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Simple steps for recognizing and breaking weight-loss plateaus

By Sue Knorr

Plateau, as defined by Wiktionary, means, 'Reach a stable level; level off'. It's a nasty little seven-letter word for anyone who is trying to lose weight. With most weight-loss diets, you know you've hit a plateau when the scale remains at a standstill.

Weight loss with the Zone Diet is unique. To get a little technical and scientific for just a minute, most people who go on a diet lose one or more of the following: Stored body fat, muscle mass or retained fluid. On the other hand, during the first week of eating Zone meals and snacks exclusively, a person experiences the release of retained fluid that was caused by their previous way of eating, and they also lose a little bit of stored body fat. From then on they continue to steadily lose only stored body fat. Their muscle mass either remains the same, or it increases. With the Zone, unlike many other diets, no muscle is lost as the numbers go down on the scale. Simply stated, as a person gains control of their hormonal responses and lowers their level of cellular inflammation with the Zone Diet, all the weight they lose is due to the loss of excess stored body fat. It's a good idea to monitor body-fat percentage rather than simply relying on the number on the scale. You can easily determine your body-fat percentage using the 'Body Fat Calculator' found on

A weight-loss plateau on the Zone Diet is really a fat-loss plateau. It occurs when the body stops burning its excess stored fat for no apparent reason. Sometimes we eat that piece of birthday cake or those few slices of pizza thinking it can't do much harm, only to wake up the next day weighing more and feeling sluggish. This is not a plateau. It's easily explained. Consuming even moderate amounts of dense carbohydrate, like the type found in cake and pizza crust, results in increased insulin production that quickly puts the body on the road to increased cellular inflammation and, you guessed it, weight gain. This literally happens overnight as a result of what was eaten the day before. Then there are the times when we've been losing stored fat easily, we're still following every Zone recommendation and guideline, and boom. Out of nowhere our body stops cooperating, we stop losing stored fat and the scale is at a standstill, or even worse we've gained a couple of pounds. This is the true Zone Diet plateau.

Whether you have 5 or 10 pounds to lose, or 100 pounds or more, as I once did, let's face it, hitting a plateau can be a very frustrating experience. The good news is there are easy solutions for breaking a plateau. The key to getting things back on track is decreasing your insulin levels. Try one of these two methods.

  • Chose low-density, non-starchy vegetables for all the carbohydrate in your meals and snacks. After fat loss resumes, experiment by adding back other carbohydrate densities to the point you can tolerate.
  • Choose low-density fruits and vegetables for all the carbohydrate in your meals and snacks. In addition to this, at every meal decrease carbohydrate blocks by one and in the same meal increase fat blocks by three. When fat loss resumes, you can go back to your previous number of protein, carbohydrate and fat blocks.

Until next time, Happy Zoning!