Pitfalls and Plateaus

18 08 2015

Several months into their weight management journey, I often hear people complain that they have hit a “plateau” and are Cathy head shotfrustrated they are not losing weight. There can be many different reasons why weight loss has stalled, from changes in eating habits, to exercise routine, to a changing metabolic rate. It is at this point that many people lose motivation and slip back into familiar, but unhealthy habits. The problem is, these habits don’t move them toward their weight management goals, they move them much further away.

So what are some of common mistakes that people are making that keep them stalled in their tracks? Here are a few that I think can hold you back:

  • You don’t eat enough. Yes, you need to take in less calories than you expend to lose weight, but when you become overly restrictive, your body will adapt to running on fewer calories. There is always a decrease in metabolic rate that accompanies dieting and weight loss, but eating adequately can help fuel your body and give you the energy you need to feel your best. We want to keep your metabolism revved up, not put the fire out
  • You don’t eat regularly. Yes, I know you are very busy. Believe me, I am in the same boat! However, not eating all day, then expecting to eat healthy when you come home from a long hard day at work is not realistic. I hear it all the time: “I am starving when I come home and just eat whatever is there”. You need to take the time to eat regular, balanced meals throughout the day to keep hunger and appetite under control, and make it more likely to make healthy decisions. And, studies have shown that eating more of your calories earlier in the day, rather than at night, may be helpful with weight management. Forget about going to the gym after work when you haven’t eaten all day. Working out on a completely empty tank will drain your energy, make you miserable, and could be dangerous. EAT!
  • You are too focused on “diets”. In our society, “diets” are something you go on and off. When you want a “diet”, you are looking for something restrictive and structured that will help you lose weight fast…like your co-worker did. As most people have figured out, this is unsustainable. To be able to continue on your journey, you need to focus on what works for your lifestyle, and your body. Slowly changing the quality and quantity of foods you eat to improve nutrition and maintain a healthy energy intake is important for the long haul. Get to know your body and how it feels when you do things that are good for it. It’s those positive feelings of being healthy and strong that may keep you motivated to move forward.
  • You cut out whole food groups because you heard that you should. As humans, we need a wide variety of foods to help meet our nutritional needs, and not to mention, to keep healthy eating interesting! Eliminating food groups like grains, dairy, or fruit is not necessary (unless you have a medical reason), and can cause you to miss out on important nutrients! Variety in our food choices helps prevent monotony and boredom, which I think is a key to keeping you on the path.
  • You only eat healthy when it’s convenient. “I do fine for breakfast and lunch during the week, but nights and weekends are bad”. Many of you tend to eat better when you are in a structured environment. If you have a regular breakfast and lunch time on work days, then you can plan for those. But getting home after work and the gym? Not so easy. Trying to do things quickly, and meet the needs of your family are hard. Weekends are less structured and you tend to eat out more. When the going gets tough, the tough bail. Another key to successful weight loss and maintenance is planning for the tough times. Remembering that this is for your health and well-being may help you be motivated to plan for the tough times. If you truly want to live a healthier lifestyle and reap the benefits, you will plan to put good fuel in your body, whether you are busy and stressed or not. PS: We know this is not an easy transition!
  • You let the scale define you. That scale knows nothing about you. It does not know what an amazing, beautiful human being you are. It does not make you a good or bad person. It cannot determine how healthy, smart, caring, talented, or successful you are. It did not give you your diploma. It did not make you a great parent. Staying focused on the numbers on the scale distracts from the overall objective…to be a healthy person that is going to live an active, healthy life. One who is taking control of their health by doing things like choosing healthy foods and getting regular activity, and making these things enjoyable and sustainable. You restrict yourself and beat yourself up over that number instead of looking at the myriad of things that may define your health. What about losing body fat/inches, or improving your blood pressure? What about controlling your blood sugar for the first time in years? What about having more energy and stamina to play with your children and grandchildren? What about finishing that first 5K, when you couldn’t even get off the couch a year ago? What about being a role model for your children?

So when you get stuck, think about some of these things. What are you doing to help move forward? Have you lost sight of the objective, or do you need to redefine your objective?

Here are some more ideas that RDs have shared (some I have noted above in my list!) via the My Fitness Pal Blog, Hello Healthy: https://goo.gl/9zkhsV

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