Random Rantings and Ravings from a Slow-Poke Runner in the Heart of the South. (A Weeekly (sort of) Blog about running and just about anything else)

Friday, October 14, 2005

the Dirty "P" Word

  • pla·teau
def - Dictionary.com

n. pl. pla·teaus or pla·teaux (-t z )
1. An elevated, comparatively level expanse of land; a tableland.
2. A relatively stable level, period, or state: Mortgage rates declined, then reached a plateau.

intr.v. pla·teaued, pla·teau·ing, pla·teaus
To reach a stable level; level off:

Plateau. Those of us who have tried to go on a diet for any length of time know the word all too well! Merriam-Webster tells us that plateau comes from a French word meaning "flat". If I could only say that about my stomach! Unfortunately, for those of us trying to make progress in the weight-losing or even in the running department, plateaus are something that we inevitably encounter if we stick to it for any length of time. I've encountered several in the last 18 months and I am currently experiencing one right now! But why do they come and what can we do about them?

Well, I don't know much, but I do know this because I did read it somewhere: Our body likes to be in a state of homeostasis. What does this mean? Well...it means our bodies are not too smart! If we are trying to do something good for it, like building muscle or losing fat, it thinks that something is wrong and slows things down for a while. Well, really it's not that our bodies are dumb, they just like to survive! I like that about them! And it is because of this instinct of survival that they slow things down like weight loss.

So what can we do about these plateaus we encounter? Well, let me tell you - if you need to know something about losing weight - ask a fat person! We are usually well read on the subject! In all my reading I have come across a few different things to consider if that scale of yours seems stuck in the same place:

  1. Take a closer look at what you are eating. My wife recently bought those little candy pumpkin balls and kept them in a bowl on the counter. It became habit, anytime I walked by, to grab a few of them and munch away. Then my wife asks the ouch question, "Are you the one that ate all this candy?" If you find yourself in a plateau, take a harder look at all the food you are eating. You may be doing okay at mealtime but take in more calories than you think with snacks. Do you know all the numbers on what you are eating? (Calories and fat content) Sometimes I have eaten food I thought was fairly healthy and went back and checked and actually ate a lot more than I realized!
  2. Are you living famine to feast? I recently went through a cycle where I was eating very little during the day, but was starving by dinner and I would overeat. My body couldn't take all the calories at one time and I gained weight. Make sure you spread the food throughout the day and actually eat less during the evening if possible.
  3. Have you gotten into a metabolism rut? I am not sure about the science on this, but it sure seems to me that if I eat the same thing all the time the weight seems to come off slower. I believe the body's metabolism can adjust to those same ol' foods. Use variety in your eating and have at least one planned splurge meal a week. That way you can rev up your metabolism and you won't feel as deprived.
  4. Change up your workout routine. It is important to burn some of the calories you are eating through exercise but your body can adapt in this area too. Walking 30 minutes now does not burn off near as many calories for me as it did 18 months ago because it doesn't take near as much effort. If you find yourself in a plateau rut, rev up the workout routine and add more minutes or higher intensity to your cardio workout. If you have been walking 30 minutes every day for the last several weeks, add another 10 minutes or mix in some jogging. It won't take long for you to notice a difference!
  5. Finally, make sure your expectations are not too unrealistic. I would sure like to lose four pounds of weight a week but it is just not possible to maintain that kind of progress and stay healthy. Make sure you are not being too hard on yourself. Whatever program you have decided on, make sure you are in it for the long haul! For me, I am not really on a diet at all. I have made a lifestyle change. Sure it is frustrating at times when the scale doesn't move; but I am getting faster, healthier, and dog gone it - I feel better about myself too!

(Shane's disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, nutritionist, or a dietician. This blog is "laymen's advice" and should not be considered without consultation from your own personal health professional.)


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