An Update: on Plateaus

If you’ve read my two most recent posts (10 Things I’ve Learned (So Far!) in my Fitness Journey and My Favorite Fitness Tools) you probably know that after finding myself at my heaviest weight ever, I turned my life and my health around and lost 30 pounds in about 8 weeks. And man, I was riding high and feeling amazing–invincible, even. I was doing calculations to see how much I’d weigh in a few months’ time at that rate, and I was sure it was going to happen.

And then it happened: I hit a plateau. For weeks, I sat at essentially the same weight and saw no progress on the scale. Sometimes I’d go up or down a few ounces, but it was always within the same range. After a while, I stayed at the exact. same. weight. Down to the ounce, my weight did not change for five days. I was so tired of seeing that same number on the scale every morning, so much so that I cried as I stood on the scale on the fifth day. I hated that number because it wouldn’t go away.

I didn’t understand why I wasn’t dropping the weight all of a sudden. I was still eating clean, running, doing strength workouts, and practicing yoga. Nothing had changed hormonally or in my diet or lifestyle. I ran harder, worked out longer, and even cut out the occasional beer or glass of wine I had been enjoying. Still, nothing changed.

Finally, on the day I cried after seeing the same number on the scale despite having done my longest run yet the night before, I climbed back into bed, sulked a bit, and then grabbed my phone and started reading about weight loss plateaus. Then I made a plan and went into action.

Plateau Feature

Step one: I kicked my scale to the curb for a bit. Previously, I had weighed myself every morning and tracked my week-to-week progress every Monday. It worked for me because I’m a control freak, and I loved seeing progress daily, even if it’s just a few ounces. But when I hit that plateau, it started to work against me. So I weighed myself Monday, wrote it down, and then I tucked my scale into the corner next to my bathroom sink and didn’t touch it for a week. While seeing my weight daily was awesome when I was losing consistently, it had a reverse effect when I plateaued, so taking my mind off of my weight gave my self-esteem a big boost

Step two: I broke out the measuring tape. When I first started exercising and eating healthier, I took down my starting measurements. Since then, I’ve taken my measurements monthly. It was still another week and a half before I would have normally measured myself, but when I was at this plateau where the scale was telling me nothing had changed, I really needed a boost of confidence. So I took my measurements a little early, and holy crap, it turns out a lot had changed! My body was “exchanging” fat for muscle, so while maybe I wasn’t seeing a drop in pounds, I was losing inches.

Step three: I took another look at my eating. A lot of my new healthy eating habits were focused on what I wasn’t eating: I cut back on refined sugars and saturated fats, reduced my starch intake, etc. That was working great, but this plateau was telling me that I needed to focus not just on what I wasn’t eating, but what I was eating. I started to be more intentional about my intake, loading up on fiber, lean protein, and healthy fats, and drinking more water.

Step four: I also didn’t let myself stress as much about my eating. During the plateau, I was obsessive over every bite I took. One day at a meeting, a coworker of mine offered a slice of homemade angel food cake with fresh berries. I didn’t want to be rude and decline it, so I took a tiny slice and ate it, and then I beat myself up over it for the rest of the day. But why? One tiny slice of cake isn’t going to derail months of work unless I let it. So I lightened up a little (plus, to be honest, that cake with the fresh berries was divine, and there’s nothing wrong with indulging in moderation once in a while!) That sense of over-controlling my eating also meant I was probably under-eating, which slowed down my metabolism and sent my body into starvation mode, having the opposite effect that I wanted when I was already plateauing. So I loosened my grip and ensured that I got enough nutrition every day. And you know what? I let myself enjoy the occasional beer or glass of wine again, too…and I don’t regret it one bit.

Step five: I focused on progress in other areas. Like I said before: I was so focused on seeing the numbers on my scale going down, I forgot that I can see progress in more than just lost pounds. I started to take stock of where I started, and compare it to where I am now. I’m flexible enough to do that yoga pose that I couldn’t quite get before! I can run exponentially longer! I’ve lost two sizes! I cleared out a ton of clothes from my closet that are now too big for me! I’m stronger than I used to be! I look and feel great! Focusing on the positive gave me a huge confidence boost and a reminder of why I started, and why I want to continue.

So on the following Monday morning, after a week of implementing these five steps, I dragged my scale out once more. I took a deep breath, reminded myself that it would be okay even if I saw the same number once again, and then I stepped on. And I had dropped three pounds! I celebrated that loss like crazy. In a long fitness journey, it’s important to celebrate the small victories along the way. It was a reminder to love the body I have now and every step of the way.

Do you have any tips for kicking a weight loss plateau? Let me know in the comments below!

(Yep, that rhymed. I’m cool.)

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