Friday, August 07, 2009
After losing 28 pounds in about 7 months, I have hit a genuine weight loss plateau. I have been between 214-16 for several weeks and just can't get the scale to move. I've read several articles SP has about plateaus but this morning I decided to do some additional research and ended up reading about 10 articles this morning. Though some were better than others, they all basically said the same thing. Here's a brief summary of what I found.
1. The body loves equilibrium (hypoestasis) and once it figures out what you're doing to make it lose weight, it makes adjustments to restore equilibrium again. In other words, it figures how to equalize intake and output so that the body doesn't waste away.
2. As one loses weight, one's caloric needs change and failing to take account of this can cause one to eat more than necessary for weight loss.
3. Many studies show that people tend to underestimate, and sometimes greatly so, their daily caloric intake. Thus it is crucial, as one article put it, to track everything you eat, lick, or look at!
4. The body is amazing in its ability to adjust to stress and therefore when one subjects it to the same exercise program over a period of time the body adapts to that stress and becomes much more efficient at accomplishing it. In other words, over time the body will complete the same activity but burn less calories. (I can't help but pause here and wonder how anyone can fail to believe in a Creator. If I stumbled upon a paint brush in the woods I would never think it just came to be--I would assume that there was a designer and builder. And we live inside of something, the human body, that is vastly more complex and glorious than a paintbrush.)
1. First of all, we have to know that plateaus are a normal part of the weight loss process. Everyone who attempts to lose weight over time will experience them. In fact, I suspect that they are, for whatever reasons, necessary for the body to maintain health in the midst of what it must consider radical change. In my case, i was in the 230s for several years, and got up to 242, then over the last seven months I've plunged to 214 and my body must be saying: "Hey, I need to hang out here for a bit and then we'll get going again!" Point being, I think that part of the difficulty with plateaus is that we expect to just lose and lose and lose, when that is not reality. Everyone experiences plateaus and so it's best to align our expectations with reality.
2. One thing I read over and again is that as one progresses in their weight loss journey it's easy to stop being so precise with caloric intake. Whereas one used to measure the cups of cereal going into the bowl, he now just "eye-balls" it. This can lead to "calorie creep," that is, the slow but sure increase in actual intake. So the point is that we must continue to be disciplined about tracking our calories. There's simply no way around this. In an over-eating, self-indulgent, underestimating culture we must pay close attention or we will eat more than we think we eat.
3. In order to shock the body a bit and cause it burn maximum calories per minute of exercise, it's important to mix up the program. If your body has become efficient at handling X exercise then add Y. Or vary the intensity of X. Whatever you do, mix it up. Keep the body guessing.
4. Finally, probably the best piece of advice I found this morning is to focus on health not weight loss. It turns out that what we perceive as a weight loss plateau IS NOT always a fat loss plateau. It may be that the body is continuing to become leaner (that is decreasing fat in proportion to muscle) even though the scale is staying static. We know for a fact that eating well and exercising causes the body to lose fat but this is not the same as losing weight. So health, not weight loss, should be our focus. We should take our joy from pursuing a healthy lifestyle and not in the number on the scale.
Obviously, there's always more to be said but this basically summarizes what I've read this morning. Coach Dean has some helpful articles on busting through a plateau which I read a couple of months ago, and you can also do what I did this morning and just google "weight loss plateau."
Hope you found this helpful.