Reader’s Request: Plateaus

Hey friends 🙂 How’s your morning treating ya? Hope it’s been lovely so far 🙂

Lately, I’ve received quite a few emails/comments about plateaus and thought it would be perfect for this morning’s post.

*Friendly disclaimer: if talking about calories/weight/plateaus is a triggering or uncomfortable topic for you, please skip this particular reader’s request. I’ll be back with standard shenanigans this afternoon 😉 Let’s all be aware of how certain topics affect our bodies and minds and use our best judgment <3

Hey Gina,

I love your blog!!! You and the Pilot are so cute. I have a reader’s request for you: I’ve lost 20 lbs and have at least 5-10 lbs until I reach my goal weight. When I started out, it seemed like the results were happening so much more quickly and feels like I’ve hit a plateau. Last week I only lost 1 lb! I’m doing everything I did before, but it seems like my progress has totally stalled.

Any help would be appreciated! Thanks for the great blog.

Sara

Plateaus are a tricky little thing… mostly because I don’t really believe that they exist.

I think a *plateau* is often the result of the body saying “hey, I’m in a happy place! I like it here”

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I think that oftentimes when we feel like we’ve hit a plateau, it’s actually a combo of the rule of diminishing returns and our body finding its own happy weight.

For example, when we have a lot of weight to lose, our body responds to small changes more rapidly. For example, when I first began my weight loss journey, I cut out refined carbs and only focused on whole grains. I dropped weight from that small change very quickly because it was so different from the foods I had consumed previously and my body responded immediately.

When we drop the bulk of our unhealthy range and get into a safe and healthy range, our body likes being there. It’s comfortable and can flourish on a healthy weight, which is why trying to lose “vanity pounds” (often referred to as “the last 5 or 10 lbs”) makes it more difficult.

Also, when the reader said she only lost 1 lb- guess what? 1 lb is still progress, not a plateau 🙂 [Also 1-2 lbs a week is a healthy and safe range for weight loss, assuming that you’re still trying to get to a healthy weight]

I think when we get to the point of trying to lose vanity pounds, it’s even more critical to focus on body fat percentage than a number on the scale.

Body fat percentage says SO much more about composition than weight (as we all know, muscle is more dense than fat), so it’s a great idea to get checked out by a personal trainer at your local gym. Many will give you your body composition stats for a small fee, or for free!

The best way to check body fat percentage is via the Bod Pod (<— you can read my experience with it *here*)

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Bonus: you get to wear a funny little hat 😉

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So let’s say, hypothetically you get your body fat percentage tested and you want to focus on decreasing fat and building muscle. [Mother hen note: Stay above 18%! This will protect your baby-making abilities]

Here are some tips:

1. Keep a journal! When I was trying to decrease my body fat percentage, I kept a journal with my eats for the day, exercise, water intake and fruits/veggie servings. I didn’t count calories, but instead tried to be more mindful that I was getting the nutrients I needed and a good balance of macronutrients. Calorie counting works wonders for some people, but I’m not one of them.

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2. Change up your exercise routine. Diminishing fitness results can occur from the body kicking in cruise control. It’s a smart machine and gets used to the tasks it’s routinely asked to perform- shake it up a little. Instead of focusing on the quality of workouts, focus on quality. Add in some HIIT (High intensity interval training), new classes, switch up your weight split (for weight training splits, check out *this post*) or just change up the order in which you do you cardio and weights. A new fitness plan is a great way to change up your current routine, shock the body and see amazing results. I love TurboFire, Insanity, the Summer Shape Up plans (new one starts June 6th!) and Bodyrock. A new routine often = instant refresher in motivation.

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3. Respect the fact that the scale may not move. You body may be in its “happy place” weight-wise and while the scale doesn’t go down, it could actually go UP and you’d need a smaller jean size. Monitor your body fat percentage every couple of months to see if you’re on the track you’d like to be.

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I hope this helps a little!

