How to break a plateau when eating less and exercising more does not work

The other day I was talking with a client who was feeling so stuck in her results, that she just was not making any more progress, despite exercising  2 hours a day, 6 days a week for months and months. She was exhausted and not seeing results.  Her automatic thought process was about how to do MORE exercise and tighten up to her diet again, to get better results.

You may have experienced this before in some sense, and you may have also gotten to the point where you simply cannot just do more exercise or eat even less.

Because there is a limit on the amount of calories you can reduce and only so many hours in a day. That is always why I coach my clients to find the most time efficient exercise and most sustainable way of eating to maintain or the get results.

In other words what is the least amount of exercise you can do and the least “strict” you have to be to get results.


When it come to breaking a plateau the absolute best way to break through is to trust the process of change.

I know you are thinking “Duh Adele, of course I need to change something if I am not getting results.” But I can’t help but repeat it again and again as I so often see people get stuck in the cycle of doing the same thing over and over again and not getting the results they are looking for. And expecting a different outcome. Isn’t this the definition of insanity we hear about?

So what can you do to break a plateau?

Trust the process. It is scary to try something new when it comes to eating and working out without ultimately knowing the outcome. We think if we are less strict on our diets or cut back on our workouts we will automatically blow up and gain 20 lbs.

BUT if you can learn to trust a new way it may lead you on the exact path you are seeking.

Take a break by EL,EL. The Eat Less, Exercise Less method was coined by the company Metabolic Effect and used as a way to give our bodies and metabolisms a break from excessive exercising and strict eating. Essentially if you exercise more you need to eat enough to meet your needs and if you are exercising less then you don’t need to eat as much.

The worst combo? Eat less, exercise more which you can read more about here. If you are constantly restricting food and working out more, trust yourself to take a week or two off.

Reduce your caloric intake AND your workouts and give your body and metabolism a break. This will not work the same if you reduce your calories and still keep  working out intensely. With EL,EL two traditional weight training sessions (think non CrossFit) are recommended and tons of walking!

Take a closer look at your workouts. Like my client above, she was working out hours on end and not seeing results. You can only workout so much in a day. Working out two hours a day is not only inefficient for our body, it is stressful on our time and our lives, especially when we have work and families.

If you are not getting results, change something. I told her to try 3 strength training days a week and if she must, one higher intensity cardio day for no more than 20 minutes. She automatically will give herself 5 more hours of time a  week.

If you are on the unmotivated find an accountability partner or hire a coach.

Check your nutrition. “It’s not my eating, I am doing everything right.”  Sorry but if you are not getting results, you are not doing something right with your nutrition. Perhaps your intensity in your workouts could account for a few pounds, but if you have a significant amount of weight to lose or are trying to shred that last percent of body fat, your nutrition is not right, if you are not seeing results.

With my clients I encourage the 2-2,1-1 food journal method. This is a method I created because who wants to record what they eat every single day? Not me. SO I suggest the following:

2-2,1-1 = 2 days on 2 days off, 1 week on 1 week off

1. Record what you eat for two days.

2. Take two days off and repeat.

3. Take 1 week off.

4. Record what you eat the next week for 2 days on 2 days off.

Once you evaluate what is or is not working for you, then transition to 2 days on 2 days off, 1 month on 1 month off. This is a great way to check in with your nutrition, without having to record it every single day or every single week. Eventually the goal is to get to the point where you only check in when you feel like it.

Check your stress and sleep levels. You are doing everything right and not seeing results. If this honestly sounds like you you may need to check your stress levels and sleep patterns because  both can have a drastic impact on your physique if stress is high and sleep is low. Make these a priority AS MUCH as your nutrition and workouts.

Get to bed early, create a relaxing night time routine, and find ways to include relaxing activities into your weekly routine whether that is naps,  massages, baths, meditating, 20 minutes of reading, any activity you find relaxing but not in the zoning out style (think tv or facebooking).

Remember all these methods take trial and error, trial and error, trial and error. And then success! Have patience with the process and with yourself.


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