Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hurry Up and Wait: The Weight Loss Plateau

This weight loss journey of mine has brought an interesting ebb and flow of emotions. I've learned that the scale can be my best friend and my worst enemy (sometimes, on back to back days). Even scarier? It doesn't take much to send me into a downward spiral. Keeping myself from "going there" mentally can be challenging, but I try to find ways to prevent it.

Early on in this process, I hit a plateau. When I had reached 24 lbs lost, I was so excited that losses were happening at a good rate. Then, I went into a long kind of holding pattern. It took 3 months to get to the 30 lbs lost marker, and for weight loss to resume. I went up and down, playing with the same few pounds. Making it through that long stretch wasn't fun. Knowing that I have a lot of weight to lose, I never dreamed such a long stretch of not losing was even possible so early on. Various individuals blamed it on muscle gain, but I found that difficult to believe - especially when it happened for months, not days or weeks. I remained diligent though and kept doing what I thought I needed to do, and eventually the weight loss started once again.

Currently, I'm going through another one of these times. Approximately 2 months ago, I was exactly where I am today. I've gone back and forth with the same 4 lbs, losing and gaining. I've done some research trying to determine exactly how long a plateau can last. I have yet to find an answer to this question, but it seems as though it can go on indefinitely without changes. What kinds of changes? It appears that while I continue to eat less than I need to maintain my weight, and workout hard several days a week, that may be exactly what is contributing to this non-loss mode I'm currently experiencing.
Image found here
As a whole, society wants to believe that if we just eat less and workout, we will of course lose weight. Turns out the body doesn't like that. Our bodies want to remain the same. Changing requires energy and since our bodies are designed to survive, even in the most drastic types of situations, when it sees that the fat reserves are dwindling it goes into what I now refer to as "famine mode."  I sometimes picture the conversation taking place in my body with little army men fighting to keep the fat safe. All I can think is, "Stand down, already." Unfortunately, my pleas seem to go unheard by those little protectors of the fat cells. Our bodies want to survive a famine; in fact, they're designed to do so. So, how do I get it to cooperate once again?

My last round with a plateau, I just kept doing what I needed to do. I did eat a bit more which helped for a short while, but ultimately even eating more didn't do the trick.  This time, I think I may engage in more experimentation to see what happens. Switching up calories each day (for example, eating 1800 cals one day, 1200 another day, and 2000 on another may help keep the body guessing, thus releasing me from this holding pattern), eliminating super tough workouts from my every day routine (while high intensity interval training is great, if I'm doing it all the time, my body still gets used to it and needs a change), and even switching the types of food I'm eating (I tend to be a creature of habit when it comes to food - adding in some new things could be the answer) are all things I think I may try with this round of plateauing.

Although I don't have all the answers, I'm hoping these little tricks will do something to jumpstart the weight loss once again. Goodness knows I cannot afford to be in such a seemingly eternal holding pattern with so much more to lose. Anyone else have experience with dealing with and surviving a plateau? Your thoughts and advice are certainly welcome.

1 comment:

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