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by Mark Sison, BS

Congratulations! To have plateaued means that you are well on your way towards better health.  Everyone including overweight, obese, athletes and stage competitors have gone through a slowdown and many come to a halt at some point of their journey. 

As a former high school physical education teacher I’ve seen this happen in very young athletes, and as a personal trainer in serious weight-loss candidates. When your weight-loss program has plateaued take 20 seconds to be upset, sad and disgruntled and then let it go. We have work to do to get you to the next level.

Here are the 5 most common reasons my clients plateau and my recommendations to bust through the weight loss plateau.


You’ve been successful. Suddenly without changing your workout or your daily nutrition plan everything’s come to a halt. The scale isn’t moving the way it did initially.

Again congratulations are in order. Two things are probably happening: you plateauing because you are physically more fit and weigh less!


You are physically in better shape, your body is more efficient and the same exercise you’ve been doing for 3 or 6 months isn’t burning off the same number of calories it did when you were out of shape.

More than likely, when you first started exercising seriously walking one flight of stairs would get your heart racing. That racing burns calories! Now to get your heart rate (and calorie burn) racing to the same level you have to walk up 6 stories.   



On the flip side to maintain weight at 400 pounds you’d have to eat some 4000 calories per day. But to maintain a 170 pound body the calorie intake should be around 1900 calories. So as you drop weight you decrease your calorie needs.

Be careful, though, because the answer appears to be exercise harder and eat less. WRONG!! All you’ll do with this plan is put your body in a much more stressful environment.  It will likely sacrifice muscle for fuel. Remember, fat is the bodies storage system and in time of perceived need the body hangs on to fat, the opposite of what we actually desire. 

Trainer Tip #1: Give your workout program and nutrition plan another 14 to 30 days for proper assessment period.  It takes your body sometime to adjust to a regimen and we have to be able to give it time to yield measurable results.

Trainer Tip #2: As your body composition changes, your exercise plan should change as well.  Your body may have adapted to your exercise routine. Working the same muscle group over and over neither burns excess calories nor enhances body composition. 


Feelings can be revealed in the words we use to express ourselves. Did you ever hear yourself say “I have to go to the gym today?” Can you remember a point earlier in your better health journey when you said “I can’t wait to get to the gym and work on my ______ (legs, arms, shoulders, cardio)?” Or, “I’m looking trimmer and feeling better; I’m so happy I discovered the benefits of nutrition and exercise, it’s working. I get to go in and workout today”. Or, “My group is meeting at 5PM, I can’t wait to workout with _________.” Or simply, “Yay’ I get to go to the gym today!”

Plateaus happen to everyone but they happen more often when we are mentally fatigued. Plateaus aren’t fun but plateaus associated with mental fatigue is a truly dangerous place. We find ourselves not wanting to do something, but we force ourselves, then when we do, we don’t get the results. Translation: "Trying to lose weight seems like a waste, I quit".

Yes plateaus can be discouraging. This is the time to dig deep. I saw a posting on Facebook recently that went: “Strength doesn’t come from things you can do, it comes from overcoming things you once thought you couldn’t do”.

We preach the acronym S-A-F-E in our Largest Loser Fitness Challenge. It stands for SUPPORT-ACCOUNTABILITY-FOCUS-EXERCISE. While we highly recommend this for weight maintenance its basic principal is important for every aspect of any difficult but worthwhile challenge. It may be time to assess the first three letters in the SAFE acronym.

Trainer Tip #1: No man is an island.

One of the truly unique features of the new First Health Wellness Department is its unconventional support system. Professionally we’ve staffed our department with knowledgeable well-credentialed providers but many facilities offer that. The unconventional part comes from the people who have joined our programs. They are their own cheerleaders and if you understand how beneficial this is and get involved they will be yours as well.

The new First Health Wellness Department started in early 2013 when two of our clients started a private FHA Wellness Page that in a year grew to over 100 participants. They then went on to start a Saturday morning group wellness program called Center Point which trains about forty people. Center Point allows attendees to attend one of two scheduled exercise classes and a health and well-being lecture sandwiched between.

From there they have formed their own weekday workout groups, have organized their own weekend walks and runs and often do 5 and 10k races, stair climbs and various other challenges. When one of our program participants is in need physically, emotionally or mentally many step in to lend support.

Trainer Tip #2: Tell ‘Em What You Are Going To Do . . . Then Just Do It!

Personally I know how easy it is to con myself. I was an overweight and an under-achiever as a child. Actually I try not to fool myself but there are times when it’s easier to make excuses than to stay the course. We have found in 5 years of Largest Loser that a key factor to client success is accountability. We use a lot of various factors to hold people accountable for their success.

Individual accountability comes in many forms. It might be that the other 17 people in their program are watching. It might be that they don’t want to let their team or their families down. It might be that that they don’t to let me, their trainer, their physician, their dietitian or their behavioral health counselor down.

It might be that they don’t want their before picture to look like their after picture. And it might be that they told a whole bunch of their friends and family that they were doing this program and don’t want to be embarrassed by failure. Accountability plays a huge role, so tell everyone you can without reservations or excuse clauses that you will accomplish what you set out to do . . . Then just do it!

Trainer Tip #3: I was committed when I started but I kinda lost interest

You either want it or you don’t. You’ve come from a sedentary lifestyle and poor eating habits. The rewards go to the victors. Good health, energy and being physically fit is something everybody wants but few commit. You started this because you wanted to be different. Now finish it and you will be different.

Whatever you’ve done so far is a success because you’ve done more than you were doing before you started. You now have two choices: advance to the next level or relinquish your success.  Plateaus don’t last forever if you follow our rules.

