Friday, February 03, 2012

Fitness Friday - Don't Let the Plateaus Sabotage You

After reading Tawny Weber's post over at the Healthy Writer blog, I got thinking about plateaus. They happen. Sometimes they happen for a looooong time, and it's frustrating as anything. Sometimes they happen after the first 10 lbs, after the first 20. Sometimes you drop and then bounce back up by a few pounds and they just won't come back off again. And after days and weeks of it you can kind of start thinking, what's the point? It doesn't seem to matter what you do, so who really cares if you splurge on a cheeseburger or miss a workout. It's not like it's doing you any good anyway.

We've all been there.

Sometimes it seems like I've been on a plateau since last June. After Nationals, I dropped by teeny tiny increments until in November I reached another mini-goal. And what happened? I bounced right back up by about 3 lbs and stayed there.

Christmas added another couple of pounds and now guess what. I'm right back where I was last July. After a year and a half of fairly steady loss (and nearly 40 lbs), this is where I am.

It's a bit maddening.

When plateaus happen you need to look at a lot of things so that you don't get utterly derailed and start with the negative self-talk. It helps me to look at the big picture. If this were all about the number on the scale, it'd be downright frustrating. BUT each time I make a good food choice and workout when I'd rather be watching tv, I know I've contributed something to my health, and that's a GOOD thing. It's empowering when that stupid scale number is not. Forget about body fat for a few minutes and think of all the good things you've done for your heart, lungs, and muscles.

It also pays to look at your diet. If you've been a bit lax lately about letting in some bad choices, then that might be keeping you from losing. I know I'd probably be down more than I am if I hadn't gone off the rails last weekend at a neighbour's - there was a lot of red wine flowing and some delicious pita chips with jalapeno greek yogurt dip. That dip was AWESOME. I had way too much of that AND the wine. I can't do that and expect results. Plus the night before my niece made dinner which was a gorgeous stuffed beef roast, carrots, and garlic potatoes. And she made trifle. Come to think of it, staying the same was probably a miracle.

And of course you can look at your activity level.

But what if you're doing all the things that you know WORK and you're still not seeing results?

My answer is, look elsewhere for results.

Do your measurements. After a week of watching calorie count and doing 1 - 1 1/2 hours of exercise a day, I was only down a little over a pound. But I lost a half inch on my waist just in that week. SOMETHING was working.

Remember that if you're working hard and you've added significant weights to your routine, muscle weighs more than fat. It also ups your metabolism, so don't let that stop you. It takes a lot of muscle to compensate for loss, so don't use that as a total excuse. But your shape may be changing even though the scale is posting minimum results. Look at how your clothes fit.

And speaking of clothes, Michelle Styles got me on a little trick last year when things seemed to be not moving. Sometimes our big clothes still "fit" and we think we're not going anywhere. But what you should be trying on are the smaller clothes. When I was particularly frustrated last spring, she told me to do a try-on session. I tried on summer clothes that I hadn't worn in nearly four years. I didn't have to buy any shorts last year because I fit into them again, even when I didn't expect to. Just last week I wondered if I could fit into a formal dress in my closet. Turns out it's actually a little bit big, even though when I wore it I was 15 lbs lighter than I am now. And a favourite suit I wore in London in 2007 is now too big and ill-fitting. Just when you think you might not be going anywhere, poof - there you are.

And remember, too, that the big picture is you're in this for life. Not just dropping the pounds but a healthy lifestyle. Everytime I've plateaued or stumbled, I didn't quit, and eventually the number started dropping again. You just have to keep on, knowing that eating better and exercising make you FEEL better, and that's way more important than a number on the scale.

Have a good week!


  1. Look to your leptin resistance. Leptin Resistance is the thing which is most likely causing you to plateau. So make sure you are eating clean -- limited carbs, particularly avoid carbs combined with fat foods amd eat unprocessed fruit, veg and lean meat. It should help. Also if you workout when you are carb starved say early in the morning, you will burn fat according to a study in the Journal of Physiology. And make sure you are not sleep deprived as your gherlin hormonal levels tend to go up and increase your leptin resitance and posssibly inflammation of your hypothalamus.
    (I have been doing my research!)

  2. Sound advice Donna and Michelle. I've been off bad carbs (bread, potatoes, pasta) since 1st January, eating more fruit and veg and hitting the gym four times a week. I've lost just over a stone and a half so far and intend to keep going. Surprisingly though, just down one dress size so I guess weight really doesn't have much of an affect. It's how your body changes. My midrift seems to refuse to budge!

    Keep up the good work x