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When somebody experiences a weight-loss plateau, he or she no longer sees results after a period of success losing weight. The body weight comes to a stubborn halt, as I see it, despite careful eating and regular exercise. This frustrating problem can last anywhere between 3 weeks to forever (figuratively speaking) until there is finally a breakthrough that comes with perseverance.
The very reason why I've never lost more than 30 pounds nor reached size 5 in skirts and pants is due to weight-loss plateau. (Of course, I'm aware that my body structure is not built to be a size 5 - certainly not at this age of 49 nor within the last 20 years younger.) I was okay with stopping at the 20-30 pound loss at ages 34, 39, 45 (after my 4th and last pregnancy 4 years prior), and at 47. Now, just before reaching age 49 when perimenopause makes weight loss and healthy weight maintenance more difficult, I've entered the biggest weight challenge of my life with plateaus every 5 pounds that I lose and with all the road blocks that come with them.
Google-searching with such keywords as "weight loss plateau" and "how to break through weight-loss plateau" has resulted in a number of articles that would require many days of note taking. I gratefully refer to that reading list as a wealth of information.
But the solutions that once broke my plateaus within 3-4 weeks of consistency are now either taking longer to work or are simply failing me. At the same time, I'm learning more because my plight compels me to research constantly. I'm learning more about plateau causes, about tips that work more commonly than others - at least for my own body, and about my body in general along with its changes.
Here are bits of information I've been learning about plateaus in addition to what I was able to process successfully in previous years:
Challenge 1: After initial weight loss of 5 or even 10 pounds, the scale gets stuck at the initial weight loss for weeks at a time. Once the loss finally resumes, there are alarming fluctuations on the scale that suggest weight gain.
My Lesson of Hope: Regular cardio exercises potentially increase the number of pounds a weight-loss candidate can typically lose within the initial stage of the weight-loss journey. Sometimes 10 pounds is that mark of easy loss. But muscle loss that accompanies a certain amount of weight loss can produce a slowed metabolism with the absence of strength resistance that's done in the form of simple push-ups (or lady push-ups), squats, core strengthening like planks, and/or weight lifting (even in the lightest form). I was encouraged that this is to be expected and to begin focusing on strength resistance exercises as a lifestyle instead of as a temporary fix to these hurdles.
Challenge 2: Water retention occurs for a number of reasons related to pre-menstrual (and the inconsistencies that emerge during perimenopause), certain foods in the diet that are known to cause the retention for unknown reasons, sudden needed medications varying from major Rx to minor over-the-counter meds, and changes in routine that sometimes disrupt adequate water intake.
My Lesson of Hope: With the challenges of water retention, drinking 64 plus ounces of water throughout the day (and not in one sitting during which there is a definite health risk for drinking too much at one time) flushes out excess water the body may be holding on to. It may take time before results are seen. But drinking an adequate amount of water throughout the day over an 8 to 12 hour period eventually rids the body of water it may be retaining.
Also, the body tends to take rest stops on long journeys towards lower weight goals. These stops can often be long tedious experiences at one particular weight before another reduction - to the next weight where the body is again likely to stop itself. Among other reasons, the body uses water retention in order to accomplish these stops.
Challenge 3: My body responds better when there is a change in cardio exercises - and not necessarily with more of the same cardio exercise. Why is this such a challenge for me? It's frustrating. As a creature of habit, I like to stick with what worked yesterday. But my particular body wants change.
My Lesson of Hope: With minimal time to focus on myself as a WOTHAN (woman of the house and nurturer), there's actually time to turn on some music and dance - at home or at the office. Additionally, although I don't see myself ever running again due to a previous knee injury, riding my rusting bicycle or putting my stationary cycle to use would not be out of the question. There is variety that leads to results with strategy.
Challenge 4: Taking a log of calorie intake helps to control my calorie intake. This is a challenge because I find myself saying, "Wait a minute! I thought I had finally reached the point of accomplishing weight loss without all that calorie-counting!" Well, yeah, until there's a plateau. There's always some exception, it seems.
My Lesson of Hope: There is no lesson of hope. I just have to keep up with the calories until the plateau breaks. And it has happened.
Challenge 5: Sometimes my calorie problem has more to do with too few calories than too many calories. Now, this is the challenge I can better deal with.
