Break through a weight loss plateau with REST

Anyone who has tried to lose weight has experienced a weight loss plateau – large or small. You lose, you lose, you lose – and then it stops. Some times you regain weight that was lost. Sometimes the plateau is a week or two. Other times it lasts months.

Plateaus occur in part because the human body has set points. Your body will reach a new set point approximately every 12 weeks. What does that mean? You can expect a plateau every 12 weeks – if not every six. NOTE: This varies on an individual basis, but these are common benchmarks.

Research shows that we can use plateaus to benefit the long term journey (Fairburn, 2008). The best plan is to be prepared.

Six month rule

For a client who is looking to lose a significant amount of weight (>40% of her bodyweight), I implement a six month rule. We work together to set weekly and monthly short-term goals and six-month, long-term goals. At the six month milestone, all weight goals pertain to weight maintenance.

Yes, maintenance, not loss.

Physiologically, the body has been in a deprived state for a significant amount of time. While the ideal program will have guided you to avoid reaching the physiological starvation mode, at some point your body is going to adapt to the deprivation. NOTE: I do not even like using the word deprivation, as a weight loss that results from deprivation is a band-aid, not a long-term solution. Further, deprivation bares a negative connotation and negativity is detrimental to goal attainment.

Maintenance

After six months of dedication to strict meal planning and lifestyle changes, it is a good idea for you to allow yourself to simply BE. Maintain what you have worked so hard to achieve. Accept it. Appreciate it. Recognize it. At this point on your journey, it may be difficult to see what is real when you look in the mirror – and you may see a previous version of yourself. The phantom fat phenomenon may be preventing you from being able to see your results. This can add discouragement and frustration to a lengthy, taxing process.

I encourage clients to take at least a month to focus on maintenance at the six month mark. During this time goals do not increase physical activity, nor do they change eating habits. Goals focus on the established lifestyle. If a client had previous goals of working out 3 times a week, we retain that goal for the 4 weeks – but we do not reach for more. I do not encourage her to stretch herself. We work to maintain the changes made so far and adopt them as part of a lasting, healthy lifestyle.

If you choose to maintain – you retain the control instead of allowing the plateau to control you.

A time to rest
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Sometimes we just need a break. Sometimes you just need to be easy on yourself. You also need to know, that it is OKAY to rest. In fact, you need to rest. Why do most individuals quit weight loss programs?

Grow tired and weary?

The mental fatigue of constantly thinking about what you need to do next?

The lack of results?

We often view the plateau as a failure. Change your thinking and use that time as an opportunity for rest. Rest the mind – knowing that where you are today is better than where you were yesterday. Stop thinking about what you need to do differently or more of this week or next. Just allow yourself to BE.

A time to check in

A plateau is an opportunity to rest. It is also an opportunity to check in with yourself. Be honest.

How are things working?

Are you putting forth enough effort?

Do the workouts fit into your lifestyle as a long-term addition?

Can you maintain the ‘diet’ in the long term?

Are your goals still realistic or do they need to be modified?

Something has got to change

This is the common advice for anyone looking to break through a plateau – you have to change in order to see change. This is true. The human body is highly adaptive – it takes six exposures (give or take) to an exercise before the body adapts to it. What does this mean? You need to change – the load, mode, duration, etc. For once the body adapts, you will no longer obtain results by doing that same thing.

However, it is not that simple. Most individuals who experience significant weight loss followed by a lengthy plateau lost the weight by creating a huge dietary intake deficit. To some of you this may sound good. It can actually be detrimental to long-term success. The result is a slow and groggy metabolism. Sometimes the necessary change is to eat more – revving up that metabolism. Example: I spent a summer working for a weight loss resort, essentially eating what the guests ate. I gained almost 15 pounds – my dietary needs were not being met and it slowed my metabolism WAY down. I lost that weight quickly and easily by eating more.

