I have been on a weight loss journey for about 10 years now. After some medical issues, hypothyroidism and hormone imbalance, my weight became out of control. It didn’t seem to matter what I did or tried, there was no losing the weight. Once I entered my 50’s it seemed to make situations even worse; Menopause kicked in and all hope seemed to be lost. I had 60 lbs. to lose and a lifetime of experience on how to do it. I just needed to implement a plan into action. I was on a serious plateau and I needed to kick myself off.
Plateaus can happen to anyone no matter how active you are. Kicking yourself off the plateau can be a series of trial and error. If you are not sure what a plateau is or if you have reached one; let me elaborate. It is pretty basic, if you are working out, watching your calories and taking in less than you are expending but still have not seen any changes in a month, chances are you are at a plateau.
If you still have more weight to lose, like I do, it can be frustrating. Through using the tips below, I have now lost 40 lbs. of the 60 lbs., I still have 20 lbs. to go. I always use these techniques to lose, maintain and kick myself off of a plateau. Here are the tips I have used and found to work for me in maintaining long-term weight loss:
Workout Tip #1: When putting away clean clothes, take small stacks to increase your trips back and forth. Short on time and think you need to take fewer trips? Increase your pace, even with more trips you will get done faster and get your heart rate up.
REMEMBER: The more steps you take, the closer you will be to 10,000 steps a day.
Workout Tip #2: Use your arm weights while loading the dishes, dirty laundry, folding clothing or making/changing the beds. You choose your weight based on your physical level. The goal is to make it all the way through the activity with them on. If you can’t make it to the end go down in weight, likewise if you feel nothing pick it up the weight. I have found the Velcro arm weights in 1, 2, and 3 lbs. increments per arm.
Workout Tip #3: Are you sitting at a desk, driving, or otherwise not moving as much as you need to? There are things you can do to help offset your work day. Isometric exercises, the act of holding your muscles tight for 10 to 15 seconds and then releasing, can be done any time anywhere. While sitting at a desk or in a car just pull in your core (stomach and butt). You will know you are doing it right when it feels like your belly button is being pulled into your back. Just squeeze your buttocks together at the same time as your stomach. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds and release. Start out with 3 sets of 10, you will feel the burn. Do the same thing while you’re driving, just keep your eyes and mind on the road, no getting lost in counting to 15…
If you are in a more private area, home or private office, you can also try doing some of your seated work on your feet marching in place. Use your arm weights while reading the computer screen or studying. Do overhead arm presses (arms out at sides, level with breasts, then pull them up over your head touching your palms. Simple curls; arms at sides and curl them up so that hands touch your shoulders. You should do them in sets of 10 and start out with 3 sets of each type. If you work in an office or any time take the stairs when it makes sense. Every extra step is one step closer to your 10,000 steps a day. 10,000 steps are the equivalent to about 5 miles.
Workout Tip #4: Folding clothes with arm weights is in itself extra but I have added a few extra lift moves to increase the results. I have lost 1″ doing this on my arms. All you need to do is to take the item you are folding with your arm weights on (2, 3 or 5 lbs. weights) and lift the item over your head, bring it down in front of you pull your item to the right keeping both your arms straight and then pull it too your left keeping both arms straight. Now fold the item and start again. You will feel the burn and this should tone up the skin under your arm. After you are comfortable with that routine add an overhead curl by raising your arms over your head and make sure your arms touch your ears and try to keep your wrist and elbows as close together as possible. Now bend your arm over your head towards your back. Do this movement 10 times and then start to fold again. Only do this movement 3 sets of 10 or a total of 30 movements. This should really start to tone up your arms.
Don’t forget to do isometric squeezes any place you can, hold for the count of 10 and then release. Car, desk, shopping… The more you pull in your core the better your posture, stronger your stomach muscles are and it will become habit to stand up tall and hold in your stomach.
Eating Tip #1: Never avoid a craving! If some food items seem like it would be more fun to have then a spa vacation with girlfriends then, by all means, don’t deny yourself that! If that double fudge chocolate cake is calling you have some but make it a celebration. Pull out a nice china plate, make your favorite cup of tea or coffee (or whatever you think sounds perfect with it). As you are getting ready to eat it enjoy the process of preparing. Turn on some nice music, favorite show, sit out in the garden (again, make it special do something that you enjoy). Then enjoy your 1/2 a slice of cake slowly, taking in the entire experience; never feel guilty for eating it, enjoying yourself and your craving. Keep in mind everything in moderation, don’t do this every day, try once or twice a month.
Food for thought: If you make your craving a positive experience that takes time and thought to prepare you should not need to overindulge or hide your actions of eating it. Guilt and shame cause stress… Stress increases hormone levels that cause you to retain fat, mainly around the mid-section. If you lessen the guilt around eating, your body will be able to process your food better. Don’t forget all the extra movement and exercise you are doing will take care of one little piece of double fudge chocolate cake. Stressing over it will just make it worse.
Eating tip #2: Your goal with eating is to eat fewer calories than you burn. I know it sounds obvious but it really is that easy, who knew! Another challenge is to make the calories that you eat good ones that are easy to burn. This doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with your food it just means that you don’t want to spend your whole day eating fast food, highly processed and packaged, 15% fat in any one meal and never in every meal, and high sugar content all day. Can you have some of these things? Absolutely, it is more about being aware of what you put into your mouth and why. That is what the 2-week journal is for. Once you are aware of what is going into your mouth/body you can start to balance that with movement and activities. Not to mention begin to moderate the amount you eat.
