There is almost nothing more frustrating than a stubborn scale that won’t budge. But it’s important to keep in mind that while frustrating, weight loss plateaus are very normal. They are not necessarily indicative of anything you’ve done wrong, or a failure of your weight loss program.

Before you throw in the towel, let’s take a look at why plateaus happen. Then, be sure to check back here next week for expert tips on how to get that scale moving again!

You’ve lost water weight

Water weight is a term you’ve probably heard thrown around, but do you know what it means? Residing in our muscle tissues and liver are fuel stores known as glycogen. Glycogen is one of the first forms of fuel (aka calories) that our bodies burn off when starting a weight loss program. Because glycogen is made up of approximately 65% water, we lose a good deal of water weight along with it. The result? Weight loss appears more rapid at first, until the body has depleted its glycogen stores. It is normal for weight loss to progress at a slower rate after that, and does not mean that you have done anything wrong!

Smaller body size = fewer calories burned

The total amount of energy, or calories, that we use in a day depends on many factors. The largest is our unique Basal Metabolic Rate, or BMR for short. This comprises of all the energy our body uses at rest, doing things like maintaining body temperature, keeping our heart beating, and activating the muscles that hold our skeleton in place. The larger your body, the more energy you burn in a day.

Moral of the story? As the number on the scale gets smaller, so does the number of calories we burn through our BMR. This explains why you may see weight loss slow over time, even when consuming the same diet, or following the same exercise program. The answer? Change things up! Make some small tweaks to your eating or your exercise routine.

You’re losing muscle

Ordinarily, the human body doesn’t like burning protein for fuel. It’s not efficient, and that protein is put to better use building and maintaining our body tissues. But when our bodies are in a calorie deficit, we burn protein from the food we eat, as well as our own muscle tissues, for fuel. Why is this a concern? Muscle is a very metabolically active tissue, meaning it requires a good amount of calories to maintain. Losing muscle mass can cause a dip in our BMR, meaning we use and burn fewer calories at rest throughout the day.

Do your best to preserve that calorie-burning muscle mass by eating the right amount of calories, and plenty of protein in your diet.

If you’ve been dealing with slow or stalled weight loss, do not despair! Check back next week for more expert tips on overcoming a weight loss plateau.