A weight loss plateau sucks, pure and simple. You need to ask yourself a few questions if you experience a weight loss plateau.
How fast did I lose weight? If you lost more than 1-2 pounds per week, you may have lost weight too fast.
Everyone has a body weight set point which is the weight which your body settles at if you eat normally. Let's assume your body weight set point is 240 pounds. Now, assume you are eating at the level of a 180 pound person.
If you lose weight too fast, your body weight set point will still be closer to 240 pounds, than 180 pounds. However, the slower you lose the weight (like that of 1-2 pounds every 1-2 weeks), the more you will feel comfortable because you have given time for your body weight set point to adapt.
The bottom line is: Don't lose weight too fast!
How are my stress levels? If you have high stress levels, this will likely affect you eat, how hungry you get, how full you get, how much you exercise you get to do or have motivation for, etc. It also can affect cortisol which has been associated with weight gain.
Regardless, if your stress levels are high, breaking through a weight loss plateau will likely add more stress to your life. This is why for some clients, I tell them to actively maintain their weight or be satisfied with maintenance. No one wants to hear this, but this is the truth, and will help your clients understand that if they really want to make long-lasting changes, they are eventually going to have to do something about their stress levels.
How much sleep am I getting? How much sleep did you get last night, and make a mental note of that. How much sleep did you get the night before and make a mental note of that. If you scored 8 hours or above, you can move on. If not, you need to examine how much sleep you're getting. (And if you think you can thrive on 7 hours while losing weight, you aren't.)
Sleep absolutely affects hunger levels, and can sabotage the best diets in the world. It's associated with weight gain and eating too much.
How is my nutrition? I've known some clients that can go on commercial diets where the diet company provides all the protein bars, protein powders, and snacks. This always leads to rapid weight loss, but eventually fizzles over time.
Without getting in a majority of whole foods, losing all the weight you want to lose will be difficult, if not impossible. Anybody can do the "cabbage soup" diet and lose their first 15 or 20 pounds rapidly. Continuing to lose all your weight, then keeping it off, takes serious work.
Learning to swim is easy. Learning to compete, heck even against good grade school swimmers is challenging. You'll need a coach, lots of practice, learning from your mistakes, etc. to get better. This is what long-term weight loss is unfortunately like for many people. They need help outside themselves. They just don't fully realize that yet.
If you say "yes" to all of the following questions, you may not need to focus on your nutrition.
1. Are you getting in at least 5 total servings of pure fruits and vegetables a day?
2. Are you getting a pure protein source at every meal (like cottage cheese, eggs, beef, seafood, protein powder, etc., and no nuts or seeds count)
3. Are you getting in less than 5 alcoholic drinks per week?
4. Do you eat out at restaurants (including fast food, food trucks, etc) 3 or less times per week?
Even if you answered yes, you will at some point need to improve your nutrition.
What is the best way to avoid a weight loss plateau? It's pretty simple, but not easy.
If it's impossible for you to do any of these, you should consider maintaining your current weight for awhile, until you can focus on your weakest links. If you cannot focus on your weakest links right now, don't worry. At some point, you'll likely be able to work on them (unless you insist on being a masochist for the rest of your life).
A weight loss plateau is not the end of the world. By taking a look at a few key factors, you can determine if you should stay at your current weight, or if you can break through your plateau.