Navigating Plateaus and Setbacks

Share, print or subscribe
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share in an email Printer icon Subscribe

As you work towards your goals, you may experience plateaus or setbacks. Maybe the number on the scale is not where you want it, or maybe you are not engaging in physical activity as often as you planned. It is frustrating when you feel as if you are moving backward rather than moving forward, but this is normal! Rather than losing motivation, learn to accept that progress will sometimes be two steps forward, one step back rather than a full sprint ahead. Here are a few strategies to keep in mind as you navigate plateaus and setbacks and get back on track.


What you eat and drink plays a large role in your weight maintenance and/or weight loss and can also influence non-scale factors such as energy levels, sleep quality, and mood. Go back to the basics and focus on eating healthy carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, while making the majority of your foods fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.

  • Track everything! Noting what and how much you eat and drink can help you identify patterns in your diet. Maybe you have been eating outside the house at parties or restaurants more often. It is easy to underestimate the calories in your morning latte or exclude those M&Ms from your food diary, but the only way to see where you can make changes is by tracking everything you consume as accurately as possible.
  • Plan your meals and snacks. Start by checking your fridge, freezer, and pantry to see what you have on hand. Plan meals and snacks and make a grocery list based on what you have and what you need. Stick to your grocery list in the store. Read our Meal Planning 101 blog for a step-by-step guide.
  • Prepare what you can ahead of time. This can be especially helpful when it comes to snacks. Have a few healthy snacks on hand to replace any lunchtime vending machine runs or mindless snacking in front of the TV. Meal prepping, batch cooking whole grains, or even roasting a sheet pan of vegetables at the beginning of the week can ensure you always have healthy foods to pull from the fridge.
  • Is someone else in your household in charge of grocery shopping and cooking? Have a conversation with them about your goals. Try to split these roles or do them together. If their favorite snack is a temptation for you, discuss other places they can store it to keep it out of sight and out of mind.

Physical Activity

How much you move your body also influences your weight and overall health. Engaging in regular physical activity can improve mood, sleep quality, and reduce stress in addition to influencing the number on the scale. Maybe you are not reaching your physical activity goals or feeling as though your current routine is not the best fit anymore. Tracking your movement and scheduling your physical activity are great first steps.

  • Track everything! Yes, this applies to both nutrition and physical activity. Note your minutes, steps, calories burned and/or any other metric you use to track your physical activity. If your goal is weight maintenance, it is important to determine the calories you expend so that you can balance them with the calories you consume.
  • Schedule time for physical activity. Set aside 5 minutes on Sunday to look at your schedule for the upcoming week and make a game plan. Check out our Sample Weekly Workout Plans blog for more tips.
  • Be realistic and adaptable. If you do not have 30 minutes, look for three 10-minute periods where you can engage in physical activity. Do not become frustrated if you do not stick to your plan one day. Reset and prepare for the next day.
  • Change up your routine. When you plateau or become bored, vary some aspect of your activity. Try changing the route you walk or run or exercising at a higher intensity for a shorter amount of time. Try a new activity. Refer to our Find Your Fitness Connection blog for inspiration.

Accountability is key!

Tracking provides great accountability, but leaning on others for additional accountability and support can be even more helpful.

  • Share your goals with family, friends or coworkers and ask them to check in with you on a regular basis. It can be as simple as one text or email a week asking about your goals. 
  • Find someone with similar goals and work on them together. Go on a walk with a neighbor after work or have a friend over and cook a healthy meal together.

As you work towards your goals, always remember to give yourself grace! Every day will not be perfect and that is okay. Unexpected family events or work tasks may come up that shift your physical activity or meal plans. Do as much as you can to fit in movement and eat healthy when this happens. Just because one day did not go as planned does not mean you give up on your goals and plans for the rest of the week. Remember why you set your goals in the first place and make small adjustments to continue moving forward. Do not be afraid to adjust your goals or set new ones!

Don’t miss another great blog: Subscribe Now