Anyone who has ever been on a weight loss diet knows that the rapid weight loss experienced during the first few weeks slows to an agonizingly sluggish rate. Those who have been on more than one weight loss diet know that the first weight loss experience is never repeated. The pounds that initially seemed to fall off now stay on stubbornly. Beyond the first two weeks, weight loss progress slackens and sometimes even stops.
From a quick weight loss (mostly retained body fluids), the body needs to reach into fat stores for its energy supplies. Making the conversion from using incoming food for energy to using stored fat for energy takes time.
Why weight loss slows down
There are a number of reasons why weight loss loses momentum. For one thing everyone is different. Everyone has a different metabolism. Everyone has different genes, hormones, stressors, illnesses, allergies and work. Ageing plays a significant factor in slowed weight loss. People with abdominal obesity lose weight faster than people with subcutaneous fat found on hips, thighs and buttocks. The list goes on.
Physiologically speaking, women have a harder time losing weight than men. Women are genetically programmed to store fat so that they will have enough stored fat in breasts, buttocks and thighs to ovulate, carry a baby to term and nurse it for at least one year. Therefore, when women go on a weight loss diet their bodies start to protest and hold on to every fat globule. Men’s bodies don’t seem to hang on to fat as tenaciously as women’s bodies do.
The first thing to do is realize that the statement “you will lose about two pounds a week” is not a promise. It is a generalization based upon weight loss histories of thousands of people. Not everyone loses two pounds a week. Some do, some don’t. Depending upon the amount of weight that needs to be lost, weight loss may vary from nothing at all, to a few ounces to several pounds. Those with twenty pounds or less to lose have the most difficulty shedding those twenty pounds. Those with hundreds of pounds to lose, lose their weight much faster.
Accept the fact that you are a unique person and what may be said for one person may not be said for you. The often-heard phrase, “If I can do it, so can you,” is the most overused statement in dieting. No one person is the gold standard for everyone. What worked for your neighbor or spouse may not work for you.
Everyone goes through plateaus, some more extended than others. (Some plateaus have been as long as six months!) Plateaus simply mean the body is adjusting to a lower calorie level or a different mix of foods. Plateaus are unavoidable and the more you worry and fuss, the more difficult the process will be. Don’t stop doing what you have been doing. Just keep on keeping on. If you had been losing weight on your diet, then you are eating the right mix of food for you and eating the right amount of calories for you, so your weight will eventually come off. It will not happen overnight.
Comparing your weight loss progress with others is simply discouraging. Being on a plateau is also discouraging. Try to avoid becoming so discouraged that you are tempted to go off your diet. Remember that changing our bodies takes time. Athletes understand this. Building muscle and endurance takes time. To train your body for running, pitching, making hoops, ballet, or swimming, means practicing every day. Musicians know that they have to practice every day to maintain their skills. Improvement does not happen quickly, it takes time, patience and perseverance. It’s exactly the same with dieting. You might even think of yourself as a “dieting athlete” if it helps.
Find something else to focus on
For many people, weight loss progress can become an obsession. All they can think about is their weight, measurements, what will be eaten, and what must be bought at the grocery store. All they think about is their diet. They need to think about something else besides their diet and how it is progressing. It’s not easy to do, but do try to find another hobby besides dieting.
What your body does while on a diet is not under your control. It’s out of your hands. There is simply nothing you can do about how your body reacts. So let go of your need to control your progress.
Change what you have been doing
Some people fall into a rut when on a long-term diet, tending to eat the same foods at the same time of the day on the same day of the week as well as tending to do the same amount and type of exercise. Change things around. Mix things up. Experiment with different foods in different quantities than usual. Mix up exercise routines. Walk a little longer or a little faster. Find a place to walk that isn’t flat but has some rises and falls. Spend more time in the gym on different exercises. Include both resistance exercise as well as a cardiovascular workout.
Develop a support system
Develop a support system to talk about dieting, whether on-line or in person. Is there someone to talk to about your dieting experience? This is the beauty of Overeaters Anonymous which has a built in diet buddy in the form of a sponsor; someone who can be called at any time of the night and day to talk about concerns and to give some realistic suggestions. Weight Watchers has a built in discussion system at meetings. On-line weight loss discussion forums are a good place to vent, get encouragement or suggestions for different strategies.
Read everything you can get your hands on about your diet. Go on-line to find other people on the same diet who are willing to share their experiences. Many will be knowledgeable about the books, articles and research being written about your diet. The more you know about your diet and how it works, the easier it will be to hang on when progress slows to a halt.
Have some fun
No matter what you enjoy doing, do it. Have some fun. Play with your kids or grandkids or dogs. Watch comedies, standup comics or gags. Something that will give you at least one big belly laugh a day.
The whole point of this is to take your mind off your diet and put it back on living, which is where it belongs. Six months from now, whether you have lost, gained or stayed the same, you will be six months older. What will your memories be of the past six months? Will it be of dieting or of living?
Live your life now
Live a little, enjoy the discipline of being on a diet, celebrate every pound lost, but enjoy living life to the fullest every day no matter what the scale says. When weight loss progress is slow, as it inevitably will be, think back to when you were ten years old and desperately wanted to be all grown up. Your weight loss will follow a similar pattern. Everything worthwhile takes time.