Pushing through the plateau pays off By Lori Leath Smith, Seaside PR & Marketing Director
There I was, minding my own business—embracing my age, but feeling much younger, enjoying the slimmer, 50-something-year-old woman staring back in the mirror (See The Seaside Times, May/June.), when suddenly progress grinded to a screeching halt! The first pounds (yes, 33 lbs. in four months now!) that were once falling off effortlessly were now clinging to my body for dear life.
The experienced folks at Seaside’s Believe Studio, Seaside eateries that offer fantastic healthy fare and, you, The Seaside Times readers, that have held me accountable, helped me do what I hadn’t managed to do in double-digit years — jump-start my motivation and shed stubborn pounds. I’ve come a long way since February when I began the Aging Gracefully column and have had a lot of fun doing it.
I had been working hard to positively improve my habits, and my reward has been watching my weight go down and feeling better. But, for three weeks I was at a standstill weight-wise. I had literally stalled out despite continuing to do “all of the right things,” including consistency in eating real food and not too much, keeping my body moving almost daily, sleeping well, hydrating and maintaining that positive mental attitude.
At this point, I could shrug my shoulders, throw my hands in the air and say, “I quit.” I’ve learned that my body is much happier when I’m making progress, but a little testy when it works hard for something and doesn’t experience the immediate results (I’m just being honest).
But, instead I was determined not to accept a standstill mentally or physically. After all, I made a commitment to The Seaside Times readers to dig my heels in and work to be successful.
Having found myself in this situation, but wanting to solve the challenge in “aging gracefully” fashion, I thought of something I read once: Think of a plateau as a landing on the stairway to your goal. And maintenance is a lifelong plateau, so a bit of “rehearsal” for maintenance isn’t the worst thing in the world. I am in a lifelong commitment to getting healthy while aging gracefully. If you’re reading this, hopefully you are, too, since you can profoundly influence the ability to live a long and healthy life by applying simple principles, many of which have been stated in my last two articles (theseasidetimes.com).
By going through the plateau weeks, I learned many things I hope will help you, too, as you pursue your own goals:
• Don’t get discouraged. It’s normal for weight loss to slow down and even stall. It was easier to lose two to three pounds a week when I weighed more. Simply, there was more of me to lose when I was bigger; thus progress was easier. If I lost two to three pounds a week every week forever, at some point I’d disappear! (I hope no one would want that.)
• Do the right thing. By working out almost daily, eating clean, and maintaining emotional health, I am definitely committed. This is a healthy lifestyle longterm — not a fad diet or miracle plan. Just because my weight loss had stalled, I didn’t need to revert back to negative habits.
• Eat the right foods more often. My body resumed losing weight when it sensed it wasn’t in starvation mode. Because I’m consuming fewer calories than I used to, perhaps my metabolism had slowed to conserve them.My strategy is to eat smaller nutrient-rich meals about six times per day including salad with cabbage, ginger and vinaigrette dressing, eggs, fish, avocado, almond butter, apples (lots of apples), etc. I believe my body learned food is still abundant. Time to stop hoarding these few calories and instead burn them. Some days to really push through, I would eat all apples or all protein for one day. On a regular basis, I would drink Raw & Juicy’s Green Goddess made with organic, locally grown kale, celery, cucumber, apple, lemon and parsley. In fact, my body craves this nutrition so much now that it’s not uncommon to find me walking around Seaside with a Green Goddess in my hand.
• Check yourself. Am I eating the right foods and in the correct quantities? Am I sneaking in some things I haven’t been normally eating? “Just this one time” and “why not” should be very few and far between. Even the occasional glass of wine could present a challenge if not carefully monitored.
• Realize you are making progress — even if it is making progress in a different way. For example, my daughters exclaiming that my arms look toned and more defined is surely a motivator. (What woman doesn’t want to feel she can wear sleeveless shirts with confidence?).
• Celebrate small victories. There are small victories that can boost us mentally and let us know progress is continuing, such as holding a plank for one minute instead of 30 seconds. (Try it; it’s more challenging than you think!)
• Put the scale away for a while and track other measurements such as inches (7.5 total). Even though the scale stayed static during the three weeks, I continued to lose inches on my waist and other body parts. I decided to weigh once a week on Wednesdays.
• Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words, as we say in public relations. Even if the scale isn’t moving, I still feel as though I look better, which gives me more confidence. My clothes fit much better now, (most are too large) and I am definitely feeling better! That is progress.
•Shock your workout. If I do the exact same exercise over and over and over, my body becomes more efficient at that activity. In fact, my body (and yours) can adapt so well that it burns fewer calories to carry out the process. Basically, my trainer Justin Brown offers some of the same exercises, but throws in some different ones here and there. Hence, my body doesn’t become lazy, and I am still able to measure progress in particular areas. For example, continuing to do pushups is helping me gain more upper body strength. But the plank or squat styles vary in different sessions. I am working the same part of my body, but in very different ways. For more variety, I also attend classes at Believe Studio such as yoga.
This quote from Bruce Lee sums it up: “If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there. You must go beyond them.”
We all have the tools with which to push through the plateaus. Through this challenging time, I stuck with my workouts, slept well, supplemented with nutrition, continued healthy eating and focused on enjoying the ride. I believe staying consistent was the key and the weight started dropping again after three weeks—a great victory!