Food for thought: Every 500 calories less you eat a day vs. burn a day will equal a pound a week. Does that mean you eat 1000 fewer calories a day to get to 2 lbs. a week? Possibly, but most likely you would not stick with it. The best way to achieve a long-term lifestyle change is to make it as easy as you can; take off 500 calories a day (if you need to) and increase your activity level by 500 calories a day. The difference is 1000 calories and you really may not even notice it.
Eating Tip #3: We must all get in our daily water consumption. Warm water with lemon in it helps cleans you and keep you running smoothly, try it in the morning. A big glass of water before any meal helps you control your portions. If you are feeling particularly hungry drink a glass of water and wait 10 to 20 min and see if your hunger subsides (you may have just been thirsty). Even if you are still hungry and need to eat the water will help you from overeating. Everyone knows that we need our 8ish glasses of water a day. Try keeping a 64oz or more juice container full of water in your fridge. It helps to monitor what you are drinking. If you don’t like water try adding lemon, lime or tea.
Medical tip #1: Any new routine with eating and activity should be approved by a doctor, at the bare minimum you should have a physical before you start and mention to the doctor what you are planning on doing. Let them know you are going to start walking 3 days a week for 30 min (or whatever activity you have chosen). Mention that you are going to try to eat in a European fashion, no deprivation but moderation, more whole foods, and fewer chemicals/packaged foods when possible. I’m sure you will get approval but everyone has a different chemical make-up and any change in lifestyle should always be run by your Doctor/PA.
Side note: If you are being seen by a doctor for any chronic issue, thyroid, diabetes, depression, IBS, food allergies… You must have your blood checked and make sure you are at healthy levels of vitamins (especially B’s and D), hormones (Thyroid, T3 and T4, Cortisol (stress, age, and excess alcohol can raise those levels and affect fat storage especially around the midsection) and other metabolic chemistry that might affect the outcome of all your hard work. Even if your liver is not working right it can affect your ability to process food and see full effects of your new lifestyle. (Ask a doctor if you can take Milk Thistle, found in most health food or vitamin stores, for overall liver health and function. You must ask, some people should not take it due to medical reasons, ASK!!)
If you are already being seen regularly it should be easy enough to get these levels checked. Also, if you notice after one to two month of doing any routine faithfully and not cheating and there is no change at all, you may want to consult with your doctor to make sure that all your metabolic and endocrine levels are good. If your body is not functioning properly it will stop progress from ever happening.
Medical Tip #2: Stress is a big component of storing fat; not to mention bad for your body in general. Stress has been linked to contributing to a laundry list of illness and general breakdown of your body. Reducing stress in your life is better for you in too many ways to list. It is not realistic to think you can remove stress from your life (unless you are planning to join a monastery in Tibet) and a little stress is good for you, keeps you on your toes. The stress you want to avoid is the stress that makes you feel out of control, lost and helpless. This is harmful stress and needs to be removed or controlled depending on the situation.
Remember, stress produces Cortisol, a hormone that will cause you to retain fat over time. The right amount of Cortisol is good, too much has you retaining fat through your midsection and hip area. As we age this is harder to fight off. Obvious ways to reduce stress is avoidance. If you are feeling overstressed remove yourself from the situation, take a walk, sit under a tree or relax in a chair. Outside is best but any place you will not be disturbed for about 5 min or more. Take deep cleansing breaths, feel the air in your lungs and mentally move in through your body as you exhale. Let your body relax with each breath you take. If you can listen to music while you do this that is helpful too. When you feel back in control rejoin the situation and breath.
If you find a particular situation continually stressful see if you can try to avoid it as much as possible. If you are in a situation and you feel control slipping away try the breathing right where you are. Slowing your body’s reaction to bad stress and relaxing can go a long way in keeping yourself healthy and fit. Exercise is also another way to help reduce stress, just getting out of the element of stress and losing yourself in an activity is a good resource for stress reduction.
Turning a bad situation into something good will also help with stress. If you have to do a chore or project that is particularly stressful for you, break it into steps. Walk away and do something you enjoy and then come back for more. It may take you longer to finish but if the task is causing you bad stress that will hurt you, nothing is worth the damage. Take the extra time to protect your body and mind.
Final Tip: Remember, nothing is a miracle cure and anything worth doing is going to take time and effort. The goal is to make it as enjoyable as possible. It is my opinion, if you can create an environment that is supportive and pleasant, potentially by implementing some of the steps I have listed above, you will have an easier time achieving your weight and body image goals. Hide your workouts within your daily routine. Eat as close to clean and whole as you can, read labels and take out chemicals/preservatives and you will be surprised how your body will change without feeling overworked and deprived. Let yourself be human, no one is perfect, if you fall back, pick yourself up and keep on going forward. Any loss is a good loss and maintaining is still a success. Don’t psych yourself out, put yourself down or quit before you start! We can all do it; we just have to stick with it and never say, “I can’t”. It’s only, “I won’t”; and that is a choice, not a verdict.
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