If you'll pardon my language for a moment, plateaus suck giant donkey balls.
Oh yeah..I said it.
I know the measure of their suckatude from personal experience, seeing as how I have hit my second one since October.
My first one was nearly my undoing. Backstory: the lowest I had ever seen the scale as an adult was 320lbs, which is exactly how much I weighed when I met Chris (I know for fact, because I had jumped on the scale that morning, winced, and promptly did everything in my power to forget that number. For the next several years).
I never did make it down to 320lbs again, although I came within 6lbs at my closest. My goal was always to break through that number, to be at 319 just so I could say it was the smallest he (or any of his family) had ever known me. But my weight crept up…and up…and up…when you're sitting around 380, that 319 looks impossibly far away. Forget when you're topping 400lbs. For 13 years, my singular weight loss goal was to see 319llb (I would even take 319.9!). I never thought beyond that number; I don't think I could fathom even getting there, but that didn't stop me from dreaming. That number became my focus.
After I started paleo and the weight was just flying off, I was anticipating seeing those numbers under 320. For the first time in 13 years- and basically, the first time as an adult- I was actually going to achieve that goal. Not just any weight loss goal, but that specific goal. The second week in January, I jumped on the scale to see 320.2. YES! Next week! But the following week, it was 326.8.
Um, WTF. I was confused.
I was frustrated. I found myself eating less than I should and exercising way more, because I was so close,and it shot out of my reach again. The next weigh in, I was at 324.5.
Hello, Plateau. Thank you for sucking the wind right out of my sails 3 weeks in a row.
It was bound to happen, sure. But I hadn't anticipated it being right then and right there. I was so close, and so frustrated. I could feel myself getting all worked up over the numbers on the scale. I kept reminding myself 'It's just a number'. But it wasn't just a number. This was the one goal I'd given myself. This is what I strived for 13 years to achieve. This is what all my feelings of success were riding on.
W. T. F.
So, I'm kind of impatient. I don't like delayed gratification. I wanted results, dammit. NOW. I knew that the best thing to do was just wait it out. To relax, to just let my body recalibrate and adjust- after all, I'd lost a lot of weight really quickly. But I don't like to wait. I don't do 'relax'. So I Googled plateaus, I scoured the weightloss forum I belonged to and all it's sub-forums, I read as much as I could in different places hoping that there was an answer to my frustration… and what I found was a lot of theories and postulating and opinions and advice that was conflicting, confusing and certainly wasn't going to solve my problem with any expediency. Some people said to exercise more. Some said less. Some said keep the same amount and just change what form of exercise you do. Some people said eat more fats. Some said eat no fats. Some people said to fast for 24 hours. Some recommended going off your diet anywhere from 1 meal to 1 week to 'shake things up'. Some people refused to acknowledge plateaus even exist.
What I came away with, after a several frustrating hours, is that no one really knew for sure what to do, except give it time. So, I did. Reluctantly. I could feel my anxiety and frustration mounting when I thought about it, and I knew I had to do something to get my head out of that mindset. Thankfully, the weightloss forum was inviting everyone into a 'no-weigh February'. The idea was simple- put your scale away for the entire month of February- no peaking- and then pot your results on the first of March. It was just what I needed right when I needed it, so I jumped in with both feet. Almost immediately, the pressure I was putting on myself lifted off of me. I mean, I knew I would lose weight…I couldn't keep going forward with paleo and exercising and not lose. I was able to just relax and not think about it, not worry about it for the month.
It was awesome.
When I didn't have the positive feedback of diminishing numbers staring me back in the face every week, I started paying attention to other things. I realized that I was able to jog further and with more ease than I had before. My flexibility and balance had improved. My body composition was changing too; even in those weeks where the scale didn't move, my numbers on the tape measure had whittled down a bit, and I could see the difference in my body. The first week of March, I got back on the scale to 305lbs ( blew right past that 319!!), and the following week I was under 300 for the first time in…just about ever. Fast-forward 3 months to the end of April and it was same song, different numbers. I got stuck right around 282lbs for 3 weeks. Again, I could feel the pressure I was putting on myself- I was working out more, eating less, and driven to see the numbers drop. Knowing I was only going to stress myself out, I decided I wasn't going to get on the scale again until Father's Day- June 17th.
Just like the first time around, as soon as I took the power away from the numbers, my eyes were opened to other things. A changing body composition, more loose skin (though that's not exactly something to be happy about) and dropping from a size 26/24 to a size 22/20. And fitting into my Goal Pants. I still wonder, nearly every day. Some days it drives me crazy, and I debate with myself about moving my weigh-in date. I mean, I can SEE the progress, but I'm dying to know what the numbers say! Thankfully we don't have a scale here at home- I have to use my mom's (and she lives 45 minutes away, so I can't just drop-in with some other excuse). I'll admit,while at WalMart today, I very nearly went through the bathroom accessories section with the thought that, if no one was around, I'd see if I could hop on one of the scales really quick, just for a peek…but I restrained myself. Barely.
Why do plateaus mess with our heads so much? I've seen countless posts on multiple weight loss forums where people freak out if they don't drop more than a half pound in a week. I've read the crazy things people have tried. I wonder why we are so driven by the numbers on this machine that we can so easily manipulate. I mean, we all know the ins and outs of 'tricking' our scales. Raise your hand if you HAVEN'T made sure to weigh yourself naked after using the bathroom on the day after you ate very lightly and stopped eating and drinking after 6pm the night before. And that doesn't include doing the mental addition and subtraction for water retention (c'mon ladies, you know you chalk a pound or two up to it being 'that time of the month'!) or how you've been exercising more so you weigh more than you really do because muscle weighs more than fat…Yeah. I know all the tricks.
They are just numbers…but dammit, they matter. And when they don't move, they become a singular source of frustration. My friends, plateaus (and yes, they do exist) suck donkey balls. But they are necessary for your body to level out, to adjust to a new baseline and start over again. And they are a great reminder that it's not ALL about the numbers.
So what do you do when you get stuck on one of those dreaded plateaus? You put the scale away. You take a deep breath. You open your eyes, you look at yourself, and you find all the other little was to measure your success. And then totally give yourself a high five, because You. Are. Awesome.