The bottomline

Plateaus are going to happen. It is best to be prepared for them. There are ways to reduce the frequency of plateaus, using science-based workouts and programming. You will not find this in a DVD or in a standard group fitness class. You will not get this programming from your average personal trainer, either.

My best advice to you – plan for maintenance every 3 to 6 months. Use this time to be proud and regroup. Rejuvinate. Enjoy what you have earned.

If you like what you read, please comment and share below.

References

Cooper, Z., Fairburn, C. G., & Hawker, D. M. (2003). Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Obesity: A Clinician’s Guide. New York: The Guilford Press.

Fairburn, C. G. (2008). Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Eating Disorders. New York: The Guilford Press.

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Finding more on a weight loss journey

A dear friend shares her journey and her heart.

To love yourself right now, just as you are, is to give yourself heaven. Don’t wait until you die. 
If you wait, you die now. If you love, you live now. – Alan Cohen

Often times, when we discuss love, it is in relation to our connections with others.  We give love anthropomorphic tendencies, describing its ability to create harmony, whether through our own personal connections or a universal exchange (that links all persons in a global community).  Discussions regarding self-love are relegated to conversations relating its pertinence in the face of limited self-worth.  The implicit necessity of loving one’s self is paramount in establishing worthwhile connections with others. 

Since this blog is about health & fitness, I will tailor this entry, relating self-love to my weight loss journey.   

Last summer I began a journey towards health & fitness, though my immediate goal revolved around losing a tremendous amount of excess weight, my exigent goal was to learn to love myself.  My excess weight was a reflection of my inner turmoil, my struggle to find acceptance (a struggle I presumed to be externally founded…. thereby, extrinsically resolved).  I assumed that loving myself would be a natural effect of changing the way I looked physically.  By changing my appearance, I would become more acceptable to others, allowing me to become more acceptable to myself.  This change would provide an avenue for me to establish connections with others (at that point I was socially isolated, spending tremendous amounts of time alone with limited social interactions) and increase my self-efficacy (believing I could accomplish the many goals I had set for myself).  To a degree these presumptions were accurate.  I have changed the way I look, I am more appealing to others and have a greater sense of comfort in my physique, but that has not translated itself into increased self-worth. 

There is still a sense of lacking and deficiency.  As I strive towards attaining what I believe to be the “perfect body” (for myself), I constantly have to face the impact of my limited self-worth. I am faced with the unhealthy habits I’ve developed, as I strive to love myself . . .. having formerly “loved” myself with food.  I developed a reliance on food to cope.  In the absence of self-acceptance and social relationships, food became an ally.  In losing weight, the foods I formerly relied on for comfort have become an enemy.  They no longer provide me with the same semblance of peace or “happiness”.  I have come to realize that my perception of myself is highly correlated to all of my struggles, I have to resolve my intrinsic feelings of worth, so that I may find the acceptance I long for.  The lack of connectedness I feel with others is greatly attributed to the lack of connection I feel with myself.  Changing my physiognomy has not changed the pertinence of answering these issues. 

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I have to learn to love myself, to be comfortable in my own skin, to appreciate who I am.  I have to become whole.  I have to learn to live, because I’m tired of feeling dead to myself . . .. not knowing or appreciating the characteristics that make me a worthwhile individual.  It’s exciting, this concept of self-discovery.  But this undertaking is by no means easy.  This process has been laden with valleys and peaks.  It requires changing my mind, literally.  Reframing thoughts, addressing hurts, and examining fears.  Exchanging unhealthy behaviors that were once associated with loving myself for behaviors that truly reflect love for myself.  In doing so, I am hoping to experience the tranquility that comes with loving one’s self.  Partaking in the ubiquity of love, as it connects me to those I care for. 

I am grateful for those who are willing to love me along the way, as I learn to love myself.

What has your journey shown you that you did not expect?

Stop starving – Meal and snack creation made simple

The good news? Weight management is simple. The bad news? Weight management is not easy. I am continually growing my expertise in the matter, trying to better understand how I can help my friends, family, clients, strangers, etc. I wish that I could make it easier for you.