Have you ever felt like you hit a plateau? What steps did you take?

xoxo

Gina

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73 Comments

  1. Nicole @ Fresh & Fit on May 23, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    I agree totally agree. Once a significant amount of “unhealthy weight” has been lost, I think we need to learn to shift focus from the numbers on the scale to how cloths fit, and measurements. Being strong and fit is the most important!

  2. Stacy @ Stacy Eats on May 23, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    This helps a lot, Gina! Thanks for the tips! Lately I’ve felt like I’m at a plateau. I lost over 20 pounds and am feeling great, but still had some pounds (fat) to get rid of in my mid-section. Since I was feeling so good, I actually started to gain a little weight because of overeating. I love this advice though and I’m excited to switch up my routine to shock my body.

  3. Tamar on May 23, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    Thanks so much for this post! I didn’t know there was a more scientific way to check body fat percentage and metabolism! The formulas for RMR that can be found online don’t seem to work for me; if I eat as much as it tells me to eat, I gain weight, and it’s not because I’m underweight (I’m in normal range.) There isn’t a Bod Pod near where I live; do you know the names of any other types of RMR testers? I can’t seem to figure it out through google.

    • Fitnessista on May 23, 2011 at 5:08 pm

      you mean BMR?

      • Tamar on May 23, 2011 at 5:36 pm

        Thanks for responding! They’re related, right? But either one would be good. I just want to know how much to eat to maintain or lose.

  4. Shannon on May 23, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    A pound a week is honestly awesome! If you’re only trying to lose 5-10 pounds, that puts you at your goal weight by 4th of July.

  5. Colleen on May 23, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    Great tips, Gina! So true that plateaus deserve our respect and consideration–could just be the body’s way of saying this is where I need to be.

  6. Jenn B on May 23, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    I definitely think there is a body “happy place”. The funny thing about my body has been that I lost about 20 pounds in the year after I graduated and really had to work for it. I was very conscious of food and made sure to hit the gym about 5 times a week. This last year however was the funky part. For about 5 months it was like my metabolism kicked into its 15 yr. old self and I could eat anything. We’re talking several cinnamon rolls a day. Bad news for my ability to not consume all things baked. But now reality has set in again, I put on a few little pounds from Girl Scout cookie season and now I’m back to my food conscious phase.

    The age old lesson of learning a balance has apparently not stuck with me yet. But its a journey, a process and I hope to do better everyday and hopefully be consistent over the years!

  7. Alexa @ Simple Eats on May 23, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    These are awesome tips. Plateaus are definitely a hard thing…keeping things interesting definitely helps!

  8. Chelsea M on May 23, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    Thanks for the great post Gina! Last year I lost about 15 lbs by committing exercising 5-6 days a week and eating mindfully through Weight Watchers (I’m petite so a few pounds can really affect my body shape). However when I got distracted and wasn’t as vigilant I gained back about 3-5lbs. I was immediately frustrated. It took me a while but I realized that if I push myself I can lose those pounds but really my body is at it’s “happy weight” as you put it. I have a healthy weight, BMI, and fat percent as per the measurements from my personal trainer. Plateaus can be really frustrating and it can take as much time to get off of one as to accept that this is where your body wants to be.

    Sorry for the speech but I really relate to this and wanted to show my support! Thanks for all your wonderful blogging!

  9. Babs on May 23, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    Good advice Gina, especially regarding BF%!!!!!
    One of the biggest mistakes I ever made was getting my BF% well below 18%. My body has never been the same since:(

  10. Gillbear on May 23, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    I only ever weigh myself for humour sake. I have dropped 2 dress sizes before and not lost any weight. Also I am a bigger frame so stressing out about a number which can never realistically happen is pretty silly.

  11. Len on May 24, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    Im curious about the food logging. I used to count calories and hated it but I like the idea of still keeping track… do you strive to have a protein, fat and carb at every meal? or do you just do it to make sure you arent eating too much of one thing? thanks!

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