Many a hand has scaled the grand old face of the (weight loss) plateau...
November 17, 2011 6:52 PM   Subscribe

Has anyone broke through a weight loss plateau and managed to maintain their progress?

After nearly 15 years struggling with being overweight and yo-yo dieting, I was finally able to implement some very sustainable lifestyle changes (quitting smoking, taking up sport, running, not eating like an asshole, etc) and managed to lose nearly 35kg over a period of 12 months, averaging about .5-1.0 kg/week.

However, like many others here in the green have experienced, I have hit a brick wall in the form of a plateau, and I am trying to decide whether or not to push through, or to simply try to maintain the good habits and weight loss that I worked pretty hard to achieve to this point.

While I started out a year ago at 120kg, I'm around 85kg now. Still not in the 'average' bmi range yet, and standing naked in the mirror, I would definitely describe myself as 'skinny-fat', or simply a deflated version of my former self. (I'm male, early 30's fwiw)

From my own experience, and reading others advice here on similar posts, I'm pretty sure I could easily break through this plateau by shocking my body with a different exercise routine and diet, however my main concern here is sustainability, as I'm very comfortable and secure in my current routine that I worry that such a change might actually have a negative effect in terms of implementing something that I would not be able to maintain for the long term.

So I suppose my question here is, has anyone here broke through a weight loss plateau through the methods advised in previous questions, and if so, were you able to revert to your previous, but still healthy, ways and keep the weight off?

I'm not looking for a critique of my diet or exercise routine - Simply anecdotal evidence of people who have been in the same boat who can look back on their experiences and report back. If you want to share specific methods or hacks that worked for you though, please do share!

Thank you for your time!

(anonymous because the matter is somewhat sensitive to me and would prefer not to have it linked to my main account history)
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I was able to overcome a plateau and reach my goal weight by cutting carbs. I'm already vegan, so the extra carbs really were the only thing holding me back from losing the last 5 lbs I wanted to lose. It wasn't anything drastic-- just ate perhaps 30% of the bread etc. I had been eating before. I've kept it off for 3 months so far, no prob.
posted by devymetal at 7:04 PM on November 17, 2011

I weighed 210