Anyone who has ever tried to lose weight has eventually hit a weight plateau. You are working the plan that initially started weight loss but now the pounds seem more stubborn and your weight loss falters. This is also the time when your initial enthusiasm begins to wane. This can be so discouraging that you may be tempted to believe that you can never get past a certain weight. Don’t fall for this myth. Every plateau has a breaking point.
Achieving a desirable weight is one of the hardest things we can do. If it were easy, no one would be overweight or obese. The fact is that more than 2 of 3 American adults are overweight or obese according to the 2013-2014 NHANES data published by the National Institute of Health. To tackle a difficult problem, you need a plan. And because you didn’t become overweight overnight, it needs to be a long-term plan, not a diet that lasts just long enough to reach the goal. You have to think of what happens after you reach your goal. If I go back to the lifestyle that caused me to gain in the first place, guess what? I’ll gain back what I lost plus a little more. This is why “diets” are a failed concept. They have a beginning and an end. Making lifestyle changes is the only real way to achieve lasting weight loss. While this is not easy, it works. If we develop our plan and persist in working it, we achieve the goal.
Weight status is a function of the calories we consume versus the calories we burn in activity. Your initial weight loss resulted when you restricted calorie intake below your activity level. The best plan is to work both sides of the equation, reduce calorie intake and increase activity. A place to begin is to start walking every day for at least 30 minutes duration. Intake that hampers our plan can be eating high calorie choices too often (meat, fried foods, cheese, sweets) or eating too much volume. Sometimes we do a little of both.
If you’ve started your plan and hit a plateau, increase your walking duration by 15 minutes. Duration is more important than intensity. Increase your walking to 7 days a week.
On the intake side, look for high calorie foods that have crept back into your routine or find additional high calorie foods to limit. Limit meat to lean choices and one serving per day. Eliminate soda and sweet tea. Limit alcohol intake. Remove all sweets. Choose low fat dairy foods. Choose more plant foods. As you make these changes, you will find that your palate adapts and the lower calorie foods become more appealing than the old choices.
Intake is also affected by meal pattern. Don’t skip meals! Eat more frequently and focus on managing serving size. Add small servings of fruit between meals to control appetite. Nuts are a healthy snack but high in calories. Limit nut snacks to 8 pieces. Slow your eating pace and limit second helpings.
Every plateau has an end. Never give up! Think of the changes you have made to get where you are. Our plan is a lifelong journey where we build one change upon another to achieve and maintain our goal. Working our plan never ends. What choices can I make this week to get me through this plateau?
Tim Scallon is a registered dietitian nutritionist with many years’ experience practicing nutrition therapy in local hospitals and clinics, teaching nutrition and developing healthy recipes. He helped create the popular TV show Memorial Cooking Innovations celebrating the world of food and health. Memorial Cooking Innovations is produced by St. Luke’s Health and the City of Lufkin. It currently runs in 62 cities and is locally available on Sudden Link cable TV channels and online at www.chistlukeshealthmemorial.org.