The Plateau Breakthrough Part 1 of 2
When you’re taking a journey to a better lifestyle, you’d think it would be easy to pinpoint the most difficult parts. The obvious answers would be missing the cravings or committing to getting off of the couch for a workout. Others would probably point to being surrounded by great food at restaurants and not being able to partake. Yet, there’s another thing that can derail even the best fitness and health lifestyle…the dreaded plateau.
So what is this “plateau”? When someone is working on getting healthier, they tend to fall into the belief that the one and only measurement of success is body weight. Every day (or multiple times a day), they trudge over to the scale to see if their last meal stuck with them, or if a difficult workout shed a few pounds. And when 2-3 weeks pass by and the weight seems to stabilize, we hit a plateau – and think what we’re doing just must not be working.
I thought it would be helpful to break the post into two parts – first changing our view of the dreaded plateau, and tomorrow, to dig into some basic tips that can help you get over the hump (pardon the pun!). Today, let’s tackle the myths about plateaus. Tomorrow, we break the cycle.
Myth #1: Body weight is the best (or only) true measurement of success
We are so focused on the number on the scale right? If that number on the scale doesn't move in 2 or 3 weeks we think we've hit a plateau and whatever we're doing isn't working right? The first thing to do is to remember that weight is only a single measurement of our progress and it's definitely not the most accurate measurement. The first problem is that our weight fluctuates so much throughout the day. If someone asks how much we weigh, we should respond, "well that depends on what time of day it is." Depending on your activity, food intake, water retention, or nutritional needs, your weight can fluctuate as much as 2-3 pounds in a single day!
More important measurements exist – and these are more consistent in the long term. Body measurements (losing inches in the waist, hips, thighs, etc.) show more lasting progress than body weight. Body fat percentage testing, blood work, and other medical measurements (HDL, LDL, Glucose, Triglyceride, Insulin levels, Blood Pressure, etc.) actually show what’s happening deep inside your body – where true health is most important!
Myth #2: A plateau means a diet just isn’t working
When we hit a potential plateau, it makes it easy to quit on our change in lifestyle. It's the reason so many people give up on diets and go back into their old eating habits. In actuality, a plateau can just provide a built in excuse to give up. The first thing to do is to change your mentality. Don't think of this as a diet we're on (and if we don't see results then we should just give up and go back to our old habits of not exercising and not eating right). If we approach this as a true lifestyle change then we must understand that this is our life and we have our whole lives to live healthy. And lifestyles will mean ups, downs, and a lot of “flat road” – it doesn’t mean you’re not getting healthier every day.
Myth #3: A fitness or nutritional change starts from the outside and works in…
Another thing to consider is that we don't know what's going on inside of our bodies as we're making this lifestyle change as we eat healthier and are exercising. Remember the blog post from my doctor, Dr. Willey, about healing our organs first so they can function properly? Well, that plays a role. He's said before that he's had clients that took a year of consistently changing their lifestyle and finally once their organs "healed" from years of being obese that the weight started coming off rapidly (but that year of small progress must've been so tough emotionally). Patience IS a virtue. We need to remember that our bodies are still changing and improving everyday that you live healthy and exercise. Guess what? It might not show on the scale, but it doesn’t mean good things aren’t happening within you. The most important thing to do is to NOT quit on this new lifestyle.
Our bodies are resilient and they can adjust to our exercise and eating habits pretty quickly when we're trying to get fit. It’s not enough to just let go of the myths that surround us when it comes to that dreaded “plateau”. Tomorrow, I’ll dig into how you can break the cycle – and even better; turn a plateau into the next big success.