In talking to individuals, it is becoming more and more obvious to me that we are starving ourselves. We are starving ourselves fat. Yesterday, I posted about how many calories you should eat. Just because you are eating enough calories does not mean that you are not starving. Are you eating empty calories (watch future posts)? Are you drinking too  much alcohol? Are you eliminating an entire food group? If you don’t eat your vegetables, you are starving your body of vital vitamins and minerals.

While planning your daily meals and snacks, select your preferred foods and match them with the portions outlined on the gender-specific meal template. It should be noted that some fats also double as a protein. Because of the low caloric value and high nutrient value of green vegetables, you can add a few more servings if you desire. I advise you drink 1-2 8 oz. glasses of cold water with each meal and snack. After a few weeks, if you find you are not losing fat as quickly as desired, try cutting your grains back 1 serving: For example from 3 to 2, and 2 to 1.

Meal Plan Template for Males

Breakfast Snack Lunch Snack Dinner Snack
3 grains 2 grains or fruit (or combo of 1 grain and 1 fruit) and 1 protein 3 grains 2 grains or fruits (or combo of 1 grain and 1 fruit) and 1 protein or fat 3 grains 2 fruits or vegetable and 1 protein or fat
1 protein OR 2 proteins OR 2 proteins OR
1 fruit 1 protein supplement 1 fat 1 protein supplement 1 fat 1 protein supplement
1 fat 1 fruit or vegetable 3 vegetables

Meal Plan Template for Females

Breakfast Snack Lunch Snack Dinner Snack
2 grains 1 grain or fruit and 1 protein 2 grains 1 grain or a fruit and 1 protein or fat 2 grains 1 fruit or vegetable and 1 protein or fat
1 protein OR 1 protein OR 1 protein OR
1 fruit 1 protein supplement 1 fat or vegetable 1 protein supplement 1 fat 1 protein supplement
1 fat 3 vegetables

Below I have included some tables reference the macronutrient categories. This IS NOT all inclusive. If you enjoy eating something that you don’t see here and you want to know where it fits – ask!

Now go forth – and don’t be afraid to eat! The good foods listed here, of course.

GRAINS
PROTEIN
Meat/Egg
Dairy
Vegetarian

1 slice bread

4 oz turkey

1/2 cottage cheese

1/2 c tofu/unprocessed soy/soybeans (edamame)

1/2 bagel

4 oz chicken breast

8 oz fat-free or 1% milk

1/2 c cooked beans (legumes)

1/2 English muffin

4 oz fish (all types)

6 oz low-sugar, fat-free yogurt

1/2 c soy milk

1 whole wheat tortilla

2 eggs

1/2 c lentils/peas

1 c high-fiber cereal

4 egg whites

1/2 c cooked oatmeal

3/4 c egg beaters

1/2 c brown rice

4 oz lean beef (sirlion/round/flank steaks)

1/2 c cooked pasta

4 oz lean ham/pork

1 m baked sweet potato

1 m baked potato

1/2 c corn

Fruits
Vegetables
Fats
Supplements

1 apple

1/2 c asparagus

1 Tbsp olive oil

Daily Multi-Vitamin

Omega 3/Fish Oil

high-quality protein supplements

1 banana

1/2 c bell pepper

1 Tbsp flaxseed oil

1 c berries

1/2 c carrots

1/2 avocado

1 grapefruit

1/2 c green beans

1/4 c peanuts, walnuts, or almonds

1 orange

1/2 c mushrooms

1/4 c low-fat cheese

1 peach or nectarine

1 c spinach

1 slice low-fat cheese

1 1/2 c grapes

1 c romaine lettuce

2 Tbsp low-fat dressing

21 cherries

1/2 c celery

1 Tbsp  regular dressing

8 strawberries

1/2 c cookd or raw vegetables

1 tsp butter or margarine

1/2-3/4 c 100% fruit juice

1 c raw leafy vegetables.

