Category Archives: Losing Weight

Crossing the Weight Loss Plateau

Hitting the Weight Loss Plateau

Is Part of the Process

Weight Loss Plateau
Image by Kris Robinson

This is a follow up to a previous post from a few days ago in which I talked about the dreaded dieter’s plateau – the point in the dieting process that always appears no matter how much you do not want it to.  You are moving along great, the pounds are coming off, you feel confident that you will reach your goal and suddenly the scale seems to be broken – it doesn’t change from day to day. It is maddening! You start to think if things don’t change soon, you will go backwards and gain all you have lost.  What can you do?

First – recognize that hitting a plateau is part of the process. Instead of letting it get you down and knocking you off track, look at it as an opportunity to clear your head, intensify your focus and develop a strategy to move forward toward your goal.

Below are eight things you can do to re-light the spark that ignited your determination in the beginning and get across the plateau to higher ground.

  1. Check your ultimate goal – is it realistic and healthy?

When you are stalled it is critical to consider your ultimate goal carefully.  Ask these questions: 1) Is the weight you are planning to reach realistic?  2) Is your expected rate of weight loss reasonable and healthy? 3) Are you going about it the right way? Whatever the answers, don’t let them discourage you or be a reason for quitting. Simply make the necessary adjustments to keep you moving forward.

Hopefully you have chosen a healthy, nutritionally-rich weight-loss program. If so, you should be losing one to two pounds per week. Also, remember that everyone’s body is different, with its own ideal weight and size. An easy trap to fall into is the desire to look like your friend, a model, or a celebrity.

Comparisons are dangerous and goals that are based on such comparisons are faulty. Your body knows your ideal weight, so listen and pay attention to what feels right.  A good marker can be set by using a Body Mass Index Calculator to find your ideal weight. (Be sure to read the information to understand how it works.)

The ideal weight range is wide enough that you can figure out which end of the range should be your goal.  As I get older I tend to feel better a little on the heavier side. Be sure to factor in age and your current health. Remember that healthy weight is a lifestyle – not a diet!

  1.  Switch to eating high-protein/low-carbs for a while

You must eat enough protein – even on a diet – to maintain your lean muscle mass.  When you cut your protein down too low, you will lose weight, but it will come from both your fat and muscle tissue, which is not healthy.

In order to preserve muscle tissue during a weight loss regimen, men need 150 grams of protein per day, and women need 100 grams.  If you made a mistake in the beginning and have already lost some muscle tissue, you should seriously consider adjusting your diet to include more protein in order to sustain your muscle tissue and jump-start your diet again.

Every diet or weight loss program must include the necessary nutrients to preserve your body’s muscles. If you have chosen one that does not do that, make the necessary changes NOW.

  1. Incorporate aerobic exercise and resistance training into your routine

A great way to boost metabolism is to make aerobic exercise a regular activity.  For people under 35, a 30-minute brisk walk – three to four times a week will do wonders. Over 35 or terribly out of shape because of prolonged lack of exercise, you should start with 10 to 15 minutes two or three times a week and build up slowly.

Another great exercise choice is weight training with free weights or machines, if you are up to it. It is an excellent way to increase your metabolism almost overnight – as much as 5% to 10%.  Workouts several times a week will increase muscle mass, which burns more calories faster. Studies have shown that a solid weight training workout can boost your metabolism for as long as 21 hours after.

  1. Look for hidden carbs that may be stalling your progress

Stay alert and pay attention to what you are eating.  When your weight loss slows to a standstill (hits a plateau), check for hidden carbohydrates that may be piggy-backing unnoticed into your diet. For example – sugar can be found in very unlikely places, especially condiments such as salad dressing, ketchup, teriyaki sauce, BBQ sauce, etc.

Processed foods such as gravies and sauces that are found on frozen veggies must be avoided – they often contain sugar, milk solids and cornstarch. AND, watch out for low-fat foods.  Yes, they take out the fat, but they add a lot of sugar and sugar products as flavor enhancers.

