Everything living and breathing has a life cycle and weight loss is no different. During any weight loss journey a person will come across a few bumps along the road and I want to show you how to navigate through them successfully.
Below is graph showing what I consider to be the “Full Life Cycle” for weight loss.
Mindset & Change of Habit
So you’ve made it. You pushed through the first cycle and finally the weight is coming off. You’re feeling better, your energy is increasing and the scale is getting smaller. And just when you think you’re cruising, all that stops. You’re feeling hungrier, sluggish and that scale that was dropping every day stopped dead in its track. Don’t worry, you’re not sick. You’ve reached the dreaded plateau. It was inevitable. Your first 5-15-20 lbs was more about the change in diet and lifestyle than anything else. Your body has now adjusted to this new “routine” and plateaued.
Busting Through the Plateau
There are two ways to bust through a plateau: By changing your diet or increasing your exercise.
- Diet: If you were severely over weight like I was all you needed to do in the beginning was eat less and you’d lose weight. At this point, cutting back your calories won’t work. (You’ve already done that remember) This time you’ll need to actually look at what you’re eating. Maybe you’re eating too many carbs? Maybe you’re eating them too late at night? Maybe (and most likely) you aren’t eating enough and your body has reached the Starvation mode? Maybe the protein you’re eating is loaded with fat? The answer is probably a combination of all of these. I would suggest at this point moving from just eating less to eating more often. Try 5-6 small meals a day with a balance of Protein, Whole Wheat carbs and Veggies. Cut out your carbs late at night. This will boost the metabolism and break the plateau.
- Exercise- Hopefully by now you’ve started some type of exercise routine. I don’t care if it’s walking, jogging, running, swimming, palates, yoga, biking, lifting weights..I DO NOT CARE. I just hope you’re doing something. If you haven’t, this is the perfect time to start because nothing breaks a plateau into little pieces like exercise. So start a routine if you haven’t. If you already have, increase what ever you’re doing. If you’re a runner, run farther or increase the intensity. If you’re a weight lifter, increase the reps or weight. If you’ve been doing a ton of Cardio, actually try backing off and let your body recover. Even the slightest change will break the plateau.
Once you’ve broken the plateau you will immediately see a huge weight drop. This should last for a while but eventually you’ll run into the….
Just like the 1st plateau, this one is inevitable. (unless you saw it coming and headed it off at the pass). By now you’ve probably lost a significant amount of weight and well on your way to success. In my own journey I hit this plateau around the 60 lb mark. Unlike plateau #1, this one has less to do with your body adjusting but more about you. At this point, you’ve seen a lot success and you’re might even be cheating more, working out less and slacking all around. After all, you’re fitting into clothes that you haven’t worn in years, you’re getting compliments and all around feeling good. The truth is you know you aren’t done. You know you still have a way to go before reaching your goal. IT’s TIME FOR FOCUS.
- Exercise: So by now you’re probably in the best shape of your life or at least getting there. You’ve probably reached several “exercise plateau” and have learned how to plow through. You should be about 50% of the way to your end goal but even though you’ve lost weight, your Body Fat % is till too high. It’s now time to think about building muscle mass. If you don’t want to end up looking flabby, you need to think about adding resistance training to your routine (if you haven’t already). Why? More muscle mass means more calories burned and in the end you’ll look slimmer and more fit. Also, if you have more muscle than fat, if you were to gain a little weight back, it will be easier to lose.
- Diet: Just like your exercise routine, hopefully by now your diet is locked down and you’re eating a balanced dose of Protein, Carbs and Veggies. It’s time now to make a few adjustments to ensure you are building muscle and burning fat. To coincide with your new resistance training routine, you need to up your protein intake and reduce your carbs. I would say 50% of your calories should come from Proteins and only 20 from WHOLE WHEAT carbs. Continue your 5-6 small meals a day, just increase your protein intake.
You’re here! You’ve reached your goal and most importantly you’ve done it the right way. By now, the ups and downs of weight loss are past you and its time to maintain. The days of counting calories and watching everything you eat are over. The key to maintainance is finding out that perfect balance of diet (how many calories every day) and exercise to keep you at your weight. This can have its own challenges but its a lot better than living life over weight and obese.
You may have noticed the arrows in the graph above never stop. There is no STOP cycle. Once you reach the “Maintain” cycle the biggest fear is relaxing and returning to your old ways. You’ve worked too hard just to gain the weight back. Instead, set a new goal and continue the cycles. Change your mind-set and habits, work through your plateau, adjust and change to reach your new goal. NEVER stop. Dont EVER give up. YOU CAN DO THIS!