weight loss plateau

How to End a Weight Loss Plateau on a Plant-Based Diet

When I first started my whole-foods weight loss diet using Chef AJ’s book I lost 30 pounds in a couple of months. I was elated. It was easy and  I didn’t have any cravings or hunger. I was happily stuffed on delicious high-fiber plant foods and hoped the next 30 pounds would come off just as fast. But inevitably I hit a weight loss plateau and everything stalled.


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What I learned:

  • Weight loss plateaus are natural
  • Higher nutrients and fiber equal fast initial weight loss
  • Intermittent fasting is safe and easy for some people
  • Reduce stress to lose weight more easily
  • More raw  foods can aid in speeding up weight loss
  • More exercise is not exactly the answer
  • Eating the right fats and essential fatty acids is important
  • Eat complex carbs instead of processed sugars and powders
  • Smoothies could be making you fat
  • The right kind of protein and the right amounts are important
  • Detoxification might be necessary for weight loss
  • Intermittent fasting can help along with a whole-foods diet

Related Articles and resources:

Plant-based weight loss

Letting Go of Processed Foods

The Spudfit Mono-Diet

Weight Loss Industry Diet Secrets

plant-based-recipe guide

Weight loss plateaus are natural

  • Eating a plant-based whole-food diet can mean rapid weight loss at first.
  • Your body is eager to dump toxins built up in the tissues and colon.
  • The high-fiber in plant foods helps carry away toxins rapidly and help you feel much more satiated with fewer calories.
  • You may also lose a lot of water weight early on if you cut back on salt consumption.

Higher nutrients levels with plant-based nutrition

When you eat a whole-food diet your body is receiving many more nutrients than on the Standard American diet (SAD).

As you up the levels of plants including berries, beans, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, mushrooms, and onions you increase your phytonutrient ratio per calorie dramatically.

With this heightened nutrient level, you feel more satiated, so you don’t eat as many calories as you used to, and you feel full on the bulky veggies. It is incredibly easy to lose weight…

At first.

When to adjust your diet

If you find that after a month or two of rapid weight loss you are stuck at the same weight for more than a few weeks, it might be time to make some adjustments.

With any diet, the closer you get to the goal the less food you need. When you were bigger you needed much more food to maintain all that body mass. Cutting back by a few hundred calories per day made a dramatic difference at first.

Now that you are smaller the weight loss can slow down or even stop because you are now eating just the right amount to maintain that first level weight loss. That is why that last few pounds are always hardest to lose.

Over-exercising won’t magically make you thin

Our bodies were built to hold on to fat just in case there is a famine. Getting your body to feel safe enough to let go of that last bit can be a challenge. If you over exercise you just wear yourself out and make yourself hungrier, so you end up eating more in the long run.

Moderate exercise is great, but overdoing it won’t help you lose weight. There are diminishing returns with exercise. If you push too hard you just feel rundown and your body begins to rebel by hoarding more fats in case you decide to do that again.

What you eat is the main regulator of body fat. Even elite athletes who exercise at the highest levels on earth can remain fat. A great example is Monica Seles, the tennis star who wrote a book about her struggle with binge eating while she was training for many hours every day.

free plant based recipe guide


Intermittent fasting for long term weight loss

Intermittent fasting as a weekly lifetime practice has many health benefits.

But the diet industry has given fasting a bad name because it works and if you knew about it they would be out of business.

With eating less food you are buying fewer diet products and special diet foods.

Fasting is simple and inexpensive and that is bad for the bottom line of the food and diet industries.

You won’t be buying any special powders, meals or pills with this technique. The only one who benefits is you!

The benefits of intermittent fasting:

  • Allows the stomach to completely empty before you eat again which is restful for your digestion
  • Allows the body to begin repairing chronic disease and discomfort w being overburdened by constant food processing.
  • Teaches you to be more conscious of eating
  • A decrease in body fat and body weight over time
  • Increased cellular cleansing

There are a couple of different ways to do intermittent fasting.

One way to do it is to keep your meals within a window of 4 to 6 hours per day eating 2 meals so you would end up eating twice a day instead of 3 times a day.

For instance, you could eat at 11 and 4 pm or 1 and 6.

The Eat Stop Eat Method

Eat Stop Eat by Brad Pilon book cover

The way Brad Pilon explains it in his book Eat Stop Eat, you eat normally except for one or two days a week where you take a break for 23 out of 24 hours. So you would eat dinner only one or two days a week for instance.

