Anatomy of a #Plateau #weightloss #frustration


I’ve lost 38 pounds in the last four months… Don’t get too excited for me though – because it’s been the same three pounds over, and over, and over… and over, and over again.

I made it to 70-pound/5-stone weight-loss whilst I was away at D-Toxd in Spain in September. But I’ve been bouncing up and down through three maddeningly obstinate pounds ever since then. As a word, frustration doesn’t even begin to cover it.

There are a few reasons why this may be happening – and all except one of these are totally or largely within my control:

Eyes off the Ball

2016-07-14 19.11.30I’ve been working on my health/wellbeing and food habits since September 2015.  Healthy is how I eat now.  I’ve given up 99% of added sugar and simple carbs (I have an occasional small portion of potato, the odd piece of bread in a restaurant, a microgram of sweet here and there when it sneaks into a sauce, but no cakes or cookies, donuts or desserts, ever).  I don’t eat ready meals any more, or takeaways, or fast-food, or chocolate – or any confectionary. From where I was, these are all massive changes and I’m sticking with them, because they’ve made me feel healthier and more energised than I’ve felt in two decades. But… … I think I’ve let too many exceptions creep in.

By exceptions, I mean things like:

  • Too much fruit (I know fruit is healthy, but it’s also full of natural sugar and when you’re trying to minimise sugar, there is such a thing as too much fruit);
  • Too much… cheese.  I love cheese. Enough said.
  • Dips, such as hummus, taramasalata and tsatsiki (again, I know these aren’t essentially bad, but they are the kind of foods which you dip, and dip, and dip, and if you’re me, you spread them on crackers too – and that does not a healthy meal make);
  • A few savoury snacks here and there (baked not fried, but these are processed and they are criminally moreish).

Stress and Anxiety

eye-catcher-74182-pixabayStress, anxiety and the associated sleep-loss problems all inhibit weight-loss in a number of ways. Firstly, in times of stress, we turn to food for comfort (and whilst I’m better at not doing this, I still have moments). Then, on a chemical level, physiological and hormonal responses lead to us storing or holding on to fat.  Stress fuels the release of adrenaline (for a fight or flight response), and cortisol, which instructs the body to replenish energy (ie, fat) stores, even though they may not actually have been used for a fight or a flight.  Weary after a night of interrupted or disturbed sleep, it’s all too easy to excuse yourself from early morning exercise. And with lethargy comes the temptation to snack.

I don’t lead a stressful life these days. However, there is something stressing me at present, causing anxiety and disturbed sleep that I could do without, and it’s possible this is impacting my ability to shift from the plateau. It might just be an excuse, but then again… the stressor surfaced in late summer, and that’s exactly when my plateau problem began.

Portion Control

2016-04-03 12.18.36I’ve mentioned this before, that I’m eating a little more, here and there, than I know I should. Still healthy food, but I’ve let a bigger serving, one more spoonful, an extra slice… creep in. I can even see myself doing it, and then I do it anyway. I rein it in, and it creeps back up again – nothing outlandish, but enough to turn a downward sloping graph into a horizontal line, for too long.

Weigh Less, Eat Less

the-suitcase-811122_1920I weigh 70 pounds less than when I started. Yes, that’s great, really, really great. It’s the equivalent of two full-sized holiday suitcases jam-packed with clothes, shoes, accessories and jollops. It stands to reason, I need – in very simple terms – fewer calories of energy, to drag my reduced frame around. So I should be eating less than I was eating when I weighed two suitcases more.  Or…

Move More

… I need to exercise more.  For a while, I’ve been trying to give my gentle exercise regimen a kick up the proverbial, without it taking up too much more time. (I’ve mentioned before, I’m not really in my natural space with exercise – it’s still a chore.) In reality though, with the arrival of winter weather, I’ve probably been doing less, not more, exercise. I know exercise, per se, doesn’t make that much of a dent in matters, but moving more boosts your metabolism and pumps those feel-good endorphins around, which fuels positivity and deepens motivation.  And I could do with a serious injection of motivation just now.

That Extra-Sticky Mid-Life Midriff

We’re told how much harder it becomes to lose weight once those mid-life hormones erect their defences. Men get the beer gut and women just lay on padding all over. My weight has long been high, but it was steady until I hit the menopause and put on a disastrous 20 pounds from one year to the next. I’ve dropped back now to a weight I last carried for any length of time in the last century. But what’s left of the surplus (at least another 30 pounds, perhaps more), seems determined to stick around.

I’m not giving in to the plateau, but I can’t deny, it’s frustrating in extremis, to see the scales bobbing up and down through just THREE stubborn pounds.

