The Big Bad Plateau
This is one that I hear a lot. People know that when you start a weight loss program you will always lose ten or 20 pounds and then your body plateaus. What is a plateau? Just another unsolved weight loss mystery you have to suck up and accept, right? Or, is it a trick the body plays on the helpless dieter to show who is in control? Is anyone on this plan? I find this type of thinking very funny. It’s as if you have been waiting for your body to get it together and lose some weight for years, and finally, it agrees and does so. Then, for no reason, it one day decides, on its own, to stop, leaving you on the dreaded plateau, alone and defenseless. The truly funny thing is that you accept this myth. You actually believe that your body has the final say in your weight loss, that it has a mind of its own and arbitrarily dictates when you will and will not lose. Well, I don’t believe in the big bad plateau. It isn’t real. In addition, I don’t believe it’s any harder to lose the last ten pounds than it is to lose the first ten. Don’t believe me? Let me explain.
First, let’s look at the myth of the plateau. This is what you call it when you have tried five diets in a row, dropped 15 pounds on each, and then just stopped-even though you were doing exactly what you had done to lose the original 15. So every time, after 15 pounds, the scale remains frozen in place. Well, it must be what your body does, since it does it all the time, like clockwork, right? Well, no. You see, when you start a new diet, you know you have to eat less than what you usually eat to achieve a smaller body. Therefore, you make changes and begin to eat for a body that weighs less than yours. At this point, you don’t know exactly what final body you are eating for: you think it’s your goal-weight body, but you don’t know exactly what your goal weight should be, do you? You can only get started, and eventually, your body will reveal its perfect goal weight to you. So, when you stop losing weight, you haven’t hit a plateau; on the contrary, you have simply arrived at the body weight for which you were eating. If this is not the body weight you desire, something different must happen. Now, if you don’t realize this, and if you don’t tweak anything, and if you blame your uncooperative body that does this every time, damn it, you will continue to do what got you down 15 pounds. And down 15 pounds you will stay!
So, next time you “plateau,” remember my basic rules for losing weight and go back to doing them. Start bringing on that hunger-just a bit of it right before you go to bed and you will see that what you thought was a plateau was only your body following your directions. Don’t blame yourself; you just didn’t have a map, and you kept getting lost in the same place. Now you have an unerring guidance system, and you can find your way to your final destination!
Almost forgot-the reason it appears harder to lose the last ten pounds than the first ten is simple. When you start eating for weight loss and improved health, it appears that you lose a lot initially because you are getting rid of retained water. After that, it takes the same effort to lose the first ten real pounds of fat, not water, as it does to lose the last ten. The real difference is in your head. The first ten were more important to you, and you were more diligent about what you were eating.
By the time you are almost there, you are looking pretty good and tired of being restrictive, so you tend to be less strict. Let’s get it together and push through; you’re almost there. Think of it like the final sprint in a race: it’s hard because you’re tired and have come a long way, but the finish line is right there in front of you. Your body will conform to whatever you tell it to do, so stop blaming the figment of your imagination. Say adieu to the plateau and just lose it!