WHAT IS A PLATEAU?
According to mayoclinic.org ‘Plateaus may last a few days to a few weeks and sometimes even a few months.’ If you have a certain weight in your mind and have been dreaming of it since your baby was born and now she is 12 years old (or you are dreaming of the weight you saw on the scales in college) then those are called vanity pounds, not a plateau.
If you have 60 pounds to loose and you are in the middle of that journey but have hit a wall. Your first 30 came off quickly and now you are not loosing at all or maybe even gained a few pounds back. Or if you are close to your goal weight, with only 10-15 to loose. You have been consistently loosing 1-2 pounds week after week and now you aren’t loosing anything. Those are weight-lose plateaus and they are totally normal when on your journey! It usually lasts 3-4 weeks and there is plenty you can do to overcome it!
WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT?
PAY ATTENTION TO DETAIL & GET REAL
When first starting a fitness journey it’s common to be all in, to be fully committed and even be on a ‘high’ from starting a new adventure. As time passes life starts to happen and healthy habits start to slip. Workouts might start to be less intense, skipped more or just part of the daily motion not something you are fully invested in with you mind or body. Another aspecting would be with your nutrition. It might start to slip as well. More treats might make their way into your diet a little at a time, maybe an extra drink here and an extra serving there happen without notice.
These common slips might happen unintentionally or they might even happen on purpose.
‘I have been doing good the last week so I’ll go ahead and have 2 glasses of wine instead of 1 tonight.’
‘As long as I workout hard tomorrow then another slice of pizza will be fine.’
Well I hate to be the one to break the news but NOW is the time to get real with yourself!
You must take into account every calorie that goes into your mouth. That includes the bites off the kids plates, drinks, sweeteners and creamers that you add, condiments that you flavor with and the amount of water that you drink…or don’t drink. You need to be aware of all of these things so you can truly be honest with yourself.
I’ll admit it, I don’t love to track everything I do EVERYDAY. But it’s kind of a game and fun most days (well,somedays I force myself to make it a game so I don’t dread it) but it’s not like that every day and defiantly not week after week, month after month. But you MUST make changes, stick with them and improve on them if you want to see and feel changes in your body. The only way to do that is to track. There are VERY few people who can accurately guess their calories for the day. There are also more people than not who struggle with intuitive eating (ME being one who CANNOT EAT INTUITIVELY and still reach goals—-maybe one day I’ll share a raw post about my relationship with food, maybe not though).
You also need to be honest with yourself about how much effort and intensity you are putting into your workouts. If you are simply going through the motions then your body won’t respond as well. You need to be giving it your all! Think about what you are doing. Put your mind where your muscle is. Even if you are doing simple modified moves you still need the same energy as complex workouts. Besides, if you are taking the time to workout why not be mentally there as well? Get your head where your body is.
Bottom line: YOU MUST BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF to be make improvements from where you are now, weight loss or another area of life.
CHANGE UP YOUR WORKOUT
If you are doing the same workout week after week or even the same pattern of workouts for the week then change it! Even if you are doing super intense workouts 6 or 7 days a week, change it. Our bodies were made to adapt very quickly and effectively, a good thing in many situations but not a good thing when we want change. But if you stop challenging your muscles, they won’t continue to grow Your body will embrace the changes that you make, take on the challenge and improve even more! Keep your muscles and your calorie burning engine guessing!
For example, when jogging a mile for the first week it is extremely challenging. As you run a mile day after day it becomes easier in just a couple week. Your body has adjusted. If you are always doing cardio then add in weight training. If you are already weight training then lift heavier with less repetitions or lighter with more repetitions and sets. Or add in some yoga or Pilates each week. Just adding in a few days of interval or HIIT (high intensity interval training) each week can change things dramatically! If possible change the time of day that you workout even. Anything that will keep your body challenged and guessing will be a benefit to you.
CHANGE UP YOUR NUTRITION
Usually when hitting a plateau first instinct is to drop calories but that might not be the problem and should not be your ‘go to’ answer. Under consuming calories has just as much of a negative impact on your body as over consuming. Besides that, if you keep dropping your calories each time you hit a plateau then you’ll get to the point that you calories won’t be enough to fuel your day much less a killer workout. Plus who wants to live life with a super restricted diet? NOT ME! I like my food way too much to cut it out!
If you are already paying attention to detail and are tracking your calories then start to look at your macronutrients (proteins, fats and carbohydrates). Even if you aren’t sure what your macronutrients should be, just watching them daily will help you become more familiar and learn about your personal diet. After you track for a few weeks and get comfortable looking at them, take a week off of working out….YES, STOP WORKING OUT FOR ONE WEEK! During that week off focus completely on nutrition and totally change it up! Don’t change your calorie count for the week but change the way you are getting those calories in. Changing too many things at once can be overwhelming, plus you won’t know what of your changes are making the most impact on your progress.
So, this mini workout ‘vacation’ would be the time to try out a new way of eating that you have been curious about. If you are eating a high carbohydrate diet and low protein then flip that. If your proteins and carbohydrates are pretty even split and fats are low then increase your fats and drop carbohydrates and proteins. You could even experiment with gluten free, grain or dairy free, vegetarian, zig-zagging your calories, intermitted fasting or a particular style of diet.
LOOK AT YOUR STRESS LEVEL & SLEEP
You might not even know you are stressed or lacking sleep but these days it’s very common for most of us to be putting our bodies under content stress, so constant that it becomes our ‘norm’.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics tells us more specifically, ‘stress causes the body to produce more of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that promotes body fat and makes it harder to lose weight, especially around the stomach. Also, when someone is stressed they generally sleep less. Less sleep, chronic fatigue causes the hormone ghrelin to rise. Ghrelin is the primary hunger hormone, and causes someone to feel hungry even when they don’t need to eat.’
Some simple ways to help fight this, add in yoga, take a few deep breaths before starting your meal and eat slower, get an extra hour of sleep per night and make it a priority, identify your stressors and make a plan to reduce them or their effects on your daily life, take a walk after meals a few times a week, meditate or read scripture that gives you hope.
GET FOCUSED ON WHAT’S IMPORTANT
Does it really matter what the scales say? We don’t wear that number around our neck for the world to see. Focus more on how you are feeling. How do your clothes fit? Can you chase your dog with more ease now? Can you crawl around with your kids or grandkids easier?
Figure out the things that are most important to you and do your best to improve on what will make you get the most joy out of those special people or things.
DO NOT FORGET…
Workouts and nutrition isn’t one size fits all. Everyone is a different hight, weight, body compassion, health concerns and more. All of these things are a factor in your journey and should be a factor in your decision making. Always consult your physician. There might be more going on with your body than you think. Also, certain foods and diets do not mix well with some health issues or medicines.
Also remember, plateaus are signs that you have been doing great for awhile. You have been working hard and now your body understands that you will continue to work hard! You are probably closer than you have ever been before. It’s healthy and natural so embrace it.
This might sound like a lot but if you are serious about your goals and truly improving from where you are right now then you will feel such a reward and sense of accomplishment by pushing yourself to the next level. If you continue to do what you are doing now then you will continue to be where you are at right now. Each decision you make is taking you closer to your goal or not taking you there!
Final note: try out one suggestion at a time. Don’t overwhelm yourself. If you change too many things at once you are adding unnecessary confusion. There might be one thing on this list that is the golden ticket. Changing one thing at a time will help you find out what that is!
What will be the one thing on the list that you will start with?