3 ways to move the needle when you hit a weight loss plateau

When you don’t get the result you expect fast enough, or you hit a weight loss plateau, you likely make some observations. Things like “I must be doing something wrong” or “this isn’t working.”

Be careful. These insidious thoughts lead to something worse. 

Next thing you know you’ll justify skipping a workout, having seconds, or snacking on jelly bellies. After all, it’s not working so why bother? 

Can you see how asking the wrong questions ensures you don’t lose weight or, you gain back what you’ve lost?

Photo by mali maeder: https://www.pexels.com/photo/yellow-analog-meter-50634/

You want to delve into why you’re at a weight loss plateau in a way that keeps you on track and motivated to continue. Here are three ways to do that:

1. Ask useful questions. Like: 

  • What, if I was consistent, would have a big impact on my results?
  • What am I doing well that I can capitalize on?
  • Is there something I was doing previously that made a difference, but I’ve gotten out of the habit?

The key is recognizing where you’re winning and how you can build on that. And to see where you might need to shift or re-engage. Once you identify those areas, take a close look at food and movement…

2. Food assessment. Sometimes what you’re eating got you to where you are, but it won’t get you further. Let’s say you were drinking a sugary coffee most afternoons and having dessert every night and, after cutting it in half you lost weight. It may be that reducing half the sugar gets you this far, but not the rest of the way. In what areas might this be the case for you?

Another consideration is, are you consistent with your eating habits or have you let some things slide? Maybe in the beginning you were mindful of not snacking while preparing dinner or while watching TV, but those habits have creeped back in. Or you eat a bit too much, not to the point of stuffed but more than sufficient. Find where you need to get back to what was working. 

3. Exercise progression. Do you know a woman who after years of walking almost everyday, laments that her body doesn’t look any different?  I asked this while speaking at a women’s conference and one audience member said, “I know who you’re talking about. That’s me!”

Our bodies need new and different exercise options to continue changing. You can challenge your body in several ways, such as:

  • Exercise longer and/or more frequently
  • Up your aerobic exercise intensity (see ways to measure it here)
  • Get variety. If you walk, add biking, dancing, running…anything. 
  • If you don’t already, add strength training (it’s a must!)
  • Lift heavier weights 
  • Shake up your strength exercises

I’ve had several clients who, after making changes like these, were able to workout less and start losing weight again.

Reaching a weight loss plateau is common. The key is to respond with curiosity and compassion. Take credit for the progress you’ve made. Then, determine what needs to change and decide what you’ll do about it.  You got this.

“I hope it works!”

…are four words that will keep you stuck. Keep you from losing weight. From enjoying food and having the body you want.

“Hope is not a strategy” is famously used in business and politics. I want to bring it to a personal level.

When a client says to me “I hope it works” what she’s saying is she hopes the strategy will work. That she’ll lose weight.

Hoping “it” will work is giving your power to the thing. It. The thing you think will get you results. That is, the plan, program or process.

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

The truth is, many things will work. Seriously, many. You could go vegan, paleo, do CrossFit®, go to a gym, workout at home, run, swim, do yoga, eat out, not eat out, drink alcohol, or not. Figuring out what will work for you is simple. It requires experimentation, fine-tuning and consistency. Repeat. Multiple times.

Hope does not get the result. You get the result. You following through with the experimenting, the fine-tuning and being consistent. Even when you don’t feel like it. Even when it’s hard and you feel like quitting. That’s where results come. Not from “it.”

“Aren’t you just playing with semantics, Heather?” Of course! Because words matter.

Here’s what I mean. How do you feel when you say “I hope it works”? Do you feel motivated and confident? Or do you feel desperate, maybe anxious? You want to cultivate the feelings that will lead to follow through. Even when part of you doesn’t want to.

One definition of hope is “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” Did you catch that last part? A certain thing to happen. As though maybe you’ll be lucky, maybe you won’t. When we hope for something to happen, it indicates a certain passivity. Like we’re at the mercy of something outside ourselves.

What I really want you to know is this: You make it happen. The ability to enjoy food AND have the body you want is completely up to you. You can hope, but it’s got to be backed up with thoughts that generate action. Action that gets the result. The result you want.

You are capable of so much. Believing that will take you much further than hope.

Do your decisions feel like a chore or a choice?

A blog popped into my inbox last month from my colleague Conni Medina titled Choose Your Words Wisely. I recently wrote about elevating the conversations we have with ourselves so I eagerly read her piece. Spot on.

Her focus was on a particular set of words, those that hint at obligation rather than choice, like “should” and “have to.”  These are words I hear in every coaching call. In every prospect call. In almost every conversation I have with myself and others. We say them without question.

Many years ago, I trained with a Registered Dietician to learn nutrition and intuitive eating concepts. She told a story of finishing with her last patient of the day and as they left together, she casually said “I have to go to the gym.” Her patient, wheelchair-bound, said “you don’t have to go to the gym; you get to go to the gym.”

Consider the times you say those words:

  • I have to cook dinner for my family
  • I shouldn’t eat any more
  • I should exercise

Can we say drudgery? Deprivation?

But what if we change those around:

  • I choose to cook dinner for my family
  • I’ve decided to stop eating when I’m satiated
  • I’ve committed to regular exercise

When we use the language of choice, we use the language of freedom. And our brains like that much better than feeling forced to do something. But as Conni wrote, sometimes feeling obligated may indicate that you’re over-committed or doing things you don’t enjoy. How do you know the difference?

Photo by Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash

Ask yourself and trust the answer. For example, would you commit to the project/position/task all over again? Would you bow out if given the opportunity? Would you make a difference choice today?

You don’t “have to” do anything. Sure, there are consequences to not doing the thing (like paying taxes), but be honest with yourself that it’s a choice.

Once you identify what you genuinely don’t want to do anymore, consider how you can remove yourself from those duties.

For the others, be purposeful with your words. Use the language of choice. You’ll notice an entirely different relationship to the tasks. Doing the things becomes easier. In some cases, effortless.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if losing weight and keeping it off, felt more effortless? It can be. Let’s talk!

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