This was a topic that I thought I knew a little bit about until I actually hit a real plateau. Before in my weight loss experience whenever I gained weight, or didn't lose weight it was always because I was not watching what I was eating. Mostly because I would be eating way too many desserts. I suppose no one ever really thinks it will happen to them until it does. I never thought I would hit a real plateau. I was doing everything right, I had been losing weight steadily for a year, I was on a role and working hard, nothing could stop me. Until something did. January to June 2014. Six months of working hard. I started exercising 5 days a week instead of 3 days a week, I was tracking everything that I was eating in My Fitness Pal and when I completed my food log almost every day it said I would weigh less in 5 weeks.
Brutal, challenging, discouraging, crushing, emotionally draining, frustrating, infuriating; these are a few ways to describe this time period. It was nothing I had ever experienced and sheer determination drove me to continue, to not give up. Sure there were days where I threw everything out the window because I was so upset. The day after I went from 147 to 152 after having a near perfect week of exercise and eating I went on a week long splurge of eating whatever and whenever I wanted to. How does one endure such torture? This is trial by fire, and let me tell you, my motivation was at an all time low. In fact I am pretty sure my motivation was non existent. So how to endure? How do you keep going when, despite all your effort you are getting no where? Like I mentioned before, it was pure determination. Determination to reach my goals, determination not to give up. I had thought about giving up several times during this time period. Thought about taking some time off letting my body reset or something or other. But every time I thought of that I dreaded gaining weight back. I would wonder, "is this where it ends? Is this where I start gaining weight again? Is this where I fail again? After everything I've been through, after all my hard work, have I failed yet again?" And I just couldn't accept it. I couldn't accept failure, so I kept working, kept plodding on hoping against hope that some day, some way I would start going down again.
Why did I plateau? I think it was because my body had hit a weight it was more comfortable with. 150 pounds. I had lost all the weight that I'd put on over the past 8 years and now I was starting to work on the weight that had been on my body much longer. Also, I was just about to hit my healthy weight range and it is harder to lose weight that has been on your body longer and the slimmer you get, the harder it is to lose. Of course, it's not just about the number on the scale. During this time I did lose 6 inches from weight lifting although I did not lose any weight. So something to keep in mind is that you could be making progress in ways the scale cannot measure. I know that doesn't bring too much comfort because it was still very hard for me, but it is something you have to take into consideration.
So how did I overcome my plateau? Two weeks before I broke through, I decided to stop eating my exercise calories, and to eat only 1400 calories a day. According to MFP in order to lose one pound a week I am supposed to eat 1440 calories, per day, and so I decided to do just that. I cut out all desserts and candy and I also stopped sampling food while I was making it. I didn't lick spoons, I didn't finish up after the kids, I didn't taste the food while I was cooking and I didn't snitch food off of anyone's plate. I really got a grip on my nutrition. That week I went from 153 down to 148. The very lowest I could be without actually breaking through my plateau. The week after that I wasn't so strict, but I still didn't eat any desserts. Half way through the week I had a huge mental breakthrough. I thought about how far I had come, my size 8 jeans and wondering if this was as far as I could go... and I accepted it. Yes, I accepted myself in that moment and allowed myself to believe that I looked good, to believe that I was a success and to let all my doubt, worry, and stress just leave. I could feel it leaving my body, all the stress and awful feelings I had been harboring about myself. It seemed like magic, the end of that week I was down to 145.6. So how did I break my plateau? To put it simply: I got a grip on my nutrition, and I let go of my stress. I made absolutely sure that I was not eating too much, and that I was eating the right food. I also got in a lot of physical activity those two weeks, but I had been getting in a lot of activity before so I can't say that it really contributed.
Have you started sampling food more frequently and not tracking it like I was? Most likely when hitting a plateau, you are doing pretty good, but something is sliding a little bit, or something needs to be adjusted. I can't tell you what will work for you, you have to figure that out on your own. I can only say that what finally broke me through my plateau was having perfect nutrition, reducing my calories (I had previously been consuming about 1700 calories a day) and not allowing myself any treat days for a few weeks. I had to break the viscous cycle of eating well 5 days a week and then being too lax on the weekends. Perfect nutrition, ALL the time. I also finally came to the point mentally where I could say for the very first time that I accepted my body. I was ok with myself and where I was. Was it easy? No. Was it worth it? Yes