Couple taking a running break

The Hills, The Plateaus, The Push to Burn Through

Couple taking a running breakBy Heidi Lauckhardt-Rhoades

The theme of this and last week’s blog posts is shaking up your routines to avoid boredom and the dreaded “plateau”. Plateaus are not necessarily limited to weight loss, they can extend to hypertrophy (increased muscle size), cardio threshold, and aerobic gains, hence last week’s blog post about changing up your exercise routine to continue getting the results you want and not just spin your wheels needlessly.

This week we are talking about weight loss plateaus and as it is April and many of us decided on January 2nd to lose weight as our 2011 goal, it’s time to evaluate where we are in terms of our losses. While this may be a bit premature, it’s a good article to refer back to in the coming months if you do encounter a true plateau.

There are several reasons for weight loss plateaus and the great thing about them is that they can be pushed through. I myself encountered a plateau for years, unable to break past 150 pounds. It was a very frustrating experience and one that lead me to yo-yo dieting, which ultimately gave way to a fifty-pound weight gain. As I write this blog to you this morning, however, I am writing at a lean, mean, 137 pounds which has only taken twenty-six years to achieve (while I’m 35 years old, I’ve been over 100 pounds since age 9!).

One thing to take into consideration is if your body has been maintained at a certain weight for a long time. For example, my weight stood steady at 160/165 for at least a decade. My body was very comfortable at this weight, and like a good compass, it found its “weigh” back to that number easily.  When I put myself on Weight Watchers this December, I was 150 pounds. Since I had only been that number a very short time, my body had not had a long memory of it, but I stuck with the program and the weight has been able to shed itself quite nicely. So think about where your body weight and where the scale stood for the longest time, even if you are several pounds over that number. If you are 220 pounds, for example, but for twenty years you weighed 200 pounds, once you reach 200 pounds, you may just stay there. Something to consider once you reach your goal weight is to maintain that weight for six months to one year so that you create a memory of that weight.

To break through your plateau, your options include:

  • Weight training, or add more weights and reps. Lean muscle burns more calories through out the day and will boost your metabolism.
  • Vary your caloric intake. If you are consuming 1500 calories, take two hundred out of the picture one day and then bump it up the next day. You can be extreme in your numbers (200-700) just to keep your body guessing but do so with caution both in going below and in going high calorically.
  • Add more lean protein into your diet. The increasingly age-old expression of shopping the perimeter of the grocery store makes sense; produce, dairy, meat/tofu, and eggs.  Consuming more of these whole foods rather than processed foods can help you lean out and break through that plateau.
  • Increase the frequency and or time that you exercise and be sure to change up your routine. If you are a jogger, add some more time to your daily jog or if you don’t jog daily, consider it. If you don’t want to jog daily, you can add sprints to your jog, and on your off days, begin resistance or weight training. If you are a group exercise enthusiast, pick up a schedule and try out some new classes; cardio junkies, give Pilates, Yoga and some of the other more “mellow” classes a try; these will help you in ways you never thought possible, believe me!
  • Finally, you may have become so confident and comfortable in your weight loss that you are getting a little bit “sloppy” in your portion control. It’s time to get your pocket notebook out and begin to journal what you consume. Measuring cups and spoons are extremely helpful in achieving your goals. Getting on the scale on a weekly basis, same day of the week, same time will also keep you motivated and on track. Remain focused and try to frame your weight loss in terms of adopting a healthy way of life and ending an addiction to food or overeating. We can all enjoy the taste of food but it does not have to be all consuming, no pun intended.

Relax and stay steadfast in your efforts.  Following these tried and true strategies for breaking through pesky plateaus will pay off and you will find the scale moving in a direction towards your favor. It may not happen overnight, but it will happen. Just tighten your belt (perhaps literally), become a bit more diligent channeling that same vigor you had at the beginning of your weight loss journey, and in a week or two your plateau will lead you to an edge. Enjoy the plummet! Remember to keep your body guessing to avoid ruts.

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