Plateaus and Pitfalls
kind of like running into a wall - that feeling you get when, after
a few months on a weight-loss program, you suddenly stop seeing
results. This is called hitting a plateau and it is not uncommon.
In fact, unless you continually update your program to reflect the
changes your body has already experienced, you can almost be guaranteed
to plateau at some point along your journey toward reaching your
first thing you should do upon hitting a plateau is try to determine
the cause. Could you be eating more calories than you think? Research
shows that most people underreport the number of calories they eat
- it's not that they're lying, they just don't know how to make
an accurate assessment of how much they're eating. And even if you're
eating less calories than before you lost the weight, you could
be eating just enough to maintain your current weight at your current
activity level. It is important to keep in mind that as you lose
weight, your metabolism slows down because there is less of you
to fuel, both at rest and during activity. So, while a diet of 1,800
calories per day helped you lose a certain amount of weight, if
you've hit a plateau, it could be that 1,800 calories is the exact
amount you need to stay at your current weight.
leaves you with two options: Lower your caloric intake further or
increase the amount of time you spend being physically active. The
first option is less desirable because you may not be able to get
sufficient nutrients from a diet that is very low in calories, and
it is difficult to stick to it for very long. It is much better
to moderately reduce calories to a level that you can sustain when
you reach your goal weight. The same is true for exercise. Trying
to exercise for several hours per day to burn more calories is a
good way to set yourself up for failure. Not only does this type
of regimen require an enormous time commitment, it is hard on the
body, making you more susceptible to injury and overuse syndromes.
To help balance the intake with the expenditure, a good rule of
thumb is to multiply your goal weight by 10 calories per pound,
and add more calories according to how active you are. Again, be
realistic. Don't attempt too much in an effort to burn more calories.
Instead, aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity most of the days
of the week and, as you become more fit, gradually increase the
intensity and duration of your exercise sessions. Choose activities
that you find enjoyable, whether that be in-line skating, step classes
or even mall walking. Another means for getting you off the plateau
is strength training, which has been shown to be very effective
in helping people manage their weight because the added muscle helps
to offset the metabolism-lowering effect of dieting and losing weight.
Muscle is much more metabolically active than fat; therefore, the
more muscle you can add, the higher your metabolism will be.
Off The Plateau
you've stopped losing weight, the key to getting off the plateau
is to vary your program. The human body is an amazing piece of machinery,
capable of adapting to just about any circumstance or stimulus.
By shaking things up a bit and varying your program by introducing
some new elements, you'll likely find yourself off the plateau and
back on the road to progress in no time.
For reliable and
unbiased information on health and fitness, check out the American
Council on Exercise at http://www.acefitness.org