Hitting the Weight Loss Plateau
Is Part of the Process
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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!