Weight Loss That Has Stalled. What Do You Do?
A 45-year old woman was frustrated with her plateau with weight loss and asked me why she was not losing weight when she was living an active lifestyle. Besides an occasional chocolate fix, she thought she was doing everything right. Let me share my answer to her.
First, you should not focus on weight, especially if you are strength training. Strength training adds muscle tone, which adds weight to the scale. People who focus on the scale are often disappointed because their weight may not change, even though they are down 2 clothes sizes. If you gain 5 pounds of muscle tone and lose 5 pounds of fat, the scale does not move. The muscle tone gained from strength training prevents a slowing metabolism, something we all will battle as mature adults.
Let’s look at the age factor. While 45 years old is young in my eyes, you are at a period in your life where the natural aging process has you losing muscle and gaining fat. It actually starts in your 30s and continues to the end. Slowing down or putting a halt to this trend would be a fantastic goal to focus on, not only for your health but also for the vanity purposes of looking great. Weight training is the answer here, as mentioned above.
One of the contributing factors of losing muscle/gaining fat is that we become less active as we age. You can be active, but chances are you are not as active as you once were. A great way of helping people see the changes in activity level with aging is to sit by a swimming pool and observe. The small children will be going nuts, full of energy and playing non-stop. The teenagers will have periods of horseplay and activity, with some socializing and downtime. The younger adults might play with their small children or swim a few laps, but be considerably less active in comparison. Then we have the 40s crowd that again might play with kids a little, but spend more time on the side of the pool with a good book. Looking at the 50+ gang, you might see them walk down the stairs to dip in the water and cool off, then its back to the chase lounge. You must fight the urge to sit and remain active!
As for the topic of chocolate, I too have a weakness and enjoy it very much. If I enjoy it regularly, multiple times per week, it is now a part of my lifestyle. While it certainly depends on the quantity of chocolate that you enjoy, having this or any other “junk food” as a part of your lifestyle will certainly not help the mission of a small waistline. I encourage people to have occasional treats and think it is unrealistic to eliminate them. The key word is occasional.
Look at the big picture. When I ask a client at Sensible Fitness how their eating habits have been, they all too often say “I did great yesterday”. I get the same type of response if I ask about taking a body fat test, “not today I ate bad over the weekend.” My point is that it does not matter what you did yesterday or last week. What matters is what you have done over the last month or longer. What you have done over the past months is what gives you the body you have today. Stand in front of a mirror naked and you will see a reflection of your lifestyle, and not a reflection of a single good or bad week. Add up all the good or bad weeks and you have a lifestyle!
Look at your exercise. Many people walk and walking for exercise is not only safe, but also is weight bearing, which is important for maintaining bone density as we age. However, you have been walking since you were a baby and your body is very efficient at it, meaning that you do not burn a lot of calories while walking. Exercise involves exertion, and walking does not involve exertion unless you are doing in for a very long time, you are considerably overweight, or you are elderly. Many people want to look better than average, which means your exercise program has to be better than average, and walking is not the foundation of a better than average exercise program. Exerting yourself multiple times per week, until you are out of breath for 30 minutes (minimum) would be a great addition to your program.
I cannot stress to you enough to look at the big picture, which is your lifestyle. How many times in the last month were you out of breath for 30 minutes or more from the exertion of physical activity? How many times in the last month did you play tennis, go hiking, walk the golf course and carry your clubs, or other similar activities? If you can add these all up on two hands, you are not living an active lifestyle. And if you need more than two hands to count the number of times you “cheated” on the diet (even a little bit) last month, then your dietary lifestyle is very questionable.
Use the day-to-day or week-to-week to set short-term attainable goals, but use the month-to-month or year-to-year to grade your overall success of a healthy lifestyle.