Fasting has become somewhat controversial since the invention of breakfast cereals back in the 40s and 50s. Before then, unless people worked on farms or do heavy physical labor people didn’t normally eat breakfast or snack all day long the way we do these days.

We have been had the idea that our metabolism will drop if we don’t eat every three hours but this is simply not true. Short fasts do not lower the metabolism or make us “burn muscle”.

To learn more get Brad Pilon’s book: Eat Stop Eat. I first read his book back when it came out in 2009 but he has expanded it with a lot more research to dispell any fears you might have about short fasts once or twice a week. and it comes with a quick start guide.

Myths about fasting abound

Snack foods are a new invention. In the past 30 years, large food companies have used advertising to are trying to get us to eat more frequently and eat more food in general and it has been working.

Levels of obesity have risen steadily in adults and even children in the last 30 years.

When I began doing intermittent fasting my weight loss started again and I was over the plateau. I had been eating regular meals 3 times a day for 6 months and was well nourished. I no longer had problems with binging on processed foods.

I lost ten more pounds in a month just by giving my digestion the rest it needed and by being more conscious of how much I was eating. I started to notice when  I was in “fed mode” and when I began to be in “fasting mode”.

Often my fed state lasted way into the time period when I normally would have had another meal and I realized I had been eating when I wasn’t really hungry or in need of fuel in the past.

What’s the difference between intermittent fasting and water fasting?

Intermittent fasting has some of the benefits of longer fasts without the stress or difficulty of adjustments the body has to make during longer fasts to recover and adjust to eating again.

Long fasts of 7 days or more are good for healing chronic conditions with medical supervision. To learn more about longer healing fasts check out True North Health Center and Joel Fuhrman’s book Fasting and Eating For Health

Caution if you have eating disorders

If you are prone to anorexia, bulimia or other eating disorders please eat regular meals at regular meal times every day until you are truly nourished and save fasting for when you are stable and healthy and have supervision from a trusted health professional. Intermittent fasting necessarily isn’t for everyone.


Reducing your stress levels can help weight loss of course

kids meditating on desks in classroom

Meditation is great for helping to restart weight loss. Just ten minutes per day upon waking can really help.

Another huger stressor is sleep deprivation

Make sleeping 7 or more hours a night a priority. Sleep deprivation can cause weight gain by skewing levels of the hormones, leptin, and Ghrelin in the brain and body. This can skew appetite regulation leading to easier weight gain.

Massage, self-massage yoga and other soothing focused forms of exercise can be better than adding heavy workouts sometimes. Fluid forms of resistance training like Barre class or Pilates can also help.

Ways to relax your digestion:

  • Close your eyes and take a mini 4-breath meditation before your start
  • Savoring your food, by smelling it before your start
  • Taking a few deep breaths with eyes closed before eating.
  • Let each bite reach the stomach before taking another bite.
  • Turning off the TV and phone while eating

Energy healing can be helpful for some people. Once you feel secure and confident in your own space the body can let go of the weight.


Eat the Right Fats

The first thing you might want to do is look at your fat consumption. How much and what types of fats are you eating? If you are sticking with starches, beans, veggies, and fruits you are probably eating low enough calorically that you can eat a high volume of food.

But be careful about higher fat items like tofu and soybeans because they are about 50% fat as opposed to other beans that are a lot lower in fat.

Dairy is great for growing baby calves into 800-pound cows really fast!

If you are still consuming dairy this could be the culprit. Some studies suggest that the protein fragments called casomorphins in dairy can mess with your hormones.

Milk has built-in opioids to make the baby animal sleepy and docile after feeding. Do you really want that sleepy drug-like effect?

Cheese is a really hard one to give up because of the drug-like effect. Cheese has higher concentrations of casomorphins than other types of dairy products. Our culture is big on the calcium propaganda churned out by the dairy council about milk but doesn’t doesn’t add up. We have higher levels of osteoporosis in the US than countries that do not use any dairy products.

I had the hardest time of all giving up cheese. For most would be vegans and healthy paleo folks this is the hardest thing to let go of. But if you are having trouble losing weight you will be happy once you give it up.

Cheese is 70 percent fat and mostly saturated fats and has more sodium than potato chips. The proteins in dairy can cause autoimmune symptoms of inflammation, joint pain, and arthritis.

Fat gain is easier with high-fat foods like cheese or oil because there is little energy used up to convert the fat into, well, fat. With carbs, the extra step burns a few calories.

