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The Big "P" - Plateau - and Finding a Way to Break Through

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

I've been thinking all evening and then again this morning about the P word. You all know it and hate it - the dreaded Plateau. Looking back on my past progress and weigh-ins, the thought occurred to me...maybe I've hit a bit of a plateau. I've had trouble breaking out of a set of numbers before. The 380s were a bit difficult mentally. The 360s had me declaring war against my own body. But the difference between those tough spots and this one is simple - in the past I spent a few weeks self-sabotaging, but this time I'm not. I've been pretty consistent. Sure, I've switched things up in an effort to push the scale along, but I've eaten pretty well and have been exercising regularly. So could I be dealing with that stupid P word already?

We all hate to think about plateaus. They're evil. They keep us from our goals and make us feel like we're failing ourselves somehow. No matter how much progress we see in our fitness levels or other NSVs, nothing compares to seeing that number on the scale agree with our progress and give us the results we so crave. Just thinking about this has led me on a research binge (much better than an eating binge! *lol*) about dieting, plateaus, weight loss, etc. And what a wealth of knowledge we have here at SP!

First of all, I suggest you all read "9 Cold, Hard Weight Loss Truths" here on Spark:

You may not learn anything really new, but it might be helpful in reinforcing the things we have had suspicions about. My favorite is #1 - You have to exercise more than you think.

For me, this is a CHECK! Last night I forced myself into another SIBCCT - Self-Induced Boot Camp Circuit Training. It went a little something like this: 10 minutes treadmill at 3.0, 2.0 incline; 8 laps around the indoor track, running 1/2 a lap on every even lap; Lat pull-downs and tricep work on cable machine, 2 sets of 12-15 reps; 4 more laps on the track, running 1/2 a lap on every even lap; 20 crunches with medicine ball on reclining bench, 20 squats, 20 twist crunches on reclining bench, 20 lunges each leg, 20 regular crunches on reclining bench; 2 more laps, running 1/2 a lap once; 45-second plank, 20 regular floor crunches, 10 bicycle crunches, 10 reverse crunches, 2 sets of 15 reps of modified push-ups; 3 more laps around the track, running 1/2 of one lap; 6 laps as cool-down followed by about 12 minutes of yoga/stretching before a full set on the ST machines and another 5 minutes stretching. There was no stopping really between stations unless I needed water, a stretch, or to go to the other machine/station. I did take a few breaks to breathe, but the only real breaks were between the cool down, the yoga/stretching, and the ST on the machines.

No real answers here...just confirmation that I'm doing well. Okay, onward.

For those of you that are feeling those late night hunger pains, try this article entitled "Is Evening Eating Destroying Your Weight Loss Efforts?"

For me, this was something I was trying to end when I started this Midday Calorie Loading experiment. So far it's been working out great. I eat the bulk of my calories before I even leave from work. On my Nutrition Tracker you see that some of my lunches equal 600 calories. The truth is, I used to limit all my 3-big meals to around 400 calories, but I've been loading up in the middle of the day. Sometimes this means eating lunch twice. I'll have a salad and then, an hour or so later, I'll eat a sandwich. In all honesty, my body is responding quite well to this. When I pulled out my Ranch Cheddar Turkey Burger yesterday around 5pm and ate it before I left work, my workout was fully fueled and I wasn't ravenous when I got home after even that long SIBCCT I put myself through. I got home, made my mushroom and cheese omelet, and because I was trying to push up a little on my calories, I added a piece of whole wheat toast and ended the night with an ice cream treat (honestly, not the best idea, but I was within my calorie range to do so).

Right, okay. Got that. Have to remember that there is research to reinforce this method of eating and my body seems to respond well to it, so this may be my new way of eating for life - loading down my calories during the day when my body is burning the most.

Okay, so how about this article - "Is Your Diet Making You Fat?"

I did used to have a huge problem on the weekends staying on task. And, sure, my schedule goes a little wonky on the weekends because I'm working around the family, but for the most part, I've been sticking to my plan and making good choices. Fridays are for activites with the Hubs. This past week he and I started our Friday tennis date, which I hope to repeat this week, but even before then I'd hit the gym on Friday during the day, glad I wasn't on a time crunch and had the gym pretty much to myself while everyone was at work. Fridays are also meal-planning and grocery shopping days. I make a plan for the week and we follow the list at the grocery store. Saturdays are usually reserved for batch cooking and for some outdoor activity with the boys, and Sundays are for Ethan's football games and cleaning...about the only half-lazy day I get to myself. However, I do need to watch where my calories are coming from on the weekends, as we tend to eat out more and I seem to have this "this is a special time so I can have a treat" mentality. Weekends are a good time to REINFORCE my healthy habits, and show them to my boys so they can mimic them. I have GOT to remember that.

