By Madeleine Ortiz
I’ve been eating well, exercising and taking care of my mental health. The pounds are coming off and I’m feeling great! Then it happens. The dreaded weight loss plateau. My hard work hasn’t changed, but my weight loss has come to an abrupt halt. Dr. Yves Robitaille, director of a metabolic medical center in Montreal, Canada, says that it’s inevitable.
Our body is designed to keep us alive – and one of the ways that it does that is by trying to maintain our weight, no matter what our weight might be. When we lose weight, says Dr. Robitaille, our body thinks it’s because food is scarce. It starts to slow down our metabolism in order to prevent us from starving. Even though food is rarely scarce in today’s modern food landscape, our biology hasn’t quite caught up to the environment. This is why, according to Dr. Robitaille, no matter how much willpower we have or how much work we put into losing weight, eventually everyone is going to hit a plateau.
“It gets pretty discouraging,” he says. When you’re passing up on sweets at the office, enduring hunger and never missing a gym session… and STILLnot seeing the scale budge, it’s extremely frustrating. But he urges you to think about weight loss like switching from a completely sedentary lifestyle to becoming a marathon runner. It won’t happen in three weeks and not even three months. Weight loss takes years. First you start walking, then running, then 5ks, 10ks and then over time you’ll run the marathon race. And he emphasizes that during the training you might get injured, it might rain for an entire month, you might start losing motivation or you might feel like you can never push yourself past 8 kilometers – it won’t be a straight line from couch to marathon. It’s normal and understandable – and weight loss is exactly the same.
Getting discouraged is part of the process for achieving any major goal, Dr. Robitaille reiterates. And those times of discouragement are actually the most critical on the road to weight loss success. The normal reflex we have when we hit a plateau is to stop everything and start beating ourselves up. But blaming yourself or your lack of willpower, according to Dr. Robitaille, is actually the easy way out. It allows you to give up and stop the process.
Instead, he recommends using plateaus as an indicator that it’s time to reach out for support- just like a marathon runner would reach out to a coach when they’re stuck or a physical therapist when they feel injured. Don’t ever be embarrassed or worried to tell your doctor you’re struggling, he says. They aren’t going to feel disappointed or sad – they are going to help you take a look at what you can do to get over the hump. Doctors, dietitians and other healthcare professionals understand better than anyone that eventually weight loss stops and plateaus happen. That’s why they have the tools and treatments that can help you find ways to get through this normal period of discouragement.
“There is always hope, there are always solutions.” Dr. Robitaille says. So reach out to your support team and make this the time you finally break through that dreaded plateau.
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