Dealing with Dietary Plateaus

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When you are losing weight, nothing can be more frustrating than when you hit a plateau and you seem to be stuck there. You don’t have to be stuck in a plateau if you know what to do to get yourself out of it. First, let’s discuss what a plateau is. A dietary plateau is a state of being when your weight loss stops, even though you are sticking to your eating plan that should induce weight loss. This happens because your body wants to hang on to the stored energy in case of a famine. We, in the USA, live in the land of plenty, so we aren’t in danger of being caught in a famine, but our body doesn’t know that. We have been designed to conserve energy, and become more energy efficient. By becoming more energy efficient, we no longer are losing weight.

You may notice though, even in a plateau, that your body is changing. If you are mildly to moderately active, you will see yourself trimming up even when you haven’t lost any weight. You could still be losing fat and gaining muscle. A pound of fat weighs the same as a pound of muscle. The good thing is that muscle takes up less space than fat does, so you look and feel slimmer.

How do you get out of a plateau? It’s pretty easy if you know what to do. First thing to do is to realize this is a normal function of your body. The next thing to do is to fool your body by changing up the calories you eat each day. You might be able to kick start your weight loss just by adding a baked potato with a bit of butter and sour cream every other day. Just a small change of a few calories can be enough to mix it up a bit. Once your body gets the idea that you are not entering into a famine, you will start losing weight again.

While you are ‘mixing it up’ you don’t want to go overboard, because you might end up putting weight back on. Just add about 200 to 300 calories every other day until you start losing again. You will also need to cut back on your calories as you lose weight, but you still need to mix it up so your body doesn’t get confused and hold on to the fat out of ‘necessity.’

You will need to ask your doctor how many calories a day you should eat. You should also ask your doctor about how much you should restrict your calories as your weight comes down. In Weight Watchers they lower us a point for every ‘decade’, which is another way referring to every 10 pounds lost. A weight Watcher point is about 50 calories, so every decade I lose my calories will be cut by 50 calories. Cutting down the calories with every 10 pound loss will help you to stay out of a plateau. If though, you find that you are not losing well, even though you have cut the calories, you may have to step up your activity some. If you weigh 150 to 199 pounds you should be getting at least 50 minutes of low intensity activity at least 3 times a week. If you weigh 200 to 274 pounds your activity will be 35 minutes of low impact activity 3 times a week. The lighter you are the more time you need to be active, and when you are heavier you don’t need quite as much activity. As you lose weight though, you will need to step up the activity some to stay out of a plateau.

Your body gets accustomed to routines, so if you are exercising 50 or 60 minutes a day 3 times a week and you aren’t losing, you might want to step up your exercise for an extra hour a week. If you lost 10 or 15 pounds and you have stopped losing, you might need to cut back your calorie intake by 50 to 100 calories per day. By all means discuss this with your doctor or weight loss counselor before starting. You need to know where to begin your daily calorie intake. It’s not necessary to starve yourself. In fact, starving yourself will only slow you down, because your body will try to hang on to your stored energy. You have to eat smart, and get up and move on a fairly regular basis so that your body knows that it is safe to shed the weight.

More and more people hit a plateau and then just throw in the towel because they hit a plateau and gave up. Their excuse is the diet didn’t work for them. First, I must stress that you are not going on a ‘diet.’ People who talk about going on diets are inferring they will one day go off the diet. In the medical field we refer to the word ‘diet’ as the food one eats, rather than a plan one follows to lose weight. Your doctor may put you on a ‘regular’ diet, which means you are not restricted in what you eat. Then again, your doctor may put you on an 1800 calorie ADA diabetic diet. This will be a lifestyle change, not just a diet to lose weight and then come off it.

We, in the United States are obese because we have gone on thousands of ‘diets.’ I’ve spent thousands of dollars on Nutra-System, and Jenny Craig only to gain the weight back, because I didn’t change my lifestyle. If you eat smart, and stay in tune with your body you can lose weight and keep it off. It has to be a lifestyle change or your weight will come back on. I have successfully lost 93 pounds so far. Everyone knows that I lost 140 to begin with when I had the bypass. Since my lifestyle didn’t change over the years half of that weight came back on. I’m now on the road to recovery by making life long lifestyle changes.

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