If you can’t immediately identify the culprits, put on your detective hat. . . for a couple of days make a list of everything you eat and drink, and read labels. Then, each night study the list and find the hidden carbs that may be keeping you stuck. Once you know what they are, you can stop eating them and break through the plateau.

  1. Stop eating refined and processed food

Eliminate all refined foods from your diet – especially refined sugar and grains.  In case you don’t know, this includes all white rice and all white flour products such as white bread, pastries, pasta and crackers.

The second group is anything that contains refined sugar – even small amounts. This group includes soda pop, sugar-coated breakfast cereals, pop-tarts, cookies, cake and most desserts.

This is probably the simplest step, but for many people one of the hardest. However, if you can take the step, chances are you will experience a huge dieting breakthrough that will not only jump start your diet again, you will have more energy and feel better than you have in a long time.

  1. Stay away from caffeinated drinks and diet sodas

The jury is still out on these but, there are enough studies that support the ill effects of both caffeine and diet drinks for people who are trying to lose weight that it isn’t worth the risk.

According to a report from researchers at Purdue University, drinking diet soda may not only be as bad for your health as the regular stuff, but it may be causing you to pack on the pounds.

Drinking just one can of diet soda per day is “enough to significantly increase the risk for health problems such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease.”

The report explains that diet soda and artificial sweeteners trick the body into thinking that it is consuming real food and sugar even though it isn’t, which could lead to metabolic confusion and over-consumption. Diet soda should not be considered a “healthy” alternative to regular soda – learn to drink water instead.

According to a study published by the National Institutes of Health, caffeine affects cravings for food because it raises the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol raises heart rate and blood pressure and tells your body to increase its energy stores.  Cravings are always a challenge when dieting, so don’t add to the problem by drinking caffeinated drinks. One last thought on caffeine . . . . avoid completely the energy drinks which are very bad for your overall health on many levels.

  1. Be sure you eat enough

How much and how often are you eating?  When you cut back on either, or both, quantity and frequency, it can negatively impact the way your body functions and easily create the weight loss plateau. There is a lot of evidence that eating small amounts, frequently can satisfy your hunger and produce better results than if you were to eat the same number of calories in three whole meals space evenly throughout the day.

When hunger pangs hit, munch on healthy, low-calorie, crunchy snacks such as sliced carrots, celery, jicama, green peppers, zucchini, and cucumbers. Eat as much as you want – no hidden culprits will be found.  You can also treat yourself to a few raw almonds a couple of times during the day for a slightly sweet, healthy snack.

  1. Stay completely hydrated

Water is an important component of any diet.  You must stay hydrated with a continual replenishment of water.  Dehydration can actually slow down your weight loss. Become one of those people who always have a bottle of water in their hands or sitting next to them as they work.  Hydration not only helps the body burn fat efficiently, it also helps control your hunger.

A high-quality aloe concentrate added to your water can be an excellent aid in keeping your digestive tract working at its best.  Also consider taking a probiotic supplement to assist in maintaining healthy intestinal flora.

  1. Keep Your eye on the prize – stay motivated

If you are like most of us, once you decide to begin a serious weight-loss program and commit yourself to the process, there is a sense of right-mindedness and excitement about the end result; and, the excitement mounts as the pounds began to fall off, one-by-one. Keep that feeling alive in your mind and tap into it whenever doubt and discouragement start to creep in.

Remember what helped you make the decision to start losing weight. Think about your primary motivation and see if it still works, or if you need to find a stronger motivation. Then, keep reminders in critical places such as your master bathroom mirror and/or the refrigerator.

A picture of you looking great is often helpful – maybe a before and after from years past – maybe a favorite dress or new suit, or the perfect swimsuit for your summer vacation that you can’t wait to wear.

We all have our hot points – for me it is simply the way I feel when I a slim that motivates me the most.  What is yours? I know you have one (or two). Find it and keep it clearly in your mind’s eye – or physically where you can see it every day.

Most important of all – don’t forget – THE PLATEAU IS TEMPORARY. Don’t let it defeat you.

