If you’ve been involved in health and fitness activities on any level at almost any time, chances are you’re familiar with the word “plateau.” Basically, when someone begins an exercise and nutrition program after a period of relative inactivity and less than supportive nutrition, the results tend to happen fairly quickly. Most people start feeling better within the first week. By week 2, they notice their clothes are fitting better. By the 30-day mark or so, there’s usually some fairly significant weight-loss progress, 5-10 pounds or more, depending on your starting point.
Unfortunately, what happens next causes a lot of people to lose motivation and even quit their fitness program: It’s the dreaded plateau.
This just means that the initial rate of weight loss levels off and it becomes harder to keep the pounds melting away as easily as they did in the first month or so. This is very common. It’s also just a simple fact of human physiology.
You see, when you lose weight, your body requires less energy (i.e. calories) to be burned in order to take care of your day-to-day activities (like walking around, carrying groceries, even breathing). Weight loss is not binary. The more you lose, the harder it becomes to lose more. Here are 3 ways you can keep the weight-loss plateau from tripping you up and holding you back from your ultimate goal:
1 – Adjust. What worked to lose the first 10 pounds 6 weeks ago may not be the same formula to lose the next 10 (which probably will take longer than 6 weeks). You may need to add another workout or physical activity to your weekly routine, and/or adjust your diet to continue seeing results. Your body may just need a disruption to interrupt its adaptation to your new lifestyle. This could be a fast or cleanse day.
Believe it or not, if you’ve been following a calorie-restricted diet for at least a few weeks, a cheat day may be just what your body needs to reset its metabolism. Be reasonable, though. Notice I said cheat “day,” not cheat “week.” 🙂
2 – Be Aware. Scientific research shows that most people overestimate how much they’re moving and underestimate how much they’re eating. This is why it’s important to track key metrics like workouts, meals, and water intake. Once you get real about what you’re actually doing, you’ll be more aware, and awareness leads to progress. Keep it simple. Just track the foods you eat and liquid you drink for a day, and what time you consumed each. Then take a look and see if there is anything glaring at you. If you aren’t sure what to look for, shoot me an email and I will review it for you.
3 – Focus on getting stronger. Endless miles on the elliptical or treadmill might melt away the pounds initially, but it’s not a proven approach for long-term success.
***I firmly believe that getting stronger is the single most important thing you can do for your overall health and longevity.
It will also help you get more “work” done in less time in your workouts, making them more efficient by burning more calories in less time. A good example of this is distance runners. For decades, pretty much the only training distance runners did was, distance running. Now, marathoners and weekend 5K warriors are learning that getting stronger is much more conducive to faster times than simply running all day like Forrest Gump.
It makes sense; the stronger your legs and core are, the more force you can exert into the ground. Distance runners who strength train also tend to experience fewer injuries.
So, if you’ve hit a plateau, don’t get frustrated or lose motivation. Understand that it’s part of the process, and try some of the tips above to get back on track.