Get Over the Weight Loss Plateau

Featured Article, News and Advice, Weight Loss
on December 7, 2011

Lisa Delaney is one of the rare souls who know what it’s like to be an “after.” This journalist, author, and mom shed 70 pounds — and six dress sizes — and has kept it off for 20 years. She answers your questions here each week.

DEAR FFG: I am a Future Former Fat Girl. I have recently dropped 20 pounds in about four months, and I have about 30 more to go. Until recently I have been doing wonderful with my diet and exercise, but lately I have been lacking motivation. I have stopped losing weight, and I find myself giving into my cravings and couch-potato tendencies more easily. I haven't gained anything back — yet — but I am not losing either. Plus, whenever I look in the mirror all I seem to focus on is the fat that is still there, and not the weight I lost. How can I stay motivated when the scale refuses to budge?— Gracie

DEAR GRACIE: Ah, the dreaded plateau. The frustrating thing about losing weight is that the closer you get to your goal, the slower the pounds come off. The honeymoon’s over, as they say, and you’ve got to slug it out the rest of the way to your goal. The good thing is, there are some simple ways to get your weight trending downward again. Here’s the scoop:

Get intense. So thesame-old workout isn’t working for you anymore? That’s no mystery. Our bodies adapt to exercise very quickly. That 30-minute walk on the treadmill at the same speed day-in, day-out may have been super-challenging at the start, but it probably doesn’t cause you to break much of a sweat now. That’s a red flag that you’re not burning as many calories as you did when you began. So step it up: Walk (or run) faster, or do one of my favorite interval workouts: After a 5-minute warm-up walk or run, pump up the speed or incline on the treadmill for 1 minute, then take it back down to a normal pace for recovery for the next minute. Continue to alternate and do a 3-5 minute cool down at an easy pace at the end. This will fire up those calorie-burning engines and give your body the challenge it needs. This concept, called the interval workout, can be applied to any cardio exercise.

Lift weights. Chances are you have focused solely on cardio until now. Introduce a basic weight-lifting routine into the mix. That will increase your lean muscle mass and help boost your metabolism. An added benefit: It will give you definition and perhaps make you happier with your appearance.

Take your eyes off the scale. Many of the benefits of healthy living can’t be measured in numbers. Are your clothes fitting differently? Can you run up the stairs without doubling over at the top? Can you lift your kids or grandkids more easily? Do you wake up with more energy? Look beyond your body to how you feel inside, and how that might be playing out in your life. Are you more outspoken at work? Willing to take more risks in relationships? More adventurous in general? Make a list of EVERYTHING you can think of that has changed since you’ve lost weight. You may be surprised at what you figure out, once you put your mind to it. Those intangibles can help keep you going when your weight loss seems to stall.

RELATED: Lost Motivation to Exercise?

Focus on the process. Instead of setting your sights on reaching a number, make the healthy behaviors you need to adopt to get there your goal instead. So, for instance, focus on exercising 5 times a week, or getting your five servings of vegetables a day, etc. Keep track, and reward yourself (with a non-food treat!) once you reach certain benchmarks.

Get involved. Add fuel to your desire to lose by signing up for a charitable race, activity or group. Events like Race for the Cure, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training, the Multiple Sclerosis MS 150, and groups like Girls on the Run combine charitable fundraising and involvement with fitness. Knowing you’re “losing for good” may give you the extra motivation you need.