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.

Can positive thinking really help you lose weight?

I’ve seen positive thinking bring about amazing results in my life and that of my clients. I’ve also seen it produce feelings of guilt and anxiety, yielding the exact opposite of one’s desired outcome.

Why such dramatically different results? Because it all depends on what you believe. That’s the main problem with negative thoughts: you believe them. And when you believe them, you fulfill them (i.e. self-fulfilling prophecy). 

In her book, How Emotions are Made, the Secret Life of the Brain, Lisa Feldman Barrett says that we look to past experiences that guide our actions. For example, you create a concept of weight loss, by categorizing past weight loss attempts. When you see that they “don’t work” or “I failed” you essentially predict failure the next time. You literally plan to fail.

Even if you gather up enough motivation to try again, your first skipped workout or trip through the drive-thru, builds on the case against your ability to lose weight. 

(You may have similar experience in business or relationships…can you see the parallels?)

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Now you might say, “but Heather, I believe my positive thoughts. Don’t they balance out the negative?” 

It depends. If your belief in the negative feels really true, simply pasting on a happy face and insisting that “I know I can do anything I put my mind to…” will feel fake. And then it takes a lot of energy to pretend to yourself that you feel good about it. I also see positive thinking invoke guilt or shame for someone when her negative thoughts are persistent. 

If you want positive thinking to work for you, use these 3 techniques:

  1. Gradually inch towards the positive. Take a persistent negative thought that you have and make it less negative. Like “I can never stick with an exercise plan” becomes “sometimes I’m consistent with exercise and sometimes I’m not.” Find something that feels just as true as your automatic thought and replace it when it pops up. Slowly move this negative thought towards neutral. Practice it enough and you’ll be ready to move it to positive. 
  2. Notice how you feel. Just because a statement appears positive does not mean it will make you feel good. To be effective, a positive thought needs to invoke the feelings you want. Is it motivation, determination, confidence, excitement, calm? How do you need to feel to drive the actions you want to take? Find one key positive thought that feels genuinely good to you and practice it throughout each day.
  3. Track your daily wins. Especially the small ones. Helping your brain acknowledge that small successes are relevant to your long-term goals makes it more likely that you’ll be consistent. Because small steps lead to big results.

It’s okay – and totally normal – to feel negative. Like, when you don’t follow through on your healthy habits you probably want to feel disappointed. But don’t wallow in disappointment. Use these three techniques to move from negative to positive in a way that really works for you.  

Hey, want to watch my video on how to change from a negative to positive mindset? You can watch it at my Facebook Group, here.

My Top 5 Secrets For Keeping Fit Over 50

My Top 5 Secrets For Keeping Fit Over 50

At 40, I recall looking at a picture of myself at 32. I was on the beach in Ensenada with a few girlfriends for my bachelorette party, wearing a tankini. Dang, I looked good. But you know what? I didn’t appreciate it at the time. It wasn’t good enough.

It was during my forties that I gradually re-framed my thoughts on aging. And when I hit 50, it somehow clicked into place. I dropped the last 10 lbs. And I want to share with you how I keep fit over 50:

  1. Exercise is a genuine habit. It’s not something I try to fit in. It’s part of my lifestyle. I do it five to six days a week, barring significant illness or injury. Even then, I can usually do something. (E.g. I injured my foot a couple of months ago and walking was difficult. I figured out the strength exercises I could manage and did them M-F for a few weeks while my foot healed.) I’ve developed the identity of a regular exerciser.
  2. I got serious about strength training. It’s not my favorite and even when I was a personal trainer in the 90s most of my personal exercise routine consisted of cardio. Mentally, I had to decide it was a priority to build and preserve my muscle mass so that I could be strong and healthy for the next 50. This was no longer about wearing a bikini (which never provided the motivation I needed). 
  3. Stretching is a necessity if I want to feel good. I have a routine I do every morning that consists of a few things I learned at a Kundalini Yoga retreat mixed in with some standard stretches. At night I do a couple moves to loosen my hip joints and anything else that needs it. If I’m sitting a lot during the day, I get up and stretch my chest, hip flexors and neck. 
  4. I’m totally okay with feeling hungry. For most of my life, I ate the moment I felt any bit of hunger. Like I was afraid to get too hungry (with good reason…it feels terrible and leads me to overeat). But I’ve learned enough about the cues to know when I genuinely need to eat and when I can wait (which is most of the time). Instead of eating soon after waking, I’m able to wait 2-3 hours. I no longer snack between breakfast and lunch. And I’m done with food at dinner. No more after-dinner snacking. Even the “healthy” kind. 
  5. Whole plants are the priority in my diet. I’m always looking for ways to get more into my day. And I always seek to trade out refined carbohydrates for whole grains. Even when animal protein is on the menu, I add plants. Like when we have eggs and sausage on a Saturday morning, you can bet a sweet potato, avocado, salsa and grapefruit are on the plate, too. At a Thai restaurant I’m trading out white for brown rice and my protein is tofu. Dessert for me is a couple of dates dipped in almond butter. Because my mind is focused on plants, it feels abnormal to not eat them. 

These habits did not start out feeling natural. I’m not someone who grew up in an athletic, or even active, family. I don’t get a high from exercise (they say it exists, but I have yet to find it). I used to think stretching was unproductive (even though I knew better). There was a time I felt deprived if I didn’t have a little dark chocolate every night. And a time when I regularly told myself I was “starving” and needed a snack. 

My Top 5 Secrets For Keeping Fit Over 50
Photo by Marcus Aurelius from Pexels

What I really want you to know is, I created a lifestyle that’s thoroughly enjoyable! I curated habits that feel good. I’m not rigid, but I don’t slack off. This isn’t a drudgery. It’s how I’ve learned to enjoy food and love life. 

And you can do the same. In a way that works well for you. That feels good to you. That you genuinely enjoy. 

Have questions? Let’s talk

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