The Cheese Trap by Neil Barnard MD

Vegetable oil might be a problem

Switching out oil for whole foods containing healthy fats can be helpful in cutting down on calorie intake. Oil can also aggravate inflammation by the irritating the endothelial lining of blood vessels.

What about olive oil and coconut oil?

Olive oil and coconut oil have been touted as wonder foods. Their full fiber origins; coconut and olives are much better for us than the extracted oil.

This is because you get the whole host of phytonutrients from the whole versions. cooking oils are stripped of all the fiber and most of the nutrients leaving only the fat and minor amounts of beneficial elements if any.

Vegetable oil of any kind packs so many calories, at 120 per tablespoon, that it just isn’t healthy food. The problem is that highly processed oil is found in almost every prepared food even the so-called healthy ones. You have to check labels carefully and prep more at home.

Bring your own home-made oil-free dressing with you when eating out, bringing your own food cooler in the car at all times and pre-eating before a meal out in case there isn’t much that is edible when you get there.

Essential Fatty Acids

We do need healthy essential fats, but these should come from whole foods like avocados, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, whole raw soaked nuts and seeds of all kinds in small amounts. flax seeds or chia seeds raw freshly ground. oily fruits and even sweet potatoes, greens, and other veggies have small amounts of healthy fats in them. As long as you are eating a lot whole plant-based foods every day in a wide variety you should be getting plenty of fats and essential oils.

The great thing about eating a predominantly plant-based diet and cutting out oil is that your omega 3, 6 and 9 ratios become ideal because plants are much higher in omega 3, the good fats while omega 6 is lower.

This is the opposite in a standard American diet filled with meat, dairy, and oil which makes it almost impossible to get healthy ratios for heart health no matter how much omega 3 supplements you take. It is proposed that inflammation is caused by the high ratio of omega 6 in proportion to omega 3.

An algae-based supplement EFA and DHA can also be helpful for vegans and non-vegans alike. DHA is essential in being able to absorb vitamin D from sunlight and very important for brain health and overall energy levels.

I can’t recommend eating seafood because of the high levels of heavy metals in seafood. The EFA and DHA in fish come from the algae they consume. So just going directly to that algae is safer than mercury exposure from fish.

If you do want to eat some seafood keep to the lower end of the food chain with sardines or anchovies. Avoid larger fish like Tuna and Sea Bass because the larger fish have eaten everyone else and everyone else’s toxin load.

Supplements can help restart weight loss

Herbal supplements closest to the original plant are safest. Triphala and ashwagandha are two powerful Ayurvedic herb complexes. Chinese medicinal herbs can be very useful for helping balance your metabolism if you have access to an herbalist.

CBD Oil is an essential medicinal oil that can be a useful supplement to help balance your nutrient levels and help heal a lot of different ailments. and it has been known to help with weight loss.

Studies have shown that CBD oil can help in weight loss because it can help an increase in metabolic rate and increased levels of brown fat.

B12 is a must if you are vegan. A B-complex may be something to look into and get tested for as well as DHA levels.

Other than natural herbals and a few others it is often a waste of money to take vitamins unless you know a lot about the company supplying them. Supplements are so are so poorly regulated in the US that they can say just about anything on the label.

Check out the documentary and book Vitamania to learn more about vitamins.

On the other hand, mega doses of vitamins have been proven to help many folks with health problems. Check out That Vitamin Movie to learn more.

Read my article The Pros and Cons of supplements for more details.

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The right carbs for plant-based weight loss

plant-based weight loss salad

You may need to cut back on flour products like pasta and bread. Even the whole grain forms can slow down weight loss and cause cravings for some people, so you end up eating more, or cheating more often.

Eating higher fiber whole grains like quinoa, brown rice whole steel cut oats instead of their flour-based counterparts can speed up your weight loss.

When steel blades grind the fiber of any plant into a fine powder it destroys that fiber matrix that slows down the absorption of starches into the bloodstream. Insulin spikes cause fat storage and weight gain or at least slow down your weight loss.

Check your dried fruit consumption

If you are eating a ton of dates and other dried fruits in various recipes these can be very concentrated and it is easy to overeat dried fruits quickly. Normally fruit is very low in calories at around 300 calories per pound but dried apples or bananas become extremely high calorie when dehydrated.

and speaking of metal grains mechanically grinding things into powder…

Too much protein can be stressful to the body. if you are taking in extra protein powders you could be throwing off your diet by storing excess protein as fats.

