If you’re squeamish, turn away! We are going to talk about something dark, ominous, dreaded and terrible. (Dom. Dom. Dom.) The Plateau.
You’re dieting – eating right, exercising, got your positive thinking cap on. The world is yours. Until…a week goes by without weight loss. Ten days go by. Two weeks. ACK! Panic! Hysteria! Stress. Depression. Carbs. The dieting death spiral. We’ve heard horror stories about it around the campfire. We’ve seen it. We’ve hit it. Still, we are surprised – surprised and hurt. What to do? WHAT TO DO?!
First, as my former boss Julie used to say, “Relax your nerves.”
When I hit my first one during The Big Shrink, I’ll admit it: I freaked. Friends reminded me that I was working out more; so, it was likely that I was gaining muscle at the same pound rate that I was losing fat. Why would the most logical answer be the right one? Crazy talk. Cut it out. I didn’t buy that easy answer. I mean, really.
Did you notice that I said, “my first one?” There were several – not countless, but I can’t tell you how many. I stopped counting and started taking them in stride. I changed my thinking and found some coping mechanisms.
I changed the way I viewed the plateaux. I stopped thinking of them as obstacles or trials and saw them as just part of the process. They were a resting place, like a rest stop on the highway. They let me stop focusing constantly on progress and let me think a little more of how far I’d come and where I was.
If the plateau didn’t break, my first thing to do was to check the fit of my clothes. If I was getting smaller with no movement (or even upward movement) on the scale, I knew that I was gaining muscle mass at the same pace (or even faster) that I was losing fat. I said that I wanted to lose weight; but, the point of the program was to lose fat and get healthier. As long as I was losing size, I was on task – no problem.
If, however, I was losing NEITHER weight NOR size, then my body had slipped into, you guessed it, freak-out mode. Our bodies do this – they will decide that we’re trying to starve them to death. They respond by going into survival mode, slowing down metabolism. The first time my body did this to me, I gave it a little talking to. That wasn’t as effective as I had hoped. The next thing I did (at the advice of a friend who is a doctor and fitness
freak fan), was to change my exercise routine and bump my calorie budget up by two or three hundred nutrition-dense calories for a couple of days. My body didn’t know what to expect with the new exercise routine and the calories reassured my system that I wasn’t starving it to death. It relaxed its grip on more fat cells.
In the last few weeks, this plateau issue has come up in conversation several times. As with everything, the only advice I can give you is what worked for me. If you are at a plateau, don’t think of it as a curse. Use the time to take stock, give yourself credit for your progress and look at where you’re headed. If it doesn’t break on its own, change up your activity and your diet. Keep yourself active and your food clean, but shake it up a little.
Above all: keep the faith! Keep your head down, your butt up and power through it! You’ve got this.