How to Navigate Plateaus

Posted on Saturday, June 14th, 2008
Written by: Angela, Nutritionist

So, you’ve hit a physical or mental plateau and now you want to give up?  This all-or-nothing attitude can set you up for failure. Physical and mental plateaus are a normal part of life. Recognizing the factors that lead to these plateaus and addressing them will keep you from throwing in the towel the next time this occurs.

You’ve reduced your calorie intake, but the scale won’t budge?  Cutting back too much on caloric intake can result in the body going into starvation mode, which is counter productive in weight loss. Physical plateaus can result from your metabolism slowing down in response to dieting.  As you reduce your calories over time your basal metabolic rate decreases and shedding unwanted pounds becomes more difficult.  To counter this, forget deprivation diets and instead focus on whole foods. Whole foods are foods you can picture growing: whole grains, dairy, meat, fish, poultry, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and healthy nut butters and oils. Eat five to six small meals per day, or one every three to four hours.  You should eat at least 1,500 calories per day and be sure to eat frequent smaller meals…these will help rev your metabolism. 

You can also plateau if you workouts are not challenging enough.  By performing the same activities each day you are giving your body the chance to acclimate to your workouts and you will begin to burn less and less calories even though you are performing the same amount of activity. The body’s ability to acclimate is a survival mechanism. It makes sense for the body to reduce the amount of calories needed for an activity if that activity has become repetitive. To combat this, you must change up your routines and work outside your comfort zone. Challenge your body and your body will respond. It is also important to equally incorporate cardiovascular work and weight training.  Building muscle increases the metabolic rate and fat burning potential.  Additionally, adding another 10 minutes to your aerobic routine, or incorporating interval training will keep the body working hard and the metabolism ticking.

Another obstacle in combating weight loss is mental plateaus.  On the list…..cravings!  Cravings can attack at any time but are often worst in the first month of dieting due to the drastic changes and depletions in our diets. This is another reason that diets don’t work. We always will crave what we can’t have. If you want a cookie then choose a gourmet cookie that is well worth the extra calories. Boredom of food content can result in cheating.  If you deny yourself the cookie you will most likely eat half a bag of grocery store cookies the next chance you get. By incorporating gourmet sweets on occasion you will feel more satisfied and motivated to stick with your healthier eating patterns during the rest of the week. Adding a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, will help prevent boredom.  However, when it comes to sweets, stick to only a couple choices, as variety will only encourage the body to keep eating.

It is important to recognize that plateaus are part of life.  This sense of failure can be redeemed through strategic tactics such as: keeping an exercise log to document achievements; by revisiting those old photos as a reminder of your progress; or by developing your own wellness team, such as a nutritionist, personal trainer and a psychotherapist to support you through these plateaus and help you determine the most efficient ways of eating and exercise for you.  Most importantly, keeping a positive outlook will improve your chances for long term weight loss success.

Categories: Navigating the Obstacles of Life

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