The Diet Industry has undergone a huge change in the last couple of years. Companies that specialize in weight loss no longer want to be associated with “dieting.” Remember when Kentucky Fried Chicken changed their name to KFC? They did it to hide from the fact that most of their food is fried…a bad word for health-conscious people.
Weight Watchers is now WW. Their new tagline is “Wellness that Works.” Forget your weight! Let’s just get healthy. Atkins and the rest have followed suit by also changing their branding to reflect a healthy lifestyle over dieting.
While I think this is maybe a step in the right direction, it hides the fact that to lose weight, you need to cut calories. To cut calories, you need to track what you eat. WW assigns a point value to foods and lets you eat based on points instead of calories. Other plans have similar strategies. But no matter how you do it, you have to eat less to lose weight, and you might even have to cut calories further as the diet progress.
Visit ANY weight loss forum. ALL will have numerous threads on how to restart weight loss after a plateau. Almost always the advice is “eat less.”
The Dreaded Plateau
A weight loss plateau is a stall in weight loss. This usually occurs after about 3-6 months of steady weight loss and can be quite frustrating to dieters. There are two schools of thought on what causes this plateau effect.
- Metabolic changes prevent further weight loss at the present calorie level.
- Not accurately tracking calories (“poor diet adherence”).
Both ideas hold weight. In strictly controlled clinical diets there are often plateaus that must be dealt with by reducing calories. In the real-world, dieters often start to get lax in their eating after several months and “slip-up” in tracking calories. This makes breaking a stall much more difficult because now there are two problems. The appetite is a formidable foe and hard to ignore for long. The estimated calorie counts for weight loss are always based on body weight. After several months of losing weight, the calories needed for continued weight loss must be reduced.
Most likely plateaus are caused by a combination of both lowered metabolism and not adhering well to the diet plan. To effectively break a stall, one must carefully assess their calorie needs based on body weight and activity levels AND accurately track calories for the remainder of the diet, reducing calories as weight drops.
Plateaus are a fact of life for dieters. The savvy dieter will see the plateau as a way marker for change. Unfortunately, many dieters are unprepared mentally and the stall leads to the end of dieting and weight re-gain ensues. Weight loss diets need to be continually re-assessed to ensure the downward trajectory of weight loss. Eventually all diets should end in a plateau that signifies the desired weight has been reached.
When to Give up on Dieting
For some people, it’s just not meant to be. There are thousands upon thousands of overweight and obese people who’ve tried everything and cannot lose weight no matter what. Beyond eating “right,” exercising, sleeping well, de-stressing, and treating medical conditions that may cause weight gain there’s not a whole lot left to try. But before giving up completely have a long talk with your doctor and see what needs to be done. If you are obese and gaining, and your health is in rapid decline, then your physical and mental health depend on finding relief. Do not rule out psychiatry, weight loss surgery, or FDA-approved weight loss drugs. There is more than one way to skin a cat.
Had a plateau of your own? How did you break it?