Weight Loss Plateau Buster – Part 2
Welcome to Week 2 of the Plateau Buster Series. Why am I spending 3 weeks on weight plateaus? Because no matter how we try to avoid them, weight loss plateaus are a frustrating, yet inevitable, part of the successful weight “release” journey. When we are focused on releasing weight and the scale isn’t moving, we can feel a whole gamut of emotions: disappointed, angry, sad, bored frustrated and powerless. Instead, we want to Shift to looking at a weight release plateau in a way that gives us power. We want to see a plateau as an opportunity for deepening our mastery of long-term permanent weight release.
Last week I focused on the mental game of mastering and busting a plateau—because once your mind can SHIFT around and through a plateau, your body will follow. This week I will explore the physical part of mastering and busting a plateau.Read Week 1 here.
A PLATEAU IS OUR ULTIMATE GOAL
We cannot explore the physical aspects of a plateau without looking at how the mind interacts with them.
The Oxford Study, a cognitive behavioral approach to weight loss in England, has subjects stop dieting and maintain their weight for three to six month after starting. You can imagine this self-imposed “plateau” is met with protests. Their reasoning for this extended time of no weight loss is a good one—“practicing maintenance”.
What most dieters neglect to see in their haste to go down the scale is that, at some point, they will want to stop the focus on losing weight and begin the focus on maintaining their weight. If you have never practiced maintaining your weight this can actually be a challenge—especially when the only positive feedback you give yourself is when the scale is showing a loss.
Ultimately, what we all strive for in a journey to long term permanent weight release is a lifelong plateau that will occur at our ideal weight. This plateau maybe called maintenance, but mark my words it is a plateau none the less. So any plateau that occurs during your journey that is not at your ideal weight can be embraced as a practice session!!! Yippeeeeee!
Another way to view a plateau is that it is a resting spot along the journey—a place where you actually may need to tread water and let go of the focus of releasing for a short while. Research shows that most successful masters of weight release experience one or more plateaus along the way.
THE FOCUS OF RELEASING WEIGHT
Releasing weight requires some focus. The physical requirement for the body to burn excess stored energy (aka “fat”) tunes us into paying attention to how much energy is coming in and going out. We are also tuning into our hunger and making sure our food choices will not only nourish our bodies, but allow enough of a energy burn for us to achieve a weekly weight release.
What is happening when the scale refuses to show the release?
A number of things could be going on:
1) You owe the scale weight from a recent water loss or big weight drop.
There is a lot to be learned still about how the body actually stores and releases fat. It still takes 3500 burned calories for the body to release fat. If you lose water weight up front, the body will catch up on the scale eventually. If you are not aware of how much energy you have officially burned and how weight release actually happens, it is easy to get on the scale and think the lack of loss is a plateau—it isn’t—your body is actually catching up to the scale.
Remedy: Track your calorie intake and expenditure and to know what your daily calorie budget for weight release actually is—this way you empower yourself to at least know where you truly stand with the scale. You can find this out your personal daily calorie budget by using the Shift Weight Page.
2) You may need to eat less or exercise more or a combination of the two.
When we release weight, eventually our metabolism does slow down–simply because there is less of us to move around and the body has to work less—how wonderful!! The down side is that if the scale stops showing a loss after three weeks or so, this you may need to adjust your food intake and exercise to match your new lower metabolism OR just expect to release less quickly (which is definitely a viable shifted option).
Remedy: Taking your calories lower or getting more of a workout in may be a no brainer—if so– great! You can recalculate your new calorie budget with your adjusted current weight on the Shift Weight Page. Make sure to check that you are not depriving yourself or pushing yourself too hard in order to live life with less calories or more exercise. There are other options, like expecting to release less per week on the scale.
If you want to keep releasing at the same pace but aren’t quite ready, it is also okay to take an official “rest” for a few weeks before you take your calories lower or up your exercise. Official breaks are a healthy part of any Shifted weight release journey. Remember this is a love story with yourself and not a punishment. Love yourself and honor your own instincts with keeping your eye on the winning skills of weight release—this is what mastery is about.
3) You are underestimating the amount of calories that you are eating or overestimating the amount of calories that your exercise is burning.
We wildly underestimate the amount of calories that we eat–most of the time. In my clinical practice, this is the most common cause of a plateau. We can easily start “guestimating” that a 200 calorie piece of bread or meat is “just a 100 calories”. Also, I have seen body bugs, heart rate monitors, and exercise machines that overestimate how many calories are burned during a typical workout.
Remedy: Return to tracking and weighing your food more closely. Also recognize that food manufacturers will undercut the amount of calories that list on a package (up to 25% by law) and therefore, if you eat a lot of packaged food—bear this in mind. Many Shifters overestimate their food calories a bit to make up for this. If you hit a plateau you may want to add a 200 calorie “handicap” or what I call “contractor calories” to your day before you start to make up for the discrepancies in the calorie amounts.
4) You are doing everything right but you body just may need to re-adjust what you are eating or how much water you are drinking and just keep focused on the other more empowering aspects of your journey.
Sometimes you can be doing everything right but your body just is taking its sweet old time letting that weight go. One client encountered a nearly three month plateau and then dropped 10 pounds in a few weeks. Fortunately, that client had a good “Shift Head” on and knew if she kept plugging away that the weight would come off eventually.
Remedy: Keep your Shift Head on by focusing on the other aspects of your weight release journey—eating healthy foods, exercising, keeping yourself a priority, Shifti out of limiting beliefs and Fat Thinking. Sometimes drinking more water helps, as does upping your protein intake and decreasing the amount of starchy carbs that may be causing insulin spikes and causing your body to store any excess calories as fat.
Most importantly during a plateau—recognize that you keep your power when you stay focused on problem solving and solution seeking rather than feeling sorry for yourself or victimized by that cold piece of metal (the scale). Stay connected to your Inner Coach and keep on course. Ask others for help and help others on their journey—often you may see yourself in them and create a breakthrough where you were sure that none existed.
We will explore more how the mental and physical and environmental aspects of a plateau work together next week.
Last week I presented this mental exercise for plateau busting. This week you can now add some of the physical elements to the visual part of this exercise.
Mental Exercise for Plateau Busting:
1) Create a vivid representation of the way you are right now in your plateau (your present state) with all of the challenges the plateau represents.
2) Envision yourself the way you would want to be when you get through all of the challenges. Be clear on the specifics—how you would be behaving, how much would you be eating and exercising, what do you look like, how do you feel??
3) Place one image in each of your hands outstretched in front of you with a space separating them. The space between your hands represents the unexplored territory and unspecified steps that lie between the plateau state and the plateau busted state.
4) Begin to make a series of images or movies of the logical steps from one state to another, adjusting each frame until each is a fully representational stage of the process of change.
5) When you have between 5-8 stages in front of you, begin slowly to close your hands, collapsing all of the stages into a single process.
6) Bring your clasped hands toward your body and pull the new state into your body, making a new feeling that represents action and success—PLATEAU BUSTING!
7) Spin that feeling faster and faster, intensifying it and allowing it to spread throughout your body so that it saturates every muscle, every organ, every nerve, every cell. As you do this, look at what you need to do (or think) first. Then see yourself taking the second step and then the third etc. and keep spinning and intensifying that feeling until you feel excited and energized and ready to make the mental and/or physical adjustments and go bust that plateau!