFP to make sure that my carbs and proteins are balanced for every meal. My weight has started coming off. Finally.

  9. Avatar Robert Lagassee says:

    I’m in one right now. I hit the gym 6 days a week try to stay around 1900 calories per day. Drink 8 cups of water per day. And sit at the same weight for the last couple of weeks. Plateaus in a word “suck” . But I look where I was and see where I’m going so I’ll keep hitting it. I started this journey at 345 lbs. one click away from being on insulin and had already had 2 toes removed. Met a doctor who finally got me thinking. Now at 205 lbs. my Ac1 at 7.0 and feel better then I have for 40 years. I’ll take sitting at 205 lbs.for a little longer and keep using my app. and keep tracking my food because the alternative “sucks more”

    • Avatar FuckForrealz says:

      Congrats on your success! You’ll bust through those plateaus.

    • Avatar Jeremy Simmons says:

      Awesome Job Robert, keep at it.

    • Avatar robinbishop34 says:

      A 205 pound man should be losing at 1900 cal/day. Most people underestimate the calories they consume, and over estimate the calories they burn. Because you were so heavy before, any measurable deficit resulted in significant loss. Now that you are carrying much less weight it is important to measure/weigh everything very carefully as your calorie intake will continue to decline as you lose.

      You need to count your macros as a bodybuilder does and this includes counting supplements, condiments, etc. You also need to add an additional 20% to all processed and restaurant food as the calories listed are notoriously low. Chances are very likely that you need to increase your overall calorie deficit to continue losing. That is really the only way to break through a “plateau.”

    • Avatar Angie says:

      I’m proud of you Rob. Keep it up.

    • Avatar Amy L Cobbs says:

      Keep up the positivity Robert!! You are absolutely right, you are stronger than you were when you started and maintaining your weight is also maintaining your health as well.

    • Avatar Robert E Lagassee says:

      The dam broke dropped 1.5 lbs. this week. One of the “gym rats” said it’s because your gaining muscle and said your finally developing definition and abs. I had to laugh I’ve never in 68 years had any type of definition.

  10. Avatar Sarah Barres says:

    I love these blog posts, and I’m growing to love MFP! This blog post is wonderful, and just what I needed to read. Even before I started my journey I knew in the back of my head that I needed to practice moderation, and this article echoes that fundamental principle. On top of that I learned something: a better way to use the “Notes” feature. I love it! Keep bringing these wonderful blog posts! 🙂

  11. Avatar Victoria Carignan says:

    I have gotten very lucky lately. I have been exercising but my diet has not been perfect. I have not gained or lost any weight. I know I need to get back into watching what I eat. But at least its home cooked and healthier than most. Exercise seems to be keeping me in the zone.

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