The good news is that I’m not on a diet; this is how I eat these days. I just need to tweak the edges, eat off smaller plates, refocus, up the exercise quotient, sleep better, not sweat the small stuff, inject a little positivity and keep things moving, don’t I? Simple.

Darn, but it’s proving harder than I’d like.

Ideas anyone? Any tips and tricks? What do you do to overcome a plateau and kick-start your weight-loss? How do you regain lost motivation or re-boot your exercise regime? 

Author: Jools

Abundant, Bold, Confident, Determined, Empathetic, Forthright, Grumpy, Healthier, Individual, Just me, Kind, Loving, Mellifluous, Natural, Optimistic, imPatient, Quirky, Real-world, Single-minded, unTreatable, Unwound, Verbal, Wilful, eXtraordinary, Young and old, Zero-tolerance.

26 thoughts on “Anatomy of a #Plateau #weightloss #frustration”

  1. The dreaded plateau–so common in those losing weight but no less frustrating. Your knowledge in the area is impressive. Hopefully that at least gives you a leg up on the issue. Stress is a tough one, isn’t it? Stress hormones along with our satiety and hunger hormones can play mind games with us.

    I wish you continued success. I’m so impressed by what you’ve accomplished!

  2. Well – you may have already seen this in my posts but my most recent motivator has been my Apple Watch. There have been quite a few things that have pepped me along on my journey so far (it’s a mental battle after all rather than the imagined numbers battle – that’s just a side effect.).

    I honestly found the fitness stats an irritation when I first got one – but there’s no escaping the reality of them. It’s on your wrist watching what you do all the time.

    Thanks to this I could (when I started slimming world and eventually exercise) go back to waaaay back when I first put it on my wrist and see the crippling inactivity that used to be my life.

    I also used it to count my gradual improvement with distance walked in a virtual lands end to John o groats walk (completed a few weeks ago).

    However – whatever your goal a wearable fitness tracker (I strongly recommend one that can monitor your heartbeat) can really make the difference between staying in front of the fire with cheese 🧀 or going for a run 🏃 😄👍🏽

    1. I have indeed seen your posts, and was intrigued by the idea of the Apple Watch. I use Fitbit myself, but I rarely make it all the way to 10,000 steps. I don’t monitor my heart rate as I use the simple pedometer version, but might upgrade to boost my motivation.

      You’re right about it being a mental battle. I work from home and can, without a concerted effort, spend all day sitting at my desk. I can never say ‘I don’t have the time’, but somehow when the drizzle sets in, I find so many better things to do! I’m focused on getting into jogging at the moment, with a ‘couch to 5k’ approach (more of which in a later blog post). With my improving but still abysmal fitness level, this will be a bit like HIIT training, even if I never get above 2 or 3 minute bursts of jogging!

      Thanks for joining the conversation, Davey. I’m absolutely loving your blog, and your immense positivity – it’s a real motivator to people like ME.

      1. Thanks Jools – glad to be of help 🙂

        I think that the long term success of any path in life may begin within – but for it to remain and be cemented you can’t beat group support – be that online in a more conventional setting.

        A few of my friends use fitbits – and the pedometer based ones are great. I thought f getting one for myself to be honest, even when I already had the Apple Watch.

        This was mostly because I’d not scratched the surface of what it can do – and once I did I realised what a fantastic device had been on my arm all the time.

        I’m not the apple fanboy you may think though – and although I genuinely believe if you have an iPhone the way it integrates with iOS is exceptional I also think there are cheaper alternatives if you prefer android.

        There are fitbit alternatives such as the new ‘charge’ which are significantly cheaper and also do heart rate monitoring:

        I’ve never used this – so its an example only. The field of android wearables is also quite diverse and growing all the time, although from what I’ve seen fitness is not usually their sole concern.

        Either way I’ve found both the motivation and reward I need lately from this and its with me all the time, nagging me occasionally to stand up, walk around or even get some more movement into my day.

        Good luck if you choose to go that route and feel free to contact me if you need any advice 🙂 x

        1. I’m an Apple fan in general, but the Fitbit pedometer version was a good entry-level device, and I’ve just stuck with it. I don’t routinely monitor heart-rate, though I know my resting heart-rate has dropped a good 10 bpm since I started losing weight. The real test, though, is with stamina and recovery time, which is where the more sophisticated devices come in. The important thing is, whatever you use, that it motivates, and doesn’t just become another stick to beat yourself up with! Thanks for your advice too – you certainly seem to be using the Apple Watch in the best possible way.