Smoothies can actually lead to weight gain

This was a big disappointment for me!  I used to pound down a smoothie every morning.

We are taught that it is extremely healthy to have a green smoothie every day. And this is true in a way because a green smoothie is a lot healthier than eating a muffin or a lot of other breakfast foods.

But because the fiber is destroyed by mechanical blades this makes the sugars in plants go into your bloodstream too quickly causing blood sugar issues. Susan Peirce Thompson explains why smoothies, dried fruit, and artificial sweeteners can kill weight loss progress.

Eating more salads and whole foods can help with weight loss because you feel fuller longer. Smoothies are almost predigested and can leave you hungry or lead to overeating because you have not experienced the chewing sensation. It is a lot easier to overeat on blended foods than whole plants that have to be chewed.

If you cut back on blended meals, like smoothies and protein drinks you might speed up your weight loss.

Any kind of highly processed foods will have the effect of being higher in concentration and easier to overeat on.

Flour, sugar, protein powders are all designed to fatten us up. Keep your food as close to its natural form as you can while still having it be tasty, enjoyable, and digestible by the human stomach.

Add more raw low-fat plants to lose weight faster

This is something we all intuitively know. Raw foodists lose weight fast. I went on a raw food diet for four months once and lost a lot of weight very quickly. But raw food diets are hard to sustain because there is a lot of prep involved to get enough calories.

You also end up compensating for the lack of cooked starches with nuts seeds and dried fruit. Ultimately this turned out to be an unbalancing, frustrating experience. It just wasn’t sustainable long term. It was expensive and unsatisfying without starches like sweet potatoes and beans in my diet.

However, adding raw foods at the beginning of every meal can really help fill you up. For instance, you could add some carrots, salad greens, jicama, cut up apples, etc to your meal.

Raw foods are less absorbable for the body and take more energy to digest. The minute you cook foods you make them more available to the body to use as fuel and store as fat because there is less energy spent on digestion.

Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human by Richard Wrangham goes into all the details of why humans eat cooked food and why it is so hard to subsist on a completely raw foods diet for humans.

The right amount and kind right of protein

Contrary to popular belief it may not be a good thing to eat a high protein diet to lose weight.

Animal protein even grass-fed still tends to be higher in fat per pound and has more toxins in it than plants. So, in reality, you are eating not a high protein diet but a high fat and toxin diet when you ingest too much animal protein. You may lose weight faster for a little while but the point is to have healthy lasting weight loss without increasing your risk of disease.

Protein isolates and powders are too easy to digest and speed through your system without needing to be worked on. You may want to try cutting back on animal protein and try more beans and plant proteins.

The World Health Organization has been recommending 10 to 15 percent of one’s diet from protein. But in the US we have to deal with the meat and dairy industry funding the FDA and distorting our data to sell their products. The China Study the Whole by T Collin Campbell explain why we are encouraged to eat animal products. These foods have been proven to lead to disease in humans in many studies done inside and outside of the US. The US has become one of the most unhealthy countries in the world with the some of the highest rates in the world for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, mental health issues, etc, because of the farming policies in this country.

Whole Food, Plant-Based Diet Guide

Detoxification for weight loss

Another reason your weight loss may have stalled is that toxins stored in the fatty tissues are not being released.
The body is intelligent and is constantly detoxifying up to a point. But if you have heavy metals stored the body this stuff can be tricky to get out of your body safely and the body knows this.

When you first switch to a healthier diet it is natural to dump many minor toxins.

But after you have let go of some of the safer toxins; chemicals, molds and infections, your body may be unwilling to release heavy metals into your tissues and liver.

Parasites and weight loss

Parasites are not something we really want to think about. Americans have a lot more parasites than we would think because of travel and they are just very easy to pass back and forth from pets and other people.

But there are effective methods for freeing yourself from parasites and it can make a huge difference in your health.

Fungi, yeasts, molds, and parasites can make your cravings so strong it is hard to stay on a healthy diet. The can make your metabolism weaker by outputting waste product that makes weight loss inefficient too.

Detoxing must be done diligently using the right order and the right herbs to truly get free from parasites.

A weekend juice cleanse won’t get rid of parasites molds and viruses that are lodged deep in organs and brain tissue.

First, you must loosen all the elimination channels. the bowel, kidneys, liver, and pancreas need to be open and ready to roll.