That was a good one to stumble on, but it's not exactly what I had hoped for...

Okay, one last one for you, and possibly quite fitting for me to really question - "4 Signs It's Time to Step Off the Scale"

First of all, yes, my scale can talk. In her sweetest voice she tells me, down to the tenth of a pound, how much I weigh each and every morning (mostly) when I step on her. Second of all, it's not a "bathroom scale"...what I mean is, my bathroom floor isn't the most level, so instead my scale is right in front of the fridge in the kitchen! *lol* I didn't really plan it that way, it was just the best level place for it. It has, however, stopped some mindless binges...it's hard to forget what you're working toward when the scale is staring up at you as you're picking through the leftovers in the fridge - much more effective for me than a picture of the fat me stuck on with a magnet.

I'm not anal about getting on the scale and, since I've been weighing myself every day, it makes me scoff at him (yes, the scale is male, it just has a feminine voice - anything that evil MUST be male! *lol*) more than it affects my mood. The most important thing it does is that it makes me question what I'm doing right and what I'm doing wrong, much like I'm doing in this blog today. Today my weight was 351, up a few tenths of a pound, even after the SIBCCT (or, perhaps, because of it). When I step off the scale (after, yes, cursing at it), I go through the questions:

* Did I do all I could think of yesterday to make it a good day?
A: I ate decently. I did have ice cream and I broke down midday and had a Dove Chocolate Bar. I can improve that tomorrow by sticking to my healthy snacks, apples and bananas. One thing I'm not liking is the amount of fat I eat in a day. I'm within Spark's ranges, but when my calories and carbs (go figure) are under those ranges, but my protein and fat is within them, then I'm not balancing like I should. I should probably work on that a little.

* Did I get in my exercise? Did I do enough? Did I do too much?
A: There IS a possibility that I pushed my body to its limit last night. For a regular weigher, I can tell you that a tough workout WITH ST can certainly cause a temporary gain on the scale. My muscles are in repair mode today (such an important stage, PLEASE people, remember that you need those muscle repair days! It worries me when I see you ST every single day. That might be fine for body builders - though I doubt it - but I'm a firm believer in the every other day method of ST, always have been). The research I've done in the past tells me that when you strength train, especially pushing your body like I did last night, you actually tear your muscles. Sounds painful, right? From what I understand, water builds up within those muscles to help with the repair process, but once they're all healed, they become stronger and leaner machines...and I say machines because those lean muscles eat FAT CELLS for breakfast (and lunch, and dinner, and snack!). So, yes, ST is important, but this could be a reason for the gain this morning. (BTW - I'm no expert, it's just how I understand it from the research I've done on ST. Please be sure to check with a professional if you want real answers to your ST questions!)

* How do I feel?
A: This is the MOST IMPORTANT question I ask myself, and I used to really let it slide, but lately it has become a regular for my morning weigh-in routine. How do I feel today? I feel bloated. This is week 3 of TOM (I'm calling the Dr. today...) and I just feel puffy all over. My arms are sore (no doubt from the push-ups, planks, lat pull-downs and tricep work, as well as from the machine ST) and my legs feel a little sore too (a result of the incline on the treadmill as well as the running, no doubt). My tummy is the most telling though - it feels full, bloated, puffy, a little hard to the touch. It could be gastrointestinal problems (i.e. GAS! *lol*), maybe something I ate yesterday didn't agree with me, or it could simply be bloating from more TOM nonsense. Either way, I feel those extra tenths of a pound today, but I don't think they're here to stay.

There's one thing about research...sometimes you don't find the easy answer. Sometimes you find what you NEED to find instead of what you thought you might find. This whole process isn't as simple as A + B = C. This learning to live a healthy lifestyle is more like the rules of English grammar, confusing and with a bunch of exceptions. ("i" before "e," except after "c" and words that sound like "a") What I learned from my research on plateaus is simple - I'm doing what I need to do for the most part. Sure, I could be a little more perfect, a little more on task, but really perfection is not something I can maintain my entire life. I always consider the big S when I make plans for my weight loss goals -- SUSTAINABILITY. Can I keep this up? Could I see myself doing this one year from now? Being perfect is not sustainable. So while I'll work on being more on target and really learning how to fully balance my meals (a problem I've had from day ONE), I can't honestly believe that I'll NEVER AGAIN slip up and have a chocolate bar and ice cream (hey, but maybe I can strive to never again have them BOTH in the same day!).

