Think about what triggered your weight-loss journey. It could have been anything from being able to squeeze into an old dress again to appeasing your unrelenting doctor to staying around for your grandchildren. Whatever your original intention, once you start losing weight a new motivation takes over. Watching the scale go down as you shed the pounds becomes a tremendous source of motivation. But what happens when a weight-loss plateau threatens to kill that motivation?
The dreaded plateau is inevitable, and it happens to the best of us. What you need to understand is that it isn’t a sign of failure but of progress. Your weight is a one-dimensional interpretation of what it means to be healthy. Don’t just focus on the number on the scale. Focus on the signs that you’re healthier even when that number flatlines:
1. Your body composition may have changed.
If you exercise regularly to lose weight, especially if strength training is involved, you may see a stubborn scale as you lose some fat and gain some muscle. In this instance, it may be better for you to invest in a smart scale or set of body calipers. These tools can help you measure body-fat percentage and document improvements better than a scale can.
2. You are better, faster and stronger.
Obviously, this depends on where you started. For some it’s being able to walk up the stairs without huffing and puffing. For others it may mean running a mile without stopping. For me, it was being able to haul my groceries — a gallon of milk and all — inside at one go. Relish all the activities that you could not do before but you can do now.
3. Your doctor is happy about your labs.
Despite the weight-loss plateau, you’re at a lower weight now than when you started. Even modest amounts of weight loss (think: 5 to 10% off your original weight) can lead to big health benefits like lower blood pressure, blood cholesterol and blood sugar. Better-looking labs translate to a lower risk for chronic illnesses like heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and cancer.
4. You get way more steps in your day.
The days of cheap plastic pedometers are over, but tracking steps is more popular than ever! Whether you invest in a sharp and shiny activity monitor or program your smartphone to count your footfalls, watch your steps data. After committing to your weight-loss journey, you likely ramped up your activity to see results. Perhaps you made trade-offs like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking your car farther away so you could walk in. Be proud of how many steps you’ve added into your day.
5. You like how your clothes fit.
Both how much weight you have on (think: number on the scale) and its location on your body (think: belly versus thigh) have an impact on your health. If weight loss halts, turn to important wellness indicators like how you fit into your clothes. Did you lose inches from your waist? After all, the most dangerous fat — visceral belly fat — is the easiest to lose when you exercise often.
6. You dread working out … a little less.
Whoever said, “showing up is half the battle” clearly understands my gym strategy. When I first made it a goal to hit the gym regularly, I strategized more around how to get into the gym versus what I’d do when I got there. For this I used some serious self-motivation strategies because I didn’t have an accountabilibuddy. This included spending hours crafting a wicked workout playlist and putting on workout clothes right after work. Over time, going to the gym became a habit, and it didn’t feel as hard anymore.
7. You’ve made exercise a part of your identity.
If, as a part of your weight-loss journey, you’ve hit on a fitness community you can call your own, congratulations! That fitness community could include yoga, CrossFit, barre, HIIT, etc. What matters is that you found an activity that you love doing, thereby making exercise a part of your identity. This is a boon to your health even when losing weight is no longer your top-notch priority.
8. You pass up your kryptonite food.
There’s no such thing as perfect eating. We all have our “kryptonite” food — be it donuts, muffins, potato chips or chocolate candy — to which we cannot say no. If you were able to practice restraint and reject the free break-room donuts, give yourself a pat on the back!
9. You feel like you have way more energy and stress out less.
A more positive outlook, better focus or enhanced energy levels aren’t easily quantifiable signs of health. Nonetheless, you may experience these benefits in spite of your weight-loss plateau. They deserve equal weight (pun intended!) when you tally your achievements.
My biggest problem is the cookie I use to reward myself for passing up my Kryptonite food…