To a lighter, thinner YOU! 

Nancy

 

Safe Weight Loss

Scales - Time to Lose Weight
Image by Paola Kizette Cimenti

Safe weight loss is a critical factor when considering a diet. The rate at which you lose the pounds can have significant impact on your health and well-being.

If  you want and/or need to lose weight, you are probably like most of us – you want it to happen as quickly and easily as possible.  I am right there with you; but, there is a limit to the amount of weight you should lose in a specific period of time – too much – too fast –  can be dangerous.

It is easy to be seduced by the advertising campaigns that make promises they can’t keep and if they can, they are probably dangerous to your health.  The ads that say you can lose a full dress size in one week should not be considered because of the potential dangers involved.

People buy into such promises because they want it to be true and believe that if it is advertised in public media, the diets must be safe – and think it could be a good way to jump-start a longer-term diet.

This is the truth . . . extremely fast weight loss is dangerous.  In order to do so, you must take things to the extreme – either limiting caloric intake to an unhealthy level, not eating enough nutritionally rich food which deprives the body of the nutrients it needs to function effectively, eating very little and supplementing with dangerous diet pills or drinks, and/or exercising to the point of exhaustion day after day.

Yes, extreme dieting methods will ensure rapid weight loss, but you lose more than just fat. The first thing you lose is water weight; then, muscle tissue, which may be replaced with fat, or muscle tissue in the wrong places once you begin to gain weight again.  Finally, the immune system is weakened leaving you at risk for illness and disease.

Rapid weight loss also slows down your metabolism (goes into survival mode) because the body is not getting enough calories to function properly. Regenerating your metabolism back to normal after such a slowdown can be difficult – not a risk you want to take.

Rapid weight loss (especially if extended over a period of time) can cause malnutrition, which adversely affects the way you look, the body’s ability to heal wounds, causes mood swings, bloating, and extreme fatigue.

Do the math . . . one pound of body weight equals 3,500 calories.  So, in order to lose 10 pounds in one week, you would have to cut  35,000 calories from your weekly diet.  That doesn’t even sound healthy – because it is not.  It is extreme and will negatively impact your body and your health.

Healthy weight loss as the result of dieting consists of an initial loss of 3 to 4 pounds in the first week. This is to be expected  as you change your eating habits (in other words you stop feeding your body more calories than it burns). Following the initial weight loss, a steady rate of 1 to 2 pounds per week is a healthy rate and it will be much easier to keep the weight off.  Losing more in a week is risky.

As you can see – patience can be a powerful virtue for someone committed to healthy dieting! Go slowly – take it off and keep it off.

See you next time,

Nancy

The Weight Loss Plateau

If it Is Important
Image by Arya Ziai

If you have ever tried to lose weight, you already know about the weight loss plateau. There is simply no way to avoid it.  You will hit a plateau – it is inevitable.  In fact, I am at one right now, as I write this. I started several weeks ago with a new and very healthy diet and quickly lost 10 pounds, then hit my plateau (which I knew was coming) – but, frustrating nevertheless!

The plateau can be demoralizing and take all the wind out of your sails, with a continual niggling in your head that says, “It’s not worth it – just quit.”  But . . . I am not going to quit. I am determined to continue until I have reached my goal.

There is no diet that can promise (and keep the promise) that you will not hit this wall. I don’t care if it is high-carb, low-carb, Mediterranean, Paleo, etc., you will still hit it.

The plateau comes as the result of eating and exercising the same way day-in and day-out over a period of time. The break-through may come more quickly if you trick your body a little while on the diet. In other words – keep it guessing.

A plateau is a signal that your weight is stagnant – not going up or down.  It doesn’t make any sense because you have been on the same diet for several weeks and were steadily losing your two pounds each week – then nothing.

Well . . . something. . . your haven’t lost anything, but the good news is that you also haven’t gained anything. It is annoying and discouraging because you are continuing to do what has been successful up to this point.  You are eating all the right things (and not eating the bad things), you are exercising, and you are holding fast to your goal – but nothing is happening.

