Yes, the dreaded plateau!
Don't think you're the only person this happens to (although most people DO believe this only happens to them) - nearly everyone trying to lose weight experiences a phase when the scale won't budge and there's still 5, 10, 15 pounds to go. So, when this happens, you've got a choice to make: You can either call your diet a success, or keep plugging away.
If you've lost quite a bit of weight - even though you still have that last 10 pounds to go - and you're sleeping better, feeling good about yourself, have lots more energy, feeling good about how you look, then maybe you've already achieved your goal. But, if you REALLY have some more pounds to go, here are ten strategies you can use - try one or any combination - to melt the last 10 pounds.
1. JOURNAL, JOURNAL, JOURNALThis is one of the most powerful tools to help you stay on track or get back on track. Your journal can help you see where you are perhaps going over or under on your number of points for the day, or aren't getting in the Guidelines for Healthy Living requirements. Use your journal as a detective tool: Had a good week? Look over it at the end of the week and try and see what you think contributed to that success. Had a not so good week? Again, look over your journal to see what may have contributed to you playing a little looser with the program. Look at last week's journal for clues too, sometimes it takes a full week before the effects of a blown week show up. Using the journal on a consistent basis is the best way to make sure that you're really eating the amount of food that you think you're eating, which can be two different things sometimes.
2. Eating By the NumbersAre you getting in too many carbs? Protein? Not enough fat? Look at your food choices and ask yourself if you are really getting a wide variety of foods in. Remember, your body needs nutrients from lots of different sources and if you're eating the same things all the time or too much of one type of food, you're probably not getting the proper nutrition your body needs. How is your protein to carb ratio? Look at the Eating by the Numbers chart on page 5 of your Part 1 booklet for suggested guidelines of how to most nutritiously spend your points during the day. There are suggested ranges for someone under and over 200 pounds.
There's a helpful Excel spreadsheet on Rea's homepage:
Take a look at your food choices as sometimes we have the attitude that as long as our points balance at the end of the day we're okay, but if we keep in mind the Guidelines for Healthy Living on page 3 of the Part 1 booklet (with further details explained about the guidelines on pages 54-57), we'll see that we still are asked to do a few steps to ensure we're spending our points in a way that keeps our bodies healthy. Your points might balance if all you ate was 3 hot fudge sundaes a day, but it wouldn't be giving your body the nutrition it needs. Beware of those empty points.
3. Weigh and measure portionsToo many times our portions have gotten bigger without us realizing it, using measuring cups and spoons and weighing out our portions can give us a better idea if our portions have suddenly grown bigger than we're counting. Remember, portion size does matter.
4. Read labels carefullyAre you counting your points right for the product that you're eating? I remind everyone of my jumbo dinner frank story where the serving size was half a frank! Who eats half a frank? I was counting 4 points when I should have been counting 8 points. If you're eating a bigger serving size than the one listed on the label you're probably eating more points than you calculated. 5. Remember, zero multiplied is not zero Okay, not when it comes to food points. If you're eating one serving of fat free sugar free gelatin for 10 calories, okay, that's zero points, but if you're now eating 4 servings plus 2 tbsp of fat free whipped topping, you've got yourself one point! Beware of those hidden extras where we multiply portions, and beware of BLT's: Bites, Licks, and Tastes that never seem to get counted on any journal. These add up. Also, remember that if a food like high fiber cereal or bread, comes out to zero points according to the PointsFinder, you have to count one point! Trying to rationalize eating a whole box of cereal and saying that you consumed NO points is falling in that diet mentality where certain foods don't count.
6. Too many refined carbs?Are you eating too many sources of simple and refined carbohydrates, the stuff that's heavily processed and no longer looks like its natural food source. Think of it as the difference between whole grain bread and processed white bread, brown rice vs. white rice, popcorn cakes vs. corn on the cob. Try to include more of the natural sources of carbohydrates in your diet stuff like beans, yams, potatoes, brown rice, and whole wheat anything rather than so many crackers, pretzels, and chips (even low fat chips). This is not to say you can't have any refined carbs, just try to limit the amount of them if you're having trouble losing weight.
7. Not enough fat?Okay, this sounds counterintuitive, but according to the Eating by the Numbers chart and for good nutrition you should be actively adding in about 2-3 points of fat per day. This is stuff like vegetable oils, margarine, butter, regular or reduced fat (not fat free) salad dressing, avocados, regular or reduced fat (not fat free) mayonnaise, olives, and peanut or soy butter. I have personally met a number of people now who weren't losing and when I suggested they start actively adding in 2-3 points of fat per day they started losing again. Our bodies need enough fat in order to properly function. You think there's enough fat in my food already, right? Not when you're limiting your number of points in order to lose weight. We are often making much lower fat choices than we normally would have, and as a consequence our consumption of fat falls far below the recommended guidelines according to lots of nutrition experts of 30% of your total calories in fat per day. If you are limiting your fat intake to only the fat that's naturally in food and even then you're probably taking the skin off the chicken and drinking skim or 1% milk, then you might only be getting around 10% of your calories in fat per day, not enough for your body. So, the reason our bodies need enough fat in our diets each day as opposed to just feeding off of our body's fat stores is because fat contains an essential fatty acid: linoleic acid, that our body can't produce on its own. That fat is needed for proper metabolic and digestive function. Fat provides essential nutrients our bodies need, it transports fat soluble vitamins that our bodies need, it is needed for proper digestion and metabolic function, it helps us keep fuller longer, keeps our hair and skin nice, and is crucial for proper gallbladder function. If you're on a super low fat diet you can develop gallstones that are no fun and super painful.
