When Cortland West hits a weight-loss plateau, the 24-year-old knows exactly what to do. "I look back at my old photos of myself when I was at my biggest," she says. "I was completely miserable at that time in my life. I felt awful physically and emotionally." That reminder of how far she's come keeps Cortland moving forward—and so far she's lost 36 kilograms.
No one ever said losing weight was easy. (And if they did, they were lying!) But no matter how prepared you think you are for the ups and downs of weight loss, the frustration of seeing the same number on the scale—over and over again—can’t be underestimated.
These eight women hit their fair share of plateaus on their way toward healthier, happier weights. Here's how they powered through.
1. 'I THINK ABOUT HOW FAR I'VE COME'
"Whenever I feel like giving up—trust me, I still do sometimes—I just remind myself of the girl in those pictures and how unhappy she was. I just never want to look in the mirror and see her again. That keeps me motivated. I’ve come too far to let a plateau hold me back.” — Cortland West, 24, lost 36 kilograms
2. 'I REMEMBER WHY I'M DOING THIS'
“It sounds cheesy, but you really have to find your ‘why.’ Last summer I realised that this year I would turn 45, celebrate my 20th wedding anniversary, and go on a mission trip to Peru. I knew I had a year to get my act together for myself for the first time since I had kids.
"I didn’t want to be overweight for those milestones and I didn’t want to struggle with dragging my overweight body around the mountains of Peru when I wanted to be there to make a difference in the lives of others. So, along the way, when my weight loss stalled, I've focused on that 'why' and it has helped me push through." — Vivian Wolf, 44, lost 18 kilograms
3. I SHIFT MY FOCUS TO GETTING STRONGER IN THE GYM'
"The process of weight loss takes time, and to pass the time waiting for a break in a plateau, I shift my focus to getting stronger.
"For example, a better, stronger squat means healthier glutes. I believe it's much more difficult to care about a plateau when you understand that mentality prioritizing performance is still contributing to your health." — Jessica Hudson, 29, lost 17 kilograms
4. 'I REMIND MYSELF HOW MUCH BETTER I FEEL WHEN I'M MAKING HEALTHY CHOICES'
"I reignite the flame by repeatedly telling myself how amazing I feel when I do work out, or how much healthier I feel when I eat things that bring me fuel and energy.
"Positive self-talk is something that has helped me through this whole journey, and sometimes you just have to say these things out loud to yourself in the mirror.” —Kenzie Pittman, 26, lost 20 kilograms
5. 'I PRIORITISE HAVING FUN WITH MY WORKOUTS'
“After about four months of tracking calories and losing weight, my weight loss stalled. I needed to up my physical activity, but I dreaded the idea of setting foot into a gym. Then I discovered hula-hoop fitness and it became my passion. In the months that followed, I fought through the plateau period by reigniting my original desire to lose weight, but this time, I focused on fun.
"Finding the 'fun' helped me stick with my diet and exercise routine, even when the weight loss stalled. It reminded me that physical activity really can feel more like childhood recess and less like a chore. It's impossible to not smile while hula hooping!
"I also put 'fun' back into my diet and focused on trying new things instead of limiting myself to eating the same foods every day. The weight started coming off again and I have maintained my weight loss for three months now.” —Cori Magnotta, 34, lost 38 kilograms
6. 'I TREAT PLATEAUS AS A TEST OF PERSEVERANCE'
"I have a love-hate relationship with plateaus. I've learned to think of them as a way to teach me patience and perseverance. Most of us, however, will have an initial reaction to throw in the towel.
"Instead, I try to use the towel to wipe off the sweat off my face from an awesome workout. I let plateaus inspire me to dig deeper, find my internal motivation, and realise that it is part of the process." — Leandie Williams, 33, lost 45 kilograms
7. 'I FOCUS ON NON-SCALE VICTORIES'
"It can be disappointing when you do everything 'right' and you don’t get the results you want. But this is about being patient.
"When I need weight-loss motivation to break through plateaus, I focus on non-scale victories. Are your clothes getting looser? Are you able to control what you eat? Are you feeling better!? If yes, then you're still progressing." — Joanna Wilcox, 33, lost 27 kilograms
8. I CELEBRATE EVERY HEALTHY CHOICE AS A SUCCESS'
"I had a plateau that lasted a month and a half, and it was so frustrating. I had to keep reminding myself that I had to stick with it and be patient.
"Weight loss is not an overnight, quick fix. You just have to remember that every healthy choice you make is the right one. Just because the scale may not reflect it, doesn't mean it wasn't worth it. Weight loss has a lot of ups and downs, but nothing worth it comes easy. Stick with it and you'll break through!” — Emily Powers, 24, lost 54 kilograms
This article originally appeared on Women's Health US