Break Through Your Plateau!
Plateaus. Whether it be within your weight-loss, fitness goals or general personal growth that you find your progress suddenly leveling off, first and foremost remember that it’s a perfectly normal phenomenon. As always, you’re not alone AND you’re not doing anything wrong! Quite the opposite in fact—you’ve been working hard, attempting to do all the “right” things to improve your health, increase your strength or speed, etc., and your body, your self, is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do—adapt. The key to progress is in the challenges so all this phase is telling you is that it’s time to change it up! Here are just a handful of questions to ask yourself as you evaluate your own plateau. Consider where you are, be HONEST with yourself and plan out how and when YOU need to start stepping it up again.
1) Where’s my head?? The same attitude that can hinder the start of a health regimen can also creep back in during this difficult period and, believe me, it can be a slippery slope backwards from there if you’re not careful! I experienced my first weight-loss plateau after finally falling just below 170 lbs. Coming from over 210 lbs, it was so exciting to get there but just as easy to start beating myself up again! All those negative thoughts started coming back: “Ugh, look at this/these [insert annoying body part(s) here]” or (while yelling at the scale) “What?!? STILL [XX] lbs???” The first 20-40 lbs or so (depending on how much you actually need to lose) is always going to be the easiest. It’s the last 5, 10 or 20 lbs. that can be the real pain!! So now that your body is telling you it’s time for something new, you still need to have the right mindset to keep going. Be proud of how far you’ve come and recognize the work that you have done. Rather than beat yourself up for stalling, try a visual. Take a picture of yourself from the past and put it up on the mirror or anywhere you’ll see it daily and put it right next to a current picture to remind yourself of how far you’ve come. Write the year of each or even label the old one The Past and the current one The Present and appreciate that gift you’ve given to yourself. When you’ve let go of those old thoughts again, start looking forward and take the next step up. Put up a picture of the bikini you plan to rock next summer or an outfit you really want to get into and if you did that when you first started this journey change up the photos, the mantras or the self-talk. You’re a different person now even from when you started. You’re creating new habits and as your body and overall self adjust to the new you, so should you adjust your mind to keep the challenges and motivations fresh and according to where you are NOW. Let go of the old you and keep looking towards the NEW you. Sound familiar??
2) Where can I push a little harder?? Remember, it took time and consistency to get where you were originally. Once you started to change up your personal growth, diet, eating and/or exercise habits your body and self adjusted to the new lifestyle burning up the fat and building the muscle, etc. Now that your progress is beginning to stall take a look at everything you actually do on a daily basis. If your goal is with self-development, are you just saying the words but not really following through with your actions anymore? If you’ve planned to meditate maybe it’s time to actually start. If you’ve started, maybe you can increase your time. If your goal is in fitness, could you stand to attempt to increase your weights or move at a faster pace? Or even the opposite—do you increase too much or too fast or do you not rest enough? (A primary sign of this would be injury, yet another topic of which I’m all too familiar and one we’ll discuss more another time!) And again, if it’s weight-loss that you’re working on, how much activity do you actually do or how can you adjust your nutrition habits even more? If your week is full of activity and you’re resting well, maybe it’s time to look at exactly how you eat by starting a food journal. Or if you’re eating really well, maybe it’s time to start or step up the activity. Either way, your body is telling you it can stand to do more of something—it’s up to you to figure out what that “something” is and start adjusting your habits accordingly.
3) What is it that I really need? I mentioned that I reached my “first” weight-loss plateau when I hit just below 170 lbs and I’ve been where I am now for the last 5 years or so. My body composition has changed a GREAT deal within the last 5 years thanks to the strength and flexibility gained in my yoga practice primarily at Southtown Yoga Loft and especially with the strength and conditioning classes I take at Octane. Now, even though I never expected to reach a size 4 or 140 lbs, I could still consider myself at a 5-year plateau because my belly still has a little pooch or my arms and thighs aren’t model-sleek or all the books say that for my height of 5’5” my ideal weight is closer to 130 lbs. I personally struggle with the idea of trying to lose an additional 5-10 lbs from time to time, but I’ve found that the bottom line for me has been this: I would not trade any bit of the muscle and strength I have developed to lose even one pound at ALL. For me, it’s strength and ability and personal power—physical, mental, emotional and spiritual—that truly matter to me because I believe these are the necessities for optimal health and wellness. I know exactly what I could do to drop a few more pounds: increase my low-impact cardio, cut sugar out completely, skip alcohol on the weekends, but I don’t feel the need right now and I REALLY enjoy my life. This is where I currently find my balance and it’s up to me to accept it, little belly and all!
It is only within the last month, after beginning this blog, that I’ve been most honest with myself just as I ask all of you to do—I just don’t want to ask anything of anyone that I’m not willing to do myself. So just a few weeks ago I tucked the scale away and have let go of the idea of a “perfect number.” I’m no longer weighing myself, I’m learning myself. How does this activity or lack of activity feel? How does my body really react to this type of food or that meal? Do my clothes still fit well and the way I know they’re supposed to fit? Am I emotionally fulfilled in this situation or with that experience? This is what works for me right now. In the same way, determine what truly matters to you and map it out. Deep down you know if you’re doing your best or if there’s still more that you truly need for yourself.
This is YOUR journey and we’re all at different levels and different stages with different goals. With honesty, an attempt to find balance and by always doing your best, the phase of the plateau will also become a period to look back on…the picture of who you are now can replace the other if that’s what you need. See yourself moving it over and writing out a new label because it can also, one day, be The Past.