Change Anything QA

Conquering the Weight Loss Plateau

Ron McMillan

Ron McMillan is coauthor of four New York Times bestsellers, Change Anything, Crucial Conversations, Crucial Confrontations, and Influencer.


Change Anything

Q Dear Crucial Skills,

After reading Change Anything, I set a goal to lose twenty pounds and created a change plan. I followed the plan and lost eight pounds in three weeks, then I hit a plateau and was unable to lose more. Did I choose the wrong plan? How do I know if my change plan is good, or if I need to change it?


A Dear Stalled,

Good job! Eight pounds in three weeks is excellent! Hitting a plateau after losing weight is not evidence of failure, it’s good data.

Be the subject and the scientist. I suggest you use this data to update your plan. Thousands of scientists, nutritionists, and physicians have studied weight loss, wellness, and health. No one, however, has studied your weight loss. Others have developed general plans based on some general ideas and principles. But you need a specific plan, specific to you. You need to be the scientist who studies you (the subject) to discover the best plan for your own health and wellness.

Let’s assume the plan you begin with is a good plan based on tried and true concepts. I suspect this is correct because you used this plan to lose eight pounds. Keep in mind a change plan is dynamic not static. You should now expand, experiment, analyze, and adjust your plan.

For example, let’s suppose your vital behaviors were to:

  1. Weigh daily
  2. Take a brisk twenty-minute walk three times a week
  3. Stop eating snacks before bedtime

These behaviors have likely made you aware of your weight and the impact your plan is having on weight loss. This is good; observation and awareness are key tools of a scientist to gain understanding. Your weight loss probably resulted from not eating snacks before bedtime and being more active. You made progress and then plateaued. This is good data. Analyze it. What can you learn?

Maybe you should continue this behavior and expand your plan. Perhaps you could review what you are eating. Are there some opportunities to cut calories in a helpful, healthy way? What if you cut calorie-rich snacks between meals and replace them with healthy alternatives to keep you from getting hungry and stay energized? If this makes sense, conduct an experiment. What happens when you add this vital behavior to your plan? Note: You can drop the “no snacking before bedtime” as a vital behavior in order to keep your focus on just three vital behaviors. You continue to enact this behavior, but because you’ve mastered it, it’s no longer on your “vital” list.

With this new vital behavior in place, track your progress with daily weigh-ins. Analyze the data. Is the new vital behavior working? Adjust your plan accordingly.

As you master a vital behavior, experiment with new behaviors. Consider changing your meals and increasing activity and exercise. Also, analyze and adjust your six sources. For example, add a friend and exercise together (turn accomplices into friends), and reward yourself upon completion of your goal by allowing yourself to buy a new outfit in your new size (invert the economy).

Congratulations on creating a successful change plan. A leveling-off of your results is not failing to achieve your goal, it’s good data indicating that it’s time to expand, experiment, analyze, and adjust. Doing this keeps your plan vibrant and not only assures you reach your goals, but makes it likely you will surpass them.

All the best,