Busting that Plateau

(This part of the “Ask Me Anything” Series.)

Maia asked a fantastic question: “I’m in the beginning stages of my weight loss/get healthy journey. (18 pounds lost so far/100 or so to go!) What would you do to keep yourself motivated during your plateaus? Did you even have plateaus? Did you even have plateaus? I haven’t hit mine yet, but it was always when I hit plateaus in the past that I would get derailed and eventually quit.”

That is such a great question because YES I had so many plateaus I lost count. Some lasted a few weeks, or a few months.

What this post should really be called is “What I wish I’d known then.” For you new readers, a quick recap:

I lost over 100 pounds. Then last year I started taking the medication Celexa. I still exercised, I counted my calories, and I slowly watched as the numbers on the scale started moving in the wrong direction. I gained 15 pounds last year. 15! I was so upset by that. And frustrated. Why was I gaining weight? I controlled my environment (food), I still worked out 5 days a week. Was I training for something? Yes. But despite training for Hood to Coast, there was no reason for that 15 pounds.

159 Pounds

That picture was from New Year’s Eve. Michael surprised me with a fancy dinner and tickets to RAIN (Beatles tribute concert). I can see every pound of that 15 in this photo. What was going on?

The medication.

That was the only thing different in my life. I’d been taking it for 10 months. I’ve written about the struggle in this post: Drugs and Weight Gain. Since I made that realization and stopped taking Celexa, I immediately started losing weight. 3 pounds to be exact. From then on, I was losing about 1 pound a month. I was also training for Hood to Coast. I’m sure that slowed down my weight loss.

Then I got injured. After Hood to Coast I took 6 weeks off from running. My insatiable hunger went away, I no longer craved steak like I did when I was running. I was eating around 2,000 calories a day.

I started lifting weights. I needed to do something to keep myself busy during the running hiatus. Weight lifting was something I could do to work my upper body, focus on toning, focus on tightening the loose skin on my stomach. Those were my only goals, really. I was pleasantly surprised when I  lost 3 pounds in just a few weeks of weight training!

Why didn’t I do this sooner?? I asked myself.

Michael had his “I Told You So” moment (I let him have his moment) and said that WEIGHT LIFTING is what I should have been doing all along to break through my plateau!

He was right. Weight lifting was the boost my body needed to get out of the rut.

I swam.

I ran.

I spent countless Saturday mornings on the stair-master.

I walked during my lunch break.

These were all things that set my body into Resistance Mode. It was resisting weight loss. It was resisting fat burning. Why? Because my body was USED to those activities. I was stuck in a plateau. My body did not WANT to lose weight. It was happy the way it is. A plateau occurs because your metabolism (the process of burning calories for energy) slows as you lose lean tissue (muscle). When you lose weight, you lose both fat and lean tissue. This means that in order to lose more weight, you need to increase activity or decrease the calories you eat periodically.

Some things to consider if you’re stuck in a Weight Loss Plateau:

  1. Be honest: are you cheating? If you’re a calorie counter (or points) are counting every bite, morsel, snack, taste, lick?
  2. Are you eating the same food every day? Changing up your calorie intake ever day can sometimes wake up your body. Eating a little more one day, a little less the next, can sometimes do the trick.
  3. Are you eating enough fiber?
  4. Are you eating a lot of processed food?
  5. Are you drinking enough water?
  6. Have you been eating out more often? Restaurant portions are always a lie.

Bust Your Plateau

  1. Keep a food diary.
  2. Eat more often, but smaller meals. Choose healthy snacks (like carrots, apples). Plateaus are usually caused by our body’s survival mechanism of protecting against famine, which is triggered by calorie reduction.
  3. Switch up your workout. If you’re a runner and working on mileage, start adding sprints and interval training to your routine to shake things up.
  4. Are you eating a lot of one thing? Too much protein? Too much sugar? Too many carbs?
  5. Work out longer. If your routine is to run 5 miles every Sunday, add one mile to that, or run hills. If your routine is to hit the exercise bike for 20 minutes, do it for 30.
  6. Reduce your sugar intake. Specifically alcohol. They don’t call them Beer Bellies for nothing!
  7. WEIGHT LIFTING!! I am proof that weight lifting works to lose weight.
  8. Most of all, don’t give up! Just because you are stuck at the same weight for awhile does not mean you can give up. You must work through it, stay the course, in order to see progress.

It’s funny…this summer I was stressed about the effect of overeating and eating out at restaurants every night when Michael’s family was here visiting. I thought for sure the restaurant eating, the splurging, would add pounds. I worked out like normal, tried to make good choices at the restaurants and was happy to see that I lost weight! I’d successfully broken another plateau by tricking my body.

I cannot stress enough how much weight lifting has changed my body in just a short period of time. If you’re stuck in a plateau try the weight lifting for 3 or 4 weeks and you’ll see!

QUESTION: Have experienced a plateau? How did you bust out of it?

8 Responses

  1. This post could not have come at a better time!!! I have lost 50lbs so far and I need to lose about 30 – 40 more. I feel like I am stuck and I can’t help but get frustrated. Ugh. I printed out your plateau busting suggestions! Thank you!

  2. When I did ww successfully a few years ago and lost around 75 pounds, I hit a plateau. My goal weight was 145 and I got to 153 and could not make the scale budge.

    Sadly, I gave up and told myself I was meant to be fat forever and gained alllll the weight back plus some. *headdesk*

    Now I’m kind of stuck, not a plateau per se but a kind of mental block. I have an appointment with a counselor here at school. I’ve had success previously with counseling and my weight loss, so I figured it was time to get back on that.

    I think as time goes on, I’m learning more and more what my triggers are, what my motivators are, and what resources usually help me. I just have to take that first step and take action.

    As for a plateau, since I’ve never succesfully gotten past one, I have no words of wisdom there. 😀

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