Stalls & Plateaus – Working Your Way Through them

There was a time I had thought they were both in the same, but apparently not. A stall is a month or more of no weight loss and a plateau is a few days/weeks. Call it what you wish, to those who are losing weight, it is the biggest non-motivator. It causes panic and discouragement; even failure to give up. Seeing the scale to stop or even to go up a few ounces sends terror through the dieter, questioning everything that they are doing. Been there, done that, but as I look back I am thankful that I questioned, that I stood my ground and watched things closely. You can learn a lot that will help you in your weight loss journey. Guaranteed, there will be more plateaus and stalls to work through, so why not learn about yourself and your body.

While searching on the internet for any info, I came across something very interesting. It has helped me put things into perspective on how a body works….

“Our bodies use glycogen for short term energy storage. Glycogen is not very soluble, but it is stored in our muscles for quick energy — one pound of glycogen requires 4 lbs of water to keep it soluble, and the average, glycogen storage capacity is about 2 lbs. So, when you are not getting in enough food, your body turns first to stored glycogen, which is easy to break down for energy. And when you use up 2 lbs of glycogen, you also lose 8 lbs of water that was used to store it — voila — the “easy” 10 lbs that most people lose in the first week of a diet.

As you stay in caloric deficit, however, your body starts to realize that this is not a short term problem. You start mobilizing fat from your adipose tissue and burning fat for energy. But your body also realizes that fat can’t be used for short bursts of energy — like, to outrun a sabertooth tiger. So, it starts converting some of the fat into glycogen, and rebuilding the glycogen stores. And as it puts back the 2 lbs of glycogen into the muscle, 8 lbs of water has to be stored with it to keep it soluble. So, even though you might still be LOSING energy content to your body, your weight will not go down or you might even GAIN for a while as you retain water to dissolve the glycogen that is being reformed and stored.”

This made a lot of sense to me, and it helped me immensely. I kept repeating to myself during my first stall (which was 4 weeks)…”this is normal, my body is adapting, my body is adapting…its doing its thing…” I knew I was following my diet plan, drinking my water, exercising…. everything I should be doing to lose weight, I was doing. Has to be something else, right? There is always that seed of doubt. So, I did a bit more searching.

Everyone seems to have ideas of how to get through the dreaded stall or plateaus. Some I agree with, others I question. What everyone has to do is put everything you are doing under a fine microscope, watch it, compare weights, and watch how your body reacts. In doing this, you will have a better understanding how your own body works. Remember, what works for another may be entirely different for you… we are all unique.

Keep in mind this is my weight loss plan….

  • Make sure you drink your MINIMUM 8 cups of water daily. I now drink 9 cups a day, when I add the liquid from my food I can add 2 1/2 more cups. A total of 11 ½ cups daily.
  • My caloric intake is NO MORE than 1200 a day. I choose WISELY with those 1200 calories. I have 3 meals a day as well as 3 healthy snacks a day to keep my blood sugars level as well as to feed my metabolism. You can see my food logs on myfitnesspal.com.
  • I plan my meals AHEAD. “fail to plan…plan to fail” It’s best to plan so you can choose wisely and not be grabbing in a last moment … which sometimes can lead to poor choices.
  • My sugar content I keep LOW. I try to keep 8grams of sugar per 100 calories. Some fruits are higher in sugar and that is OK. I keep sugar content in mind and choose wisely. I usually have two fruits a day which helps keep my bowl movement regular. If for any reason I do not have a bowl movement, and the fruit or veggies I eat does not work, I get out the benefiber.
  • I eat a lot of salads and vegetables
  • My sodium I keep an eye on. I use no salt. Sometime the choices I have may have higher sodium content but I moderate them. Salt retains fluid, affects blood pressure and too much can create weight gain, not a friend if trying to lose weight. One day I decided to treat myself to a 4oz strip loin with steak spice… my treats are far and few between, but I enjoyed it immensely… so did my scales the next morning with a 1 ½ pound gain LOL not to worry, it came off in a day, but sure was interesting to see salt at work.
  • My protein must be 60-80 grams a day. I actually strive for 80 grams a day. Protein keeps the lean muscle mass not to mention it is a healer.
  • I make sure to take a muli-vitamin daily. Whatever I do not get from my food, I feel I will get from my vitamin. My doctor checks my blood every 3 months so I do not become deficient on anything.
  • I do not eat after 7pm.
  • I have divorced potato chips, bars, candy, sweets etc. Potato chips were always a downfall and one is never enough for me, so for me it is best I stay away.
  • I absolutely have NO pop NO caffeine NO alcohol NO gum.
  • I make sure to eat slow, savor and enjoy what I eat, on smaller plates/dishes.. Making new “comfort” foods is my plan.
  • I limit my carbs. Although my carb intake is not as low as some call “low”, for me to limit is best. I still have an occasional small baked potato, or ½ cup of rice, once in a blue moon pasta. Bread I have stayed away from by choice. I use a snackbread with my tuna salad etc. that I find very satisfying.
  • I keep my fats low. I use skim milk, low fat cottage cheese, low fat cheese, extra lean hamburg, becel, calorie wise dressings. Olive oil IF I happen to use any oil in cooking.
  • I still have occasional slice of bacon or one slice of pizza but I fit it into my diet plan or not have it. Even for my birthday I had baked a sugar free banana cake. Who said you can’t have your cake and eat it too LOL. One small calculated piece though fit into my diet plan and it was very satisfying.
  • I walk DAILY. For 45 minutes I walk briskly with 2 ½ lb weights on each wrist, lifting my arms up every 100 steps for 60 then repeat. It is my cardio time you could say…a time where a light sweat is made. I then go for another walk but times vary. Dependant on my pedometer is how long of a walk I take. My goal is to always get at least 10000 steps in a day. Lately I have been getting 11000 to 18000, which I log. I walk RAIN or SHINE no excuses.
  • I lift weights daily. To help tone my arms & build muscle. Maintaining muscles burn calories
  • I weigh regularly. Usually every morning as soon as I get up but after I have used the washroom. Some may go crazy doing this, but for me I can stay on top of my progress and react.
  • Work on my behavioral changes. I examine myself regularly and pin point those behaviors, which are not doing so good and figure what plan I have to re-adjust to help change them
  • I make sure I get my sleep. At least 7 hours for me. Our bodies while sleeping restores and in fact burns calories while it rests. Therefore, sleep is very important in weight loss.

*So when I hit a stall or plateau I first check my food logs. Was there anything to attribute to it (example the steak spice on my steak which made me gain) If so I adjust accordingly. And watch.

*If there isn’t anything out of the norm, I check the totals on calories. If I have been on a close to 1200 range, I cut back to approx 1000 or vise versa. I have found it good to switch things up every few days so that your body doesn’t get use to the numbers. I also do this with my food etc. Variety and change keeps things guessing.

*I check to see if my steps have fallen short etc. Have I added something different? Is my body adjusting to it? If I feel this is so, I continue with what I have been doing. Exercise is a MUST. Some say exercising more can break a stall. I haven’t tried this, maybe someday I will LOL

*I make sure every now and then to increase my protein amounts. (more than 80)

*Waiting can be the hardest. Find a support system whether a friend or on-line. YOU WILL get through it. Remember why you are on this healthy path, how far you have come, look through pictures, old clothes, whatever it takes to remind you that what you are doing the right thing. Keep with your program, You WILL get through it.

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