Weight-loss Plateau: Introduction

Have a plan ready when you hit a weight-loss plateau!


In last week’s healthy eating tip, I made a differentiation between dieting and lifestyle modification. A diet is a short-term project to lose an amount of weight for a particular goal, like fitting into a dress or suit for a wedding. It’s a temporary change in the way that you eat that may not even involve other aspects of your life. Changing the way that you live is something called “lifestyle modification.” Lifestyle modification is a life-long process of changing the way that you live in pursuit of greater health. Weight loss is just one beneficial side effect of lifestyle modification. Comprehensive lifestyle modification will reduce cholesterol and triglycerides, eliminate hypertension, stabilize blood sugar, reduce the chance of cancer, improve your day to day functioning in every aspect and increase longevity.

Dieting weight loss is almost always temporary, but if your lifestyle modification plan is comprehensive, realistic and actionable, you can maintain all of the beneficial side effects for an entire lifetime, and that is the ultimate goal!

Creating a lifestyle modification plan that is comprehensive, realistic and actionable is much easier said than done! Each aspect of your lifestyle modification is essential and needs to be well thought out. Your lifestyle modification plan needs to be comprehensive. Consider all aspects of your life, including how you feel, think and act over a day, week, month and year. Your lifestyle modification plan needs to be realistic. Your commitment to lifestyle modification is steadfast and unchanging, but your plan is dynamic and has to be based on your willingness and ability to change, given what is going on in your life at a particular moment in time. You need to be able to bob and weave like a boxer taking evasive action moment by moment in order to stay in the ring with a formattable opponent! Bruce Lee says that you need to “be like water…if you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot.” If your plan is static and unchanging, you will fail, period. Your lifestyle modification plan needs to be actionable. What you feel and think is important, but what you do is where the results are! Bruce Lee says that “knowing is not enough, we must apply, willing is not enough, we must do!”

There is a lot in that last paragraph, but today all we are going to consider one small aspect of making your lifestyle modification plan comprehensive, dealing with a plateau.

Lifestyle modification is a journey. In any journey, one undertakes we follow a path that is not always straight. It may bend to the right or bend to the left or even double back and go in the opposite direction for a while. Part of walking a path is realizing that it will turn, bend and sometimes go the other way. In terms of weight loss, these temporary changes in direction are called a “plateau.”

Remember the day trading and investment analogy from last week. Lifestyle modification is like looking at one year’s worth of stock market results where a clear upward trend is observable. If you take a one-day snapshot of that same upward trend, it may show a tremendous decline, but that doesn’t change the fact that the market is going up. If you are what’s called a “day trader” you are only interested in what a stock is doing for a day or even just an hour or minute. You are looking for a small gain or loss. Investors take a long-term view and are interested in what happens over a year or two or more. Dieters are day traders. Lifestyle modification requires long-term investment.

When a dieting day trader encounters a plateau, it can jeopardize their short-term weight loss project, often leading to a failure because they are not on a lifestyle modification path. They don’t know that part of walking the path is temporarily bending, turning or even doubling back, and they are surprised when this happens. Part of developing a comprehensive lifestyle modification plan is thinking about every eventuality and being ready for it before it happens! An investor sees a temporary drop in the price of a stock as an opportunity to buy more at a lower price. In investment, that is called “doubling down.” As investors in health, we need to view a plateau as an opportunity to double down on our lifestyle modification commitment with more action! Not having a plan to deal with an inevitable plateau is irresponsible and shows incomplete planning.

There are many reasons that plateaus occur. Knowing about them and being willing to do something about them are both important, but remember that taking action is the crucial thing. It’s all about what you DO about a plateau!

Many things can cause plateaus. It is not important what individual factor has caused a stall in weight loss. Remember, the body does not work in isolated actions. It works in a “holistic” fashion where individual parts, including not just the body but the mind and spirit, all work together in a synergetic manner. It is a symphony of actions involving many different instruments, and trying to isolate one particular component can lead you down a rabbit hole called reductionism. It is better to attack all fronts at the same time.

Here are some things that I do when I hit a plateau

  1. Affirm your commitment to comprehensive lifestyle modification
  2. Reassess my dietary approach – reduce calorically dense foods!
  3. Increase my exercise regime – think outside the gym box!
  4. Make better food – Eat foods that increase satiety, not just fill the belly; fight the umami war!
  5. Watch empty calories – Reduce nutritionally insufficient foods; watch alcohol intake!

Over the next five weeks, we are going to visit a portion of this five-part plan to deal with a plateau in detail.

Until next week when we discuss affirming your commitment to comprehensive lifestyle modification, remember to be an investor in your health and create a lifestyle modification plan that is comprehensive, realistic and actionable. Be water, my friends!