1 Tbsp peanut butter

1 medium fruit

1 Tbsp Enov oil

1/2 c cooked or canned fruit

Nutrition advice: Where do you go?

We are constantly looking for answers to questions. Questions of all kinds. Thousands of people are interested in expanding their nutrition knowledge, but where are they turning for the answers to their questions? According to the American Dietetic Association (ADA), most people get their nutrition information from the media: Television, magazines, the Internet, and newspapers. However, these popular sources of information are among the least credible, according to the ADA.

Many people are now going to the Internet first: Google and other search engines, WebMd, Wikipedia, personal blogs, etc. Can you trust the answers? Take for example Wikipedia…this is a free encyclopedia that anyone can edit…no expertise or qualifications needed. Do you really want to trust that information?

Sometimes the text on a page, or the well-meaning advice you received from a coworker, just won’t cut it.  And when this advice fails, more consumers are seeking guidance from experts who can answer their questions, provide personalized feedback, and offer individualized advice. But who is qualified to provide these answers? We want to trust our physicians, but the truth is 80% of physicians have not had even one course in nutrition. The most credible sources for your nutritional needs are registered dietitians.

Buyer beware  – Do your homework

One of the most accessible locations claiming to offer such services is local fitness centers. However, you must do your homework before signing up. Just as I have warned you about personal trainers, not all nutrition specialists are created equal. Some local fitness centers allow trainers to call themselves ‘Certified Nutritionists,’ well aware of how deceptive that is.

Unfortunately, the definition and meaning of the term “nutritionist” may vary greatly from one facility to another. This makes it difficult and confusing for you, the consumer. In many states, anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, even without a college degree or any formal training in the science of nutrition. Although some states regulate the title of “nutritionist,” other similar sounding titles, such as “nutrition consultant” can still be freely used with no defined meaning. However, this is not always the case. In fact, using the title Certified Nutritionist, as some do, actually disregards legislation (s. 448.76) which states:

A person who is not a certified dietitian may not designate himself or herself as a dietitian, claim to provide dietetic services or use any title or initials that represent or may tend to represent the person as certified or licensed as a dietitian or as certified or licensed in a nutrition-related field.[Emphasis Added]

Clarifying the background and credentials of the person you meet with is important because nutrition is a complex science that requires years of training and continuing education. Receiving incorrect information from an untrained or poorly-trained individual could result in worsening your health. Here’s a breakdown of the credentials:

Registered Dietitian (R.D.). The R.D. credential is granted by the ADA and ensures that this individual has graduated with at least a bachelor of science degree in nutrition or dietetics from an accredited program, finished a 900-hour supervised internship that includes clinical experience, passed a national board examination, and completes at least 75 hours of continuing education every five years. R.D.s have more formal training in nutrition science than any other health professional.

Licensed Dietitian/Nutritionist (L.D. or sometimes L.D./N.). Currently, 30 states require nutrition practitioners to apply to the state to become licensed as a dietitian or nutritionist (similar to physicians, nurses, physical therapists, etc.). State licensing ensures that an individual has met educational and training requirements. In addition, states can penalize individuals who operate unsafely or unethically, including revoking their license to practice.

The bottomline

Seek out a R.D. or L.D. if you have any medical conditions, including type 2 diabetes, high-blood pressure, high cholesterol, polycystic ovary syndrome, food allergies, or digestive problems. Check with your insurance company to see if they will cover your visit or reimburse your out-of-pocket expense. And if you are generally healthy (no medical conditions), consider taking a group nutrition class taught by a R.D.

If you’re meeting with anyone other than a R.D. or L.D./N. – such as a nutritional consultant or a personal trainer who is not also a R.D. – expect to receive only general nutrition education and advice. Fitness professionals have some nutrition training, but not enough to provide individualized nutrition assessments and counseling. They can, however, provide basic but important nutrition information, which may include explaining the basic food groups, teaching you how to read food labels, or answering general nutrition questions.