With a fad diet it may be more noticeable and last longer because of the extreme change in food intake, your body may have shut down and is clinging to whatever reserves it has in place because it is responding to what feels like starvation.  In fact, changing to a more normal, healthy diet could be all the change your body needs. (Good food only – I am not talking about adding back all the bad stuff.)

One thing you can do is change up your eating and exercise routine a bit. Try switching to a new program or shaving a few more calories off each day, which you only do if you are at a safe level – DO NOT STARVE YOURSELF.  Another choice is to increase your daily exercise regimen to burn more calories and boost your metabolism.

Changes in your diet and exercise routine are often enough to help break through the plateau and keep you losing weight week after week.

The hard cold truth is that plateaus will happen and can hit you at any time.  There is no way of knowing when – but studies have shown that it is usually in week two or three.  For me, the plateau usually hits in week three or four.

Sometimes the best approach is to simply hang in there and ride out the plateau. In all likelihood your body will adjust and adapt to the new routine and the weight loss will begin again. But if the plateau continues for a couple of weeks or more; and you begin to feel that it will never end, you may have to do some kind of change up to break out of it.

Listen to your body, stay true to your goal, and do not give up.  Weight loss is not easy for most people, but if you focus on staying healthy by eating right and exercising, the weight will come off – in spite of the plateaus and other challenges you may face.  Don’t let the plateaus defeat you.

See you next time,

Nancy

Are Diet Pills the Answer?

Diet Pills
Image by Tacit Requiem (JoAnne Q. Escober)

You do not have to look very far to find diet pills. Every pharmacy, grocery store, health food store, vitamin shop, and super store like WalMart and Target offer a wide variety. You don’t even have to leave your home; you can order them Online (in bulk).

There are hundreds to choose from because dieting is a billion-dollar industry that continues to grow year after year preying on the hundreds of thousands of people who are obsessed with their appearance – especially their weight.

All the ads and marketing campaigns focus on everyone’s need to “look good” and to “be happy.”  It is not uncommon to see a before and after ad campaign showing an overweight individual looking sad and unhappy and then, the transformation (the after) shows the person slim, trim and smiling. Even without words, the message is clear – lose weight and be happy. Their product is the key and it will change your life.

The promise is wonderful and grabs your attention if you have been struggling with extra pounds for any length of time.  The ads are often very appealing and the promise is music to your ears. In spite of all the magic that is promised, there is rarely any scientific data to back up their claims of success.  And . . .  using the pills can be dangerous to your health – and even deadly.

There are no government regulations for diet pills.  The FDA does not test or screen the products and in fact, diet pill companies are not even required to post warnings on the labels regarding the dangerous side effects.

As with any pills – side effects will vary. One fairly common one is an accelerated heart rate that is triggered by the ingredients. They often contain stimulants or amphetamines which can make you jittery – the same as if you were taking a stronger, illegal drug. Other side effects are mood changes, nervous energy, sweating and gastrointestinal issues.  Plus, misuse of stimulants can put you at risk for a fatal heart attack or stroke.

In addition to all of that, the pills can be addictive. You may get through the dieting process unscathed – health intact and even a few pounds lighter – but with an addiction that is difficult to break.

There is an FDA published list of diet pills that have been recalled because of the dangerous ingredients they contained.  These pills were on the market and many people used them – often with adverse effects! There are studies being done and more and more dangerous ingredients are being discovered.

The reality is that because of the lack of required testing and regulations, the effects of diet pills could come back to haunt you years later.

Diet pills are a BUYER BEWARE situation.  Be very cautious about choosing diet pills to help you lose weight. In fact, the recommendation is to avoid them altogether. Don’t fall for the empty promises.  The only thing you can count on losing is your money – and possibly your health.

Choosing to eat a healthy diet and a regular exercise routine – with safe supplements if you feel you need them –  is a much saner, healthier, and effective way to go.

See you next time,

Nancy