Trainer Tip #4: Change your routine
The next appropriate step is to change your routine. Mastering new exercise routines or experimenting with various healthy recipes can revitalize the mundane. 


Are you a Pipe Smoker or a Nervous Nellie? I always think of a Pipe Smoker as someone who could have a train roll over him and come away unscathed. Actually he was probably rather severely scathed but he just accepts it as a bump in the road and moves on. The Nervous Nellie on the other hand goes into a tyrant if his TV flickers. The big difference is how their insides work.

Prehistoric man had a built in response system that prepared him for the worst. When the sabre toothed tiger came after him his body automatically triggered a myriad of protective devices. His heart would race, his pupils constrict, his muscular blood vessels would open and his brain would kick into high gear.

This response is okay for 15-20 minutes but when this high adrenalin state continues for hours, days weeks or months it translate into STRESS. Stress affects quality sleep, heart rate, blood pressure muscular response and saps your energy. By the way, eating is a common stress coping mechanism.

Trainer Tip #1: Meditate 15 Minutes Daily

Deep breathing alone slows heart rate, lowers blood pressure, provides restorative rest and calms the mind. Clearing your mind while deep breathing suppresses worry. Combine this with yoga moves and you are piling on the health benefits.

Trainer Tip #2: Positive Affirmations

Read books that promote positive and living life. Most of the bad things that could happen never do so why chose to dwell on it. How does that song go: "Don’t worry, be happy."

Trainer Tip #3: Seek Professional Help

Stress not only interferes with the scale but, because it alters bodily functions, it can lead to chronic disease. Oh, and it can interfere with relationships  (talk about stress). Your First Health Team offers professional counseling as an integral part of a healthy life. Use it.   



It’s not only enough to get around 8 hours of sleep. The quality of sleep you get is just as crucial.  Sleep is recovery time. A good workout actually damages muscle. Ever feel sore after a workout? That soreness is caused by lactic acid that leaks from torn muscle fibers.

A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that patients deprived of sleep were 55% less likely to drop pounds. The study divided patients into two groups one group averaging 5.5 hours and the second 8.5 hours. It seems lack of sleep increases hunger, slows metabolism and reduces the bodies ability to burn fat as an energy source. 

In a nutshell, if you are a regular exerciser, sleep allows time your muscles to repair. It also allows time to replenish nutrients and haul away chemical waste. When you compromise recovery time your body will turn on you.  Fat is the bodies storage system and in time of perceived need the body hangs on to fat, the opposite of what we actually desire. 

Trainer Tip #1: Most of my clients simply need to understand this important concept and hit the hay a little earlier. Some, though, have serious sleep issues and I recommend they start with the myriad of suggestions available on the internet. If the problem persists, a medical sleep evaluation is essential.

FAT LOSS PLATEAU BUSTER #5- Dealing With Physical Limitations

Most people want to be stronger, faster, burn more calories per session, bigger, etc., and they do this by trying to do more when they should be concerned with identifying and removing limitations. 

Here are the top limitations I see with athletes/clients:


Mobility is a broad term that deals with short and tight muscles, soft tissue restriction, joint capsule restriction, motor control problems, joint range of motion dysfunction, and neural dynamic issues.  Okay, that’s a boat load, but simply put, having mobility allows you to perform a movement safely and efficiently because your joints, muscles and neural control are all working together.

Trainer Tip #1: Perform dynamic warm-ups as it prepares your body and offer practice before performing.

Trainer Tip #2: Take yoga classes or get a DVD on yoga

Trainer Tip #3: Foam Roll and stretch


Injuries happen. Life is replete with slips and falls, sprains and strains, not to mention chronic stuff like arthritic joints and cartilage damage. These impairments don’t need to stop you. In fact medicine has proven that losing weight and exercising actually improve these conditions.

The good news is we have over 500 exercises and variations to those exercises. We can accommodate just about everyone. Acute injuries may require resting the injured part but there are a whole bunch of parts left to exercise.

Trainer Tip #1: When injured tell your trainer. We may be able to figure it out when you grimace or alter your movement but its best to lay it on us. We’ll help you determine the best course of action.


Chances are, at some point in your life you’ve had a slip, trip or accident that occurred and once you felt okay you returned back to your normal activities.  Even though it is something that happened years ago, the changes it could have made can leave you scarred as you go into future movements.

Did you ever notice the attention professional athletes are given even with very slight injuries? Their trainers may not be all too worried about their initial injury. They are, however, always concerned that if the athlete alters his normal movement because of pain that altered movement may become permanent thus interfering with his natural abilities.

If hobbling around because of a sprained ankle or bad back is done long enough it can change your natural movement patterns. A functional evaluation specialized trainer like our Mark Zaloudek or our certified trainer/practicing chiropractor Dr Joe Musolino can identify issues and then design programs to help rehab old injuries that get in the way of peak performance.

Trainer Tip #1: Get a Functional Evaluation

We believe in getting a physical examination before starting an exercise routine but this is completely different from a functional evaluation and most physicians are not qualified to perform them. A functional evaluation assesses your movement patterns. We look for glitches, impairments, faulty movement patterns. When found we can determine if muscles, tendons, cartilage or ligaments are impaired. Programs can be designed to improve or restore function.

Plateaus are game busters. If you are happy where you are then stick with your plan. But if you truly want to break out then something needs to change. More people quit the discipline it takes to be healthier because they aren’t seeing the results they expect. Plateaus are discouraging. This is a time for professional help. Talk with your coaching team. Use us. We can guide you and help you break through the barrier.