So, be careful who you take advice from. Each body is different. We know this. And just as each person should look for customized workouts, each person should seek out the diet and nutrition specific to their body type and lifestyle!

Enough said for today!

References

American Dietetic Association, www.eatright..org

Wisconsin Administrative Code, Retrieved from: http://nxt.legis.state.wi.us/nxt/gateway.dll?f=templates&fn=default.htm&d=stats&jd=448.76.

It’s not a diet; it’s a lifestyle

For many of us, it’s not about what we eat; but rather, HOW MUCH we eat. How many times have you heard someone tell you that he/she eats healthy but can’t achieve the desired fat loss? The chances are this person is either not eating enough or eating too much, maybe even too much of a good thing. fit in gym

Do you know how many grapes make a serving? Is that monstrous bagel or banana you bought 1 serving? There are various tips or tricks that can help you ‘eyeball’ appropriate serving sizes. Here is a guide to serving sizes.

Serving sizes are deceiving. When eating out in restaurants, it’s hard to miss that portion sizes have gotten larger. The trend has also spilled over into the grocery store and vending machines, where bagel sizes have doubled and an ‘individual’ bag of chips can easily feed more than one. Research reported that people unintentionally consume more calories when faced with larger portions (Brzycki, 2008; Geier, Rozin, & Doros, 2006). This can mean significant excess calorie intake, especially when eating high-calorie foods.

When eating out. Many restaurants serve more food than one person needs at one meal. Take control of the amount of food that ends up on your plate by splitting an entrée with a friend. Or, ask the wait person for a “to-go” box and wrap up half your meal as soon as it’s brought to the table.

When eating in. To minimize the temptation of second and third helpings when eating at home, serve the food on individual plates, instead of putting the serving dishes on the table. Keeping the excess food out of reach may discourage overeating. Using smaller plates and bowls will also decrease the likelihood of overeating (Brzycki, 2008).

When eating or snacking in front of the TV, put the amount that you plan to eat into a bowl or container instead of eating straight from the package. It’s easy to overeat when your attention is focused on something else.

It’s ok to snack. We learned as children not to snack before a meal for fear of spoiling our dinners. It’s time to forget that old rule. If you feel hungry between meals, eat a healthy snack, like a small piece of fruit or some nuts, to avoid overeating during your next meal.

Be aware of large packages. The larger the package, the more people consume from it without realizing it (Brzycki, 2008; Geier, Rozin, & Doros, 2006). To minimize this effect:

  • Divide up the contents of one large package into several smaller containers.
  • Don’t eat straight from the package. Instead, serve the food in a small bowl or container.

Out of sight, out of mind. People tend to consume more when they have easy access to food. Make your home a “portion friendly zone.”

  • Replace the candy dish/cookie jar with a fruit bowl.
  • Store especially tempting foods, like cookies, chips, or ice cream, out of immediate eyesight, like on a high shelf or at the back of the freezer. Move the healthier food to the front at eye level.
  • When buying in bulk, store the excess in a place that’s not convenient to get to, such as a high cabinet or at the back of the pantry.

The bottomline

The emphasis is portion control and the philosophy that you can have everything in moderation. You will have cake at the birthday party and a glass of wine with dinner.  You cannot live life on the countless diets out there. Forget restrictions that will diminish your results!

Not sure where to start? I can offer this basic knowledge and my own experiences, but that is limited. If you are committed and determined to changing your life, consult a registered dietitian – NOT a nutritionist or ‘nutrition consultant’. A balanced meal plan is sustainable and can become a lifestyle to take you long into the future. Forget the gimmicks and fad diets. Give yourself a plan that will help you lose the unwanted fat and keep that fat off.

References

Brzycki, M. (2008). Portion distribution: Size does matter!. Coach & Athletic Director, 77(7), 52-58.

Geier, A., Rozin, P., & Doros, G. (2006). Unit bias. Psychological Science, 17(6), 521-525.