Second, you must make sure biofilm is melted to get parasites off intestinal walls.

Third, you must make sure you bind the toxins and parasites correctly so that they are completely eliminated. A superficial cleanse, or one that is not done systematically or long enough will only move toxins and bugs around to different parts of the body.

Microbe Formulas was created by two doctors. They have a 3-month protocol. It’s pricy at around $400 per month, but if you have been struggling with your health for a long time or plateaued on weight loss it may be worth it to go through the whole thing or just buy a few of their formulas to get started.

I started with their organic Mimosa Pudica Seed and have found that to be helpful even without doing the full protocol right away.

Heavy metals and weight loss resistance

Some symptoms of chronic toxin and/or heavy metal exposure from fillings and other sources are:

  • weight loss resistance
  • Anxiety, irritability, depression and other mood disorders
  • Noise sensitivity
  • Chronic fatigue and weakness

Fibromyalgia, diabetes, and many other diseases can be helped by detoxification.

Mercury from fillings can off-gas as our fillings get older and begin to wear out, in our 30s and beyond especially. If you decide to have fillings replaced with porcelain or non-toxic metal alternatives make sure you go to a dentist who knows the protocols for safely removing old fillings.

Some dentists do not know how to safely remove mercury fillings and you end up sicker than before with more of the toxic vapor released into your system as they lift and grind out the fillings.

It is also good if you can find a dentist who tests the different metals in your mouth to see what is toxic and what you might be allergic to. Be sure you know the proper chelation protocols for getting the metals out of the brain and body once the fillings are gone.

Blood tests for heavy metals they can be inconclusive because standard blood tests show only acute heavy metal exposure. For long-term chronic heavy metal exposure, you need to make sure you are tested for metal absorption into bodily tissues.

Flu shots and vaccines making you fat?

Flu shots and other vaccines are controversial. Big pharma says there are no risks but there have been some instances where people who have had flu shots have shown unusually high symptoms of heavy metal exposure afterward. Here is an interview with Del Bigtree who created the documentary Vaxxed about regulating vaccines.

Don’t detox until you research

There are techniques for safely releasing heavy metals but they have to be utilized with caution and in the correct sequence.

Natural herbs like Cilantro are helpful but the problem with herbs is that they are not very solid binders. that is they often will bind to the toxin for long enough to move the metal to a different location in the body but not get it out altogether.

So you end up with autointoxication as toxins are reabsorbed through the intestines back into the liver and other tissues. Colonics and coffee enemas and some of the herbal remedies can miss the worst toxins like mercury or leave them hanging around in new locations. This autointoxication can lead to more problems. They need to be used with the right binders for getting deeper detoxification to happen.

Often people reach and an impasse on a healthy diet where they stop feeling much better and get discouraged. Some nutrition enthusiasts will insist that what you are feeling is “just detox symptoms” when actually you are in need of the correct binders to remove heavy metals that have moved from the brain to other tissues and been reabsorbed.

To find out the best protocols for testing for and removing heavy metals check out Dr. Pompa’s site.


In Summary

  • Eat whole foods and avoid processing your food as much as possible.
  • Do exercise you enjoy but try not to overdo it.
  • Eating more raw foods can aid in speeding up weight loss.
  • Check your dried fruit and other hidden processed sugar consumption.
  • Consider cutting out oil and checking your consumption of nuts.
  • Cutting down on dairy products which can be high in fat and mess with hormones.
  • Supplementation with EFA, B complex, B12, Natural herbs like Triphala, Ashwagandha and others may be considered.
  • Keep your carbohydrates whole, try cutting back on flour, dried fruits, and smoothies.
  • Intermittent fasting can help control the amount you are eating
  • Try to diminish stress levels with adequate sleep, meditation, and self-massage.
  • Find a good detox protocol to get rid of fungi, molds, yeast, and parasites.
  • If all of that doesn’t work look into heavy metal detoxification and amalgam filling removal and get tested.

End your weight loss plateau



Intermittent Fasting

Webber J, Macdonald IA. The cardiovascular, metabolic and hormonal changes accompanying acute starvation in men and women. British Journal of Nutrition.

Alternate-day fasting in nonobese subjects: effects on body weight, body composition, and energy metabolism. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.


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I'm a natural health writer and designer at mindbodycopy.com and mindbodyclarity.com and MindfulJoyful.com a creativity blog. I'm also a former Pilates trainer and sports massage therapist, currently working on my Plant-Based Nutrition certification.

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