Sunday, February 28, 2010

Wall or Plateau?

It's frustrating and demoralizing when you stop seeing progress in your weight loss efforts, even though you're still trying. At first, it seems like a wall - something that stops you in your tracks, forcing you to stop moving in one direction and move in another one. If I think it's a wall, I'll most likely do just what I've done in the past - give up and go back the way I came. Then the weight comes creeping back on and I'm right back where I started.

The other option is to see this temporary pause in weight loss as a plateau. With a plateau, you can keep going the same direction and, after a time, you'll continue on as originally planned. That's actually what this phase is called. Instead of giving up this time, as I have so many times in the past, I'm going to see myself through this season and stick to my goals.

There are many different explanations as to why the body reaches a plateau in weight loss, and there are countless ways to remedy it. The reason? In simplified terms, the body reaches an equilibrium between the intake and the expense of calories. As you lose weight, your basic metabolic rate slows down, reducing the number of calories your body needs to function. Since you've already reduced your caloric intake, your body has readjusted.

The solution? Shake things up a bit. Eat a few more calories than you have been, then go back down again. Reduce carb intake and slightly increase protein. If you're not exercising, start. If you are exercising, do something different. Run instead of walk. Increase weights or repetitions. Switch your exercise routine or exercise at a different time of day. And most importantly, don't give up. Eventually you will get across the plateau and see success again.

So, now that I'm at that point, what do I need to do to get through it? I probably could stand to increase my protein intake. I only eat two slices of lunch meat on my daily half a sandwich. (Four is a whole serving.) At supper, my meat intake is low. I'm trying to focus on eating more vegetables and fewer carbs, but I've cut back a lot on my meats. On my last grocery trip, I bought cheese stick snacks to give me a little fat and protein, as opposed to eating a handful of tortilla chips (carbs) and salsa. I also bought some almonds, pistachios, and dry roasted peanuts in the shell. If I can eat a little of those at snack times, I'll be increasing my protein by quite a bit.

As for exercise, I had gotten out of the habit. The last few weeks have found me making more of an effort, but it's still not consistent. I do have several exercises to try that are supposed to increase metabolism, so I'm going to start doing those at least four times a week. Once the weather warms up, I'll be able to do more - walking to the park, riding bikes with the boys, swimming, etc. If I can hang in there until then, I'm pretty certain I'll see another stretch of weight loss.

So far, I've lost 8 pounds - the same amount I reached the last time I plateaued and gave up. I'm determined not to do that this time. I've broken my goal of 35 pounds into four more easily reachable goals of 10 pounds each. (I know that comes up to 40 pounds. I'll be happy with 35, ecstatic with 40...) Now I need to set some small rewards for reaching each of those goals. For the first 10 pounds, I might buy myself a new shirt. For the next 10, I might actually buy a new swimsuit. (I saw some I liked in Target yesterday as I was rushing through, searching for curtain rods for my bedroom...) For the third 10 pounds, I'll probably need a new pair of pants. And for the fourth and final 10, who knows? That will take some consideration.

In the meantime, though, I need to focus on making a few small changes and getting myself through to the other side of the plateau.

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