8. Drink half your body weight in water each dayAccording to Barbara Levine, R.D., Ph.D., the Director of the Nutrition Information Center at the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center and reported in the June 1999 issue of Weight Watchers magazine, she says that overweight people need more water than the typical 8 cups a day rule. "Overweight people tend to need more water, because fat cells hold more water than other fat cells in the body. To determine the number of ounces of water you need per day, divide your weight by two. For example, a person who weighs 140 pounds should consume 70 ounces, or about 9 cups. Of course, this is an estimate. The best way to gauge whether you are getting enough water is to monitor the color of your urine. If you're drinking enough, it should be the color of pale straw. If it is a deeper yellow, you're not getting enough fluids" (page 16, June 1999). Lots of times we misinterpret thirst for hunger, try water first, wait 20 minutes, real hunger will not go away. 9. Make sure you're getting five servings of fruits and vegetables per day Eating the zero point veggies can often help us to fill up so that we're not eating the other higher points foods instead. If you're hungry, try non-starchy veggies first. Lots of members make the Garden Vegetable Soup recipe in the Part 1 booklet and eat a bowl of that before dinner to fill up a bit so that you can get full on the smaller portions you'll be serving yourself. Try a glass of V8 juice before a meal during the summer when soup sounds too hot. Variety is good here too, try a new fruit or veggie each month to expand your repertoire. 10. Increase the frequency or intensity of your physical activity Are you exercising? If not, know that you'll be much more successful at losing the weight and keeping it off if you are also physically active. Find something that you enjoy doing and just do it! Start with a five minute walk out of your door, look at your watch after five minutes start heading back, just like that you've done 10 minutes! Next week start adding in a couple of extra minutes, try walking for 7 minutes out of your door, and 7 minutes back, you've now done 14 minutes. Keep adding until you're up to at least 10 minutes out and 10 minutes back.
If you're already active, are you exercising at enough intensity? If you can easily carry on a conversation while exercising (you should be able to speak, but it should take a bit of effort) you're not challenging your body enough. Your body becomes really efficient at adjusting to the amount of physical activity you're doing, so you regularly have to adjust either the intensity of your workouts or the frequency in order to continue to reap the maximum benefit from physical activity.
Try strength training in order to build lean muscle tissue. As we get older we lose lean muscle tissue, which depresses your metabolism; in addition severely restrictive diets where we eat too few calories can cause us to lose weight but lots of it is lean muscle, which also depresses our metabolism. If we build muscle tissue this can help us to reverse that process and to make us trimmer and stronger.
11. Move the furniture aroundDo you always have your biggest meal at dinner? Try eating your biggest meal for lunch or even for breakfast, with smaller meals for the remaining meals. If you regularly eat most of your points at one meal your body converts the rest of the food into stored energy...fat...so that if you balance your points out throughout the day better you can actually give your metabolism a boost by keeping it revving throughout the day instead of only one spike at dinner. Food actually helps to boost our metabolism, that's why it's important never to skip meals. There's a saying that you could help to lose weight by eating breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper. This gives us the majority of our points early in the day when our bodies can use them because we're active instead of right before bed if we eat them at dinner.
12. Try varying your number of pointsDo you always eat at a certain number of points per day? Your body gets very efficient at predicting its intake and adjusts itself accordingly. Keep it guessing. Try mixing up the number of points you have...low one day, middle the next, back to low, then high end of your points.
Special note: If you're very active never eat at the low end of your points, your body may think it's starving, always eat middle to high end of your points and take those extra food points you earn with the PointsBooster (you'll get one after you reach your 10% goal) if you need them...let your hunger be your guide. Remember, you can trade exercise points for food points once you have earned more than 2 points of activity in one day, trade them for food on a one-to-one basis.
13. Take your measurements and look for other non-scale signs of progressOften even when the scale isn't moving, we're still improving our health and our bodies, which will show up in other ways other than the scale. Have your measurements gone down? How are your clothes fitting? Can you climb a flight of stairs without being winded? Has your cholesterol gone down? Can you walk now for 20 minutes when before you were huffing and puffing at 5 minutes? How do you feel? Have you reached your 10% goal? Hold that keychain in your hands as a measure of your success.
14. Are you on an attitude plateau?Are you just tired of feeling like you're going to be doing this forever? Does that translate into that right now your desire to lose weight is equal to your desire for freedom from counting and having to think about points and healthy food choices? If so, then that mental attitude might be the culprit in that you're following a more relaxed adherence to the program but you think you're still doing it to the letter. Remind yourself of why you started this process, look at how far you've come. Is your goal still the same? Is it that you're scared of success, are okay with how you look right now, have you become complacent? Ask yourself these kind of questions honestly. If you're tired of the weight loss routine or have become complacent, try spicing up your food plan by trying more interesting meals and snacks, adding new foods, trying new recipes or new restaurants. Set new goals, setting a new goal can continue to challenge yourself. Pretend like it's your first week on program all over again, try to recapture that enthusiasm that you had in the beginning! You can do it as long as you don't give up!
15. Consider maintenanceA plateau that lasts a long time can be the practice to show you that you can maintain your weight. Sustaining weight loss is a challenge in itself. Consider doing the maintenance process so as to take a break from weight loss. Taking a break from weight loss and focusing on keeping the weight off can be the best thing to do, especially if a vacation or stressful situation is what is keeping you from continuing on your weight loss journey. It's better to gain some ground, then hold it, then go back and gain more ground than to give up because then you lose all of the ground you've gained (lost!).
Thanks to Elizabeth Hoyt, Weight Watchers leader in Manhattan Beach, CA who wrote this article.