  3. Go easy on yourself, Julie. 🙂 Maybe you need to spend a few moments every day celebrating and patting yourself on the back for how far you have come? I always think of every cell in my body, as little children, listening to my every thought. It helps me stay kind. It may not change the pounds but it will make you feel better about yourself. Give yourself a little love! A nice soap, bubble bath, a massage? Everyone likes to be pampered.

  4. Hi jools,
    I too am suffering the up down stop start and haven’t lost a pound in fact put on three over xmas/new year. I did eat a little of everything but no seconds and no nuts or chocolate. But three seperate households cooked Christmas and two did New year. When it is family and you have travelled to be with them you truly can’t say no.
    Then on our return my husband found an article, it stated that sitting is the new smoking… Scary stuff as like you i can wake at 5.30 and still be writing at six pm. My lovely man put on his thinking hat and made me a standing desk. As i am only 4ft 11 he decided to adapt an old butchers block to be sure of optimum height, that way we don’t waste money trying out expensive versions if they aren’t right. I will let you know if it improves anything, as my office come spare room dressing room; should fingers crossed be finished next week. The plan is only to sit when I am taking a tea break or if I genuinely need to. But, as has been said you have come this far … pamper yourself kiss the mirror and shout “What a long way I have come”. ×

    1. Hi Ellen, I do sympathise re the festive feasting – you can’t go visiting and then sit there chomping on lettuce leaves! A standing desk is a great idea. I actually found a laptop stand on Amazon which is essentially height adjustable, and works really well for my keyboard. Then I tilt my screen upwards. It’s a bit weird, and takes some getting used to, but I’m trying to use it more and more (yes, it’s one of those things I bought but then realised, it’s not enough to just own it, you have to use it too!). It’s certainly fine for when you’re just prowling round the internet (aka ‘doing research’) or knocking up a draft. (If you’re interested, you’ll find it by searching Amazon for: Lavolta Folding Laptop Table Desk Tray Stand with Mouse Board and Cooling Pad). The hydraulics-assisted standing desks are quite magnificent, but also… enormous! And expensive too, if you’re not sure you’ll use properly. I considered one, but when I realised how it would look in my little home-office, I abandoned the idea. I’d love to know how you get on with upping your standing-time. 🙂

    1. Hi, and thanks for joining the conversation! I’ve tried to try it! But I find that the idea of so little food actually naked me think of food all day long … But I think it would be good to master this and I know many people have made 5:2 work for them.

  5. The stress question is interesting, as I have been amazed in the past at how a stressful situation can affect weight so much, both up and down! So with my mind, body and soul hat on have you considered some tlc via some Reiki or general self pampering? I guess resolving the stressful situation is the easy to say, but perhaps not so easy to do option – we have all been in that loop at somepoint. I struggle to motivate myself on the exercise front also, so I try to book to walk with a friend, so I have to do it. The same applied when I had a little dog to walk twice a day – we both helped to keep each other healthy. As mentioned earlier, do remember congratulate you success, as you have achieved a great deal. All the best, Brian

    1. Stress and sleeplessness both are insidious things, affecting so much – not just weight, but many other serious health conditions. I’m lucky that my life is not, in general, stressful – just one present circumstance (I have no ability to control it, but can only keep a lid on my response to it). I’m definitely due a bit of pampering though. I’ve never tried Reiki, but am good with massage and meditation/relaxation. I was thinking same this afternoon, that I should have a ‘scented-candles-and-ambient-sounds’ type of evening. I have one friend that I both walk and swim with, one or other activity, usually once a week. I also like to schedule a walk sometimes with a faraway friend, and walk ‘together’ on the phone! As for a dog… that’s a step too far for me, I’m afraid. But I know how much it helps those dog-lovers amongst my friends to set-aside their excuses and get out of the door.

  6. Thank you, JOOLS, its comforting to see some one go through the same stuff and come out winning . Gives a lot like me more courage at the gym, to go that extra mile, when all that is in the head is that there is no change when I stand on the weighing machine!

    1. Hi and thanks so much for joining the conversation. The trick with a plateau is to not lose heart. When your new healthier lifestyle is just what you do, not ‘a diet’ that you are ‘on’ for a while… makes it easier to just keep going. Never give up!

      1. I lose my mind over the fact that i cant keep to my diet, but what you said now is actually what everything comes down to… healthier lifestyle..not just a diet. Hoping I beat each n every lil cyst in the Ovary :-/ – PcosWarrior

        1. The thing with healthier lifestyle is, even if you’re not losing weight all the time, you’re ALWAYS doing great things for your long term health and wellbeing.

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