My Lesson of Hope: As we build our metabolisms back to where they're supposed to be with proper diet and exercise, there are a few things that we might not realize the newly functioning metabolism actually needs. It does need an adequate amount of calories to burn in order to produce weight reduction. The key is incorporating the right higher calories like (for my own body) avocados, nuts, and even a lean helping of beef or poultry.
Challenge 6: Whether I'm having a good day or a bad day with calorie intake, my body needs its 3-5 servings of green veggies - like kale, collards, mustards, spinach, and broccoli - on a daily basis. Sometimes I'm not in the mood to gobble down...well... what I'm not in the mood for.
My Lesson of Hope: Everyone has the ability to eat beyond cravings and mood. Green veggies - in addition to other vegetables - provide the fuel our bodies need to support our metabolism. Did I say that right? Believe me. It's a summarization of at least 5 articles that I've read and re-read over the years.*
Challenge 7: Collagen and especially protein intake support the muscle mass needed for a working metabolism. Without adequate supplementation or addition to the diet, working out can be a fruitless effort unless done vigorously. But I've learned a long time ago from previous experiences that, if I'm not going to sustain my weight with vigorous exercise, I'm bound to struggle again if I reduce my activities from vigorous to moderate once my goal is reached.
My Lesson of Hope: In addition to the strength-resistance exercises needed to support a working metabolism, foods that are high in protein should be a part of my daily intake in moderation. Boiled eggs, lean poultry, wild caught salmon, lima beans, lean beef, chia seeds, and liquid collagen are a few of what I've learned to be excellent parts of a healthy diet that is rich yet balanced in protein.
Challenge 8 and A Lesson of Hope: Regular planks, which I rarely look forward to doing, help strengthen my core whether I lose additional weight or not. This helps my pants and skirt fit me more loosely around the waistline despite the lies told to me by that scale. (The scale actually sides with water retention, you know.)
Challenge 9: Hormone balance is desperately needed during perimenopause, as imbalance can affect the body's ability to effectively lose weight.
My Lesson of Hope: The following are regular additions to my diet and reportedly help with balancing hormones during perimenopause: Flaxseeds, ginger, and turmeric. There's a longer list of foods and herbal teas that help in this area.
Challenge 10: The issue of insomnia and latenight bedtime have surprisingly been culprit as well as an unveiled mystery of some plateaus. (Ironically, I'm writing this part of this blog at 12:06 a.m. Insomnia is rough - especially as a mother waiting for her 17-year old son to get himself home, which is what I am doing first and foremost right now.)
My Lesson of Hope: Turn in for bed by 10 p.m. - at least on weekdays when typically no one from the household is on the other side of that entry door of the house. If necessary, set an entire ambiance for bedtime - from exact lighting, sound, or scent to complete absence of all. Lavender does relax me. In fact, I could say I'm pretty weak to it after dark. Melatonin gives me the deep sleep I need only while I'm asleep but doesn't promise to sustain the number of hours I sleep. Still, I'm pretty fulfilled by its affects, unlike many who have reported that Melatonin gives them nightmares.
Challenge 11: Even if stress does not disrupt my attempt at additional weight loss (and I stress if), it never fails to target my waist line. When I first learned that the body produces a hormone called cortisol, which produces fat cells in the waist line, I was not surprised. It was an ah-hah moment, especially learning stress and lacking rest to be the underlying causes.
My Lesson of Hope: Regular consumption of both Rhodiola Rosea in capsule form as a supplement and ginger tea (fresh or tea bag) have helped significantly. When rest is applied, these three can successfully combat the wicked attacks of cortisol.
Challenge 12: Sugar cravings are still alive and well even though they occur less frequently. My challenge is that too often I entertain those cravings - no not as often as I once did when I couldn't have cared less for my health, but certainly too often still.
My Lesson of Hope: I drink cinnamon tea and other herbal teas that serve 2 purposes: 1) cutting my sugar cravings and 2) helping - though minimally - to balance my blood sugar. Purpose # 2 is more easily accomplished with a regular diet of clean foods, especially green veggies.
* I plan to provide an update with footnotes on a later date. Meanwhile, google-search your way to assurance on this and other subjects concerning plateauing.