By Keri Gans, MS, RD, CDN
Author of The Small Change Diet
It’s not uncommon for me to have patients in my office who have hit a weight loss plateau. For weeks and weeks the weight was gradually coming off and then all of a sudden, it stops. At first I say, “I’m sure the scale will move by our next visit” and when the next visit comes, again, nothing! When this happens, I put the patient on the “Plan B” of weight loss consisting of these five simple steps.
1. Don’t Panic
Surely panic doesn’t get anyone anywhere. I try to reassure my patients that worse things in life could be happening to them and they need to relax. The more stress they feel, the more they are likely to start eating foods that they’ve worked so hard on limiting.
2. Step Away from the Scale
Lots of my patients get too obsessed with the scale and it rules their life. So many factors can influence a number on the scale that has nothing to do with real weight gain, e.g. sodium and bloating. I make sure they commit to weighing themselves no more than 1 time per week, on the same day at the same time. Some of my patients have discovered from an analysis in their gym that they may not still be losing actual pounds but do continue to lose inches and a percentage of body fat.
3. Re-evaluate Your Food Journal and Portion Sizes
At this point most of my patients have been food journaling for quite a while. What I have found is that some of them have become rather lazy with their journaling. The extra nibbles, bites from other people’s plates, beverages, and so on are no longer appearing on their journals and they aren’t even aware they are doing it. Sometimes their portions need to be slightly changed; the 1 cup of pasta needs to be taken down to 3/4 cup and volume of veggies need to be increased. I encourage everyone to approach food journaling as if they’ve only just begun to do it, recording 100 percent of everything that goes in their mouth.
4. Step up Your Exercise Routine
For a lot of my patients exercise wasn’t a regular activity until they started seeing me. As time goes by the exercise they are doing becomes easier to perform and they are no longer expending as many calories while doing it. I usually recommend that they try something new that will challenge them a little more and while doing so burn more calories. Simply adding an additional day of fitness also may help. And I remind them that every little bit of activity counts, i.e. stairs instead of escalators, getting off a subway/bus stop early, or parking the car further away in parking lots.
5. Be Patient
When the scale stops moving, it is always a good time to reassess one’s goals. I ask my patients to focus on the why they wanted to lose weight in the first place and then to not give up so easily on that reason. I refer them back to the “Rome wasn’t built in a day” mantra; encourage them to stay in the health and weight loss game and not sabotage all their hard work because of a number.
So, instead of focusing on the doom and gloom of a weight-loss plateau I encourage my patients to look at it as an opportunity—an opportunity to congratulate themselves on what they’ve achieved so far and to refocus on where they are going. Because in the end of the day, it isn’t the number on the scale that matters most, but rather how you feel about yourself.
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