Avoiding Weight Loss Plateaus
How many of us have started an exercise program to find out that after 4-6 weeks the results we expected have come to a blunt halt?
When we first started our walking program or joined the local gym we noticed how quickly the belt buckle was moving in and then all of a sudden without warning it stopped. We persisted for a few weeks, some of us had the determination to push through for several months, but still nothing moved.
This is an all too familiar occurrence that leads to most people giving up on their exercise regime.
What you are experiencing is a plateau.
Let’s examine what a plateau really is.
A plateau put simply is a period of stabilisation. Where the body has adjusted itself physically so that the energy that we consume [food] equals the energy that the body uses [metabolism].
Many people view a plateau as a bad thing and is one of the main reasons people give up and go back to their sedentary lifestyles. It is a very frustrating time especially since you have been working really hard and doing all the right things.
A plateau is a natural process of the body and if it did not occur, death would result. An example of this is if a 60 kilogram women wanting to lose 4 kilograms in 4 weeks, [1 kilogram per week] her body would go into survival mode so that she doesn’t continue to lose 1 kilogram every week until she dies. Your body is just not going to allow you to lose any amount of weight without putting up a fight. It has no idea that this women has planned to stop after 4 weeks, it senses that it is losing precious energy for survival of the species and almost instantly slows the process down. A plateau is not a bad thing, giving up on the other hand and putting the weight back on is. At least you’re not gaining weight, which most other people in the Western world are. It is actually a positive response to change and it should be expected.
One of the ways the body causes a plateau is to increase your fitness. Once again this is not a bad thing, but for weight loss it can be very frustrating. Increasing fitness basically means that you can do the same job whilst expending less effort and energy. You have become efficient at the activity that you are preforming. Remember when you first went back to your walking program after some time off. You struggled a bit, you where huffing and puffing, you were tired after a few minutes, and for some it wasn’t very pleasant. Now after doing it for a few weeks it’s quite easy, you hardly even break a sweat any more.
This is fitness; your body has adjusted itself physically to make the task easier. Now that you have become efficient at performing the task [easier] your body doesn’t use as much energy to do it. You’re saving energy again and slowing down the weight loss process.
The best way to avoid a plateau or to get off of one is to return to that uncomfortable feeling of unfamiliarity.
You must do what your body is not used to doing and become inefficient again.
The definition of insanity is: Doing the same thing and expecting a different result.
You must make a change to expect to see a change. You must do something different, something that will once again challenge you. This can be done in many ways. You can change the activity- walking to slow jogging, [please check first that your physical wellbeing is capable of this.] The distance you travel, you could walk further. The number of sessions you do in a week or even a day. The speed you walk, covering more distance in the same time. The surface you walk on, bitumen to sand-sand to knee deep water. The terrain you cover, flat surfaces to hills. The combinations are only limited by your imagination. The important thing to remember is that when you make that change, ensure that the change is slightly more challengeable than the previous activity. The more variety you experience with your exercise the better. Don’t allow your body to become accustom to doing exactly the same thing. You can make simple changes on a daily or weekly basis, remembering that, variety really is the spice of life.