Shake it Off

There is this phenomena in weight loss called a plateau.  Here it is, in a nutshell:  when you first start losing weight, it comes off quickly.  But, as time goes on, the weight loss slows down – partly because your metabolism slows down and partly because you’re burning less calories because you’re getting lighter.  It can get to be a frustrating part of weight loss, and can result in people giving up.

This is something that most people know about.  I know this, because almost every time I tell someone that I’ve lost weight, I hear this:  “You’re lost 57 pounds in two and a half months?  That’s great!  Try not to get discouraged when you hit the plateau, and it isn’t coming off as quickly.”

Really?  Gee.  I would never have know.  Thank you.

As my wife can testify, I get rather testy about this.  I mean, seriously.  Is it really so hard to be happy for someone?  To be genuinely glad that they’re being successful in their goals?  To not rain on their parade?  To think that maybe, just maybe, they’ve heard of this “plateau thing” and don’t need you to tell them about it?

If you’re in the same position, dealing with the same sort of thing, let me give you some advice.  First, remember that most people who drop this little nugget of information on you really are happy for you.  They’re trying to be supportive.  And they’ve heard some version of this little nugget of information, and are trying to pass it on.  So, try and take it in the spirit that it’s given.  Smile, and say thank you, and assure them that you’ve heard of the plateau and that you have a plan for dealing with it.

Second, have a plan for dealing with it.  Because, statistically, it will happen at some point.  So be ready.  The Mayo Clinic, for example, recommends that you do four things:

  • Reassess your habits – don’t let yourself get sloppy with your exercise and calorie goals, just because you’re having success.
  • Cut more calories
  • Rev up your workout – exercise a little longer, and a little harder
  • Be more active

My plan, which I put together back in August, actually incorporated all of that before I ever saw that article (my, aren’t I just the little Health Hipster…).  Every twenty pounds, I increase my exercise goals a little.  Every forty pounds, I cut a hundred calories from my budget.  I have a plan to beat that plateau, and I’ve had it since before I lost my first forty pounds.

Third, just shake it off.  Statements like “don’t let yourself get discouraged when the weight doesn’t come off so quickly” are discouraging.  Because, whether the other person intends it or not, they’re pretty much saying “oh, you’ve had it easy so far”.  Which, as you know if you’ve ever lost a significant amount of weight, is dead wrong.  But when everyone’s telling you that, it’s really easy to get down on yourself.  Don’t do that.  Remind yourself why you’re doing this, and keep doing it.

Just remember:  no one worth listening to ever said that achieving a goal – whether it’s weight loss or learning to play the guitar or learning a language – is easy.  But it’s worth it, and you can do it.


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