Thursday, 18 June 2015

Plateaus And Breakthroughs!

Plateaus Can Be Stunning!

You know when you've been on your wieght loss journey for a while, and then you're almost there? All of a sudden, the progress slows down, or even stops, or (heaven forbid!!) it can creep back upwards for a bit.

This is what I call a stunning plateau, a beautiful plateau between two mountains, where you started, and where you will finish!

Nuns Valley, Madeira, copyright Sandra Venables

Yep, we all get them (don't believe those people who say they don't, I'm sure they're just putting that on!!)

So, what to do when you hit one?

You need to ask yourself a few quick questions:

  1. Are you relying on hunger as your cue to eat?
  2. Are you measuring your calories?
  3. Are you entering 'middle-age'?
  4. Are you exercising differently?

All of these questions, and the answers they provide, may lead you to a change of some habits that have crept into your daily routines lately, that have resulted in some change.

Let's look at the answers and how to ensure you're still on track.

1. Are you relying on hunger as your cue to eat?

This is a great question to ask yourself.  When you rely on reducing your calorie intake by not eating until  you're hungry, you're more likely to make poor choices in your foods or to overindulge.  By setting yourself a schedule of when to eat, you're more likely to make good choices and eat less.

The reason being, you are feeling full when you eat regularly.

So, schedule your meals and your snacks, to ensure you're eating before you get hungry.  And, make sure all your meals and snacks contain some protein!  Add to this some fibre, and you have the whole 'full' thing going on all day, every day, and your weight loss journey will pick up again.

2. Are you measuring your calories?

When you first begin a new lifestyle eating habit, quite often you're very diligent about having that 100g of meat in your meal. But, as time progresses, it becomes easier to 'weight by eye' This method of weight out foods is notoriously inaccurate!  So, if it's been a while since you've measured your daily calorie intake, then commit to a week of doing it again, just so you can 'get your eye in again'!!

You can do this by using measuring cups, scales and calorie or meal monitoring apps - there are many available online these days, for myself, I use the myFitnessPal app. Firstly, it's free, and secondly, it seems to cover a lot of foods I use, as well as being easy to add foods that aren't on there. Thirdly, it also monitors my exercise, my weight, my water and because I add in my height, it gives me an estimate of how many calories I need to intake in order to lose weight.

Ensure you're not underestimating your calories, and this change may re-start your loss progress.

3. Are you entering 'middle age'?

Sadly, as we age, our metabolism and hormones do change.  It seems to be fairly common for post-menopausal women (sorry ladies, but it does seem to affect us more than men) to struggle with the 'middle-aged spread'.  This is generally because we are losing muscle mass as we age. And it is muscle that is the 'burner' in our bodies!

So, it's about building your muscle as you age. This can be done through our exercise, but also by adding a bit more protein to the diet.  Look for about 1g protein for every pound of body weight (or 2g for every kilo), so e.g. 130lb person, 130g protein for the day, or for a 60kg person, 120g protein for the day.

The exercise that will help you retain your muscle density (not necessarily build muscle like body builders!) is resistance training, yep, pumping iron!!

Keep your muscles strong, and your body will require more calories to function, thus, kick starting your loss journey again.

4. Are you exercising differently?

When you first started your journey, how many times did you workout a week?  Has that dropped at all? Do you do different exercise now? Are you still doing resistance training, or have you given that up for all cardio?

Remember, you can't outrun your fork. Simply, if you're not losing weight, your eating habits are creating more calories than your exercise habits are burning.  Note to self: get back to exercising 4 times a week!!

Plateau busting foods for your daily menus

1. Fibre
Gives you that full and satisfied feeling, see my post on constipation for good fibre sources
2. Protein 
Gives you a full feeling also, but allows your body to grow your muscles, a great food source.

Remember to balance your diet with carbohydrates and good fats too.

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