Plateaus for Everyone!
We all know the frustration of working day in and day out and watching the scale either stop or go up! Those of us who are strength trainers know the pain of the Newbie Gains coming to a screeching halt all too well. While the term, “plateau” is tossed around like a reason to stall out or even quit, the truth is, there’s a reason that these things happen and it’s actually logical.
As I have written about in many other articles, I am not a Newbie to the weight loss game! My mom put me on my first diet at the age of 4 years and I struggled with body dysmorphia and wild fluctuations in my weight until I was 60. About that time, I came to David’s Way where we function with common sense. If you know that you are doing everything right to be the best you that you can be, body dysmorphia has little power over you. I have always told my son, “Do the best that you can do and forget about “it” (whatever “it” is at the time), because if you have done your best, it’s your BEST. That’s all that you can do!”
When you live a healthy lifestyle, pouring everything into being healthy and fit, you have no feelings of guilt or “I should…” because you have already done all that you can do to achieve your goals.
Is It Really a Plateau?
If you are consistently eating right, exercising right and getting enough sleep but your progress has stopped, then it is a true plateau. Most of the time, however, what actually happens is that we become complacent, and our habits deteriorate. Where we once tracked every bite religiously, we mindlessly grab a bite here and there. Our strict workout schedule becomes optional, and we quit prioritizing sleep. All of these elements have to be in place for true fitness success. If even one of them begins to slip, our progress will slow and eventually stop altogether as our entire program unravels. The feeling of, “I’ve got this!” can work in our favor if we incorporate our good habits into our lives with ease but, if that feeling makes us less diligent, it will cause our descent into what we perceive as a plateau, to come with a swiftness. Unless we reorganize and reinstate our good habits as our first priority, we will not only plateau, we will begin to undo all of our progress. Details are critical when we’re creating a new, healthy lifestyle.
Mindfulness to Bust a Plateau
Sometimes we may lose a bit of weight with ease simply by becoming aware of what we’re eating. We may not have made finely tuned adjustments. We may have lost that weight with no real commitment or specific goal or plan in mind. When that happens, we tend to revert to our old habits in time. If we go back to what we were doing before, we will weigh what we did before. We will wallow in discontent and wonder why we never get to the place we wanted to go. Even the children of Israel were doomed to wander in the wilderness for 40 years because they would not push through with the plan that would take them into the Promised Land. They thought it was too hard. They did not want to do what was necessary to be successful.
When we decide that we want a better life, we need to make a plan and stick to it in the hard times as well as the easy times. Turning back to old, unhealthy habits will cause us to never achieve our goals. As intimidating as it can be to change our lifestyle, we will never progress from where we begin unless we do. We must adhere to the tenets of good health to have good health, just as the Hebrews had to adhere to the plan laid out for them to enter Canaan as it was laid out by God. Turning away when it got hard had 40 years of consequences. We all know people who have lived their entire lives with deteriorating health because they would not follow through with a plan.
Have you plateaued or have you turned back to bad habits?
Changes Can Cause a Plateau
We often encourage people to use My Fitness Pal to determine their caloric needs and track their calories. If you will notice, as your weight goes down or your age goes up, your calorie needs change! If your activity level changes, your caloric needs will change. Quite often, people lose a significant amount of weight eating X number of calories and slowly stop shedding pounds. That’s because they weigh less! It takes fewer calories for a 200 pound woman than a 300 pound woman, so if you are still eating the same number of calories when you hit 200 pounds that you were eating to lose weight at 300 pounds, you will not only stop losing, you may gain! Recalculate your calorie needs whenever there are any changes in your weight, activity level or age. This is a common cause of hitting a plateau.
Schedule Induced Plateaus
Workouts suffer from lifestyle changes. If you change your schedule due to a change in job or caring for a family member or any other aspect of everyday life that causes an upheaval in your schedule, you may cut your workouts short. Although depression is positively impacted by exercise, it is a common cause of people neglecting to work out. If you exercise outdoors, inclimate weather can make a huge difference. Find a way to adapt your exercise to other aspects of your life. If it is important to you, you will find a way to get it done. I hate to work out before I go to work because I feel pressured to just get it done. I may not maximize every lift that way. After you get beyond Newbie Gains, details like that can have a huge impact on your program and your fitness. We teach that we should live a healthy lifestyle, not “just do it and get it over with” so it’s very important to find a way to make each workout efficient. If you have plateaued, examine your fitness program and make sure you are getting the most benefit for the time that you invest.
Plateau Destroyer Supreme
You may notice a theme here. It’s being accountable. Sometimes we say that we have hit a plateau but if we are asked how many calories we are eating, we may not be able to answer. I have asked that question and got a blank stare. The person being questioned had NO IDEA. When asked about exercise, that same person might even answer that they HATE to exercise. They may mumble something about getting plenty of exercise chasing the grandkids but that does NOT count! I was once a part of a popular weight loss group that actually allowed people to eat more if they did housework. I tried that. I gained 7 pounds in 2 weeks. If you were doing housework before you started trying to lose weight, IT”S NOT A WORKOUT. It’s “Activities of Daily Living” and unless you are morbidly obese and have previously done NOTHING all day, it just does NOT count as exercise. The first thing we have to do is be honest. All the wishing and rationalizing in the world will not make the changes that we are looking for. We MUST be accountable.
When all is said and done, what actually breaks a real plateau is time and perseverance. Success is in the details. Keep accurate records of everything you eat and drink and all of your exercise. Record what you do in your workouts down to the last detail, the time, number of reps, the way you felt, sleep the night before and hydration. We teach that it’s important to CREATE the life that you want. Don’t settle for mediocrity and failure in the areas that matter. If you want to reach a specific goal, slowed progress is not a reason to quit. There is a popular meme that says “It’s a Slow Process, But Quitting Won’t Speed It Up.” When progress slows, we must realize that everything in life has cycles. If we truly want to be successful, we must take control of these natural cycles and manipulate them to our advantage.
No one continually makes progress. If we did we would all look like the social media models look after 300 pictures, airbrushing and photoshop.
One of them once said, “Don’t worry if you don’t look like us. We don’t look like us either.”
Dream Big. Work Hard. Make It Happen.