So I guess the biggest thing I learned about the P word (don't worry, I won't say it again...I know it scares you), is that there's another big P word that goes with it ---- PATIENCE. Oh, and another P ---- PERSISTENCE. Keep doing what you know is right. Make adjustments if need be, but keep plugging along. Because one day, in the not so distant future, you will push through this wall and see the other side of 350. And one day, in the not so distant future, you'll find yourself on that P word again...it's bound to happen...and it will happen over and over again throughout the process. But patience and persistence are the only answers. Perfection won't do. Quitting isn't an option. Just keep plugging along.

Lesson for the Day:
Patience and Persistence are the only tools you have to beat down that Plateau!
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Yeah, that's a super long TOM. Here's a website I just posted for someone else to help with the dreaded "P," it always works for me and honestly...it sounds like you need it. Your body is beat!! When I do this, I go for a Chipotle burrito haha, a 1500 calorie one ;) And I absolutely under NO circumstances TRACK IT. It never happened.... ;)

    3865 days ago
  • no profile photo CD3035359
    Okay, I loved the blog, appreciated the research as I too have been at the same weight for almost two months...but WEEK 3 of TOM...okay, that sounds BAD, and probably has a lot more to do with weight than the ice cream..

    Take the time to see the Dr.

    Take care of you! The 350 will take care of itself... emoticon
    3866 days ago
    You can be successful. You have found the tools!
    3866 days ago
  • NUMD97
    Nicely done. Thanks.
    3866 days ago
  • no profile photo CD3543611
    Wow! I know you mentioned that I inspired your SIBCCT, but I'm exhausted just thinking about it! WHAT A WORKOUT! You're amazing!
    3866 days ago
  • no profile photo CD1223914
    Great blog Esther!
    3866 days ago
  • MAIA2011
    I am going to come back and read all the articles you linked to. (More SparkPoints for me!)

    I just have one question. What the $&@# is a plank?

    (Male scale LOL)
    3866 days ago
  • ERIN1128
    Great blog!!!
    3866 days ago
    Great post. Thanks for all of the articles. Sounds like you're really on top of this. I'm sure you'll push through your plateau soon.
    3866 days ago
    Thanks for all the fantastic article links. Will definitely be reading those when I get a chance. I think the biggest sign that you will be successful in forward progress is that your are being ACTIVE and persistent in working towards that goal. As you know, I have been stuck myself for months and finally think I have found something working or me. (Calorie cycling and changing up exercise routine). Good luck!
    3866 days ago
  • no profile photo CD7875431
    You're awesome. And thank you! for this blog.
    The P's do try the (my) patience resolve and confidence, just as you say (I was flatlining all through September). But they DO break through!!

    Great links.
    You're boot camp inspires me.
    And ... emoticon emoticon emoticon
    3866 days ago
    Super informative Blog, girlfriend. I appreciate that you posted it with the links and your experience. That took a lot of time and I thank you for it!
    3866 days ago
    What a great blog! Thank you! I needed this today, I need to ask myself those questions, too. You are doing so great! That boot camp sounds like fun! Keep it up!
    3866 days ago
  • KARVY09
    Nice articles. You'll defeat the P!

    And that's one heckuva circuit workout you did... huzzah!
    3866 days ago
    emoticon blog! I've been on a plateau for a month. Finally am NOT sabotaging myself however. Truth #1 is definitely part of it for me. I am trying ST for 6 days a week but really it is fairly light ST and I'm focusing on one area a day so the other muscles do get some rest. After Pilates, my tummy NEEDS 3-4 days rest!
    Patience and Persistence are where it's at... emoticon
    3866 days ago
    Thanks for all the research and the wonderful articles! This blog was very helpful to me! I consistently work my butt off for minimal results and I KNOW that I am doing something wrong, so hopefully I'll find a little help in one of those articles!

    I completely agree with you on the ST front. Rest days are paramount. I know when I have an intense ST session if I don't take the day afterwards off I feel so weak and drained. It is an amazing thing though. I think people underestimate ST because it is "boring" or "hard," but when you are really consistent with it, you start to see beautiful muscles and your hard work pays off in inches lost and clothes fitting differently, not just a number on the scale.

    If I haven't lost weight in a few weeks I measure myself, I'm usually pleasantly surprised that I've lost inches even though I haven't lost weight. The number doesn't mean everything!!!!

    Thanks, again! Great blog!
    3866 days ago
  • MAGPIE17
    Great blog, Esther! Looks like you've had a bit of a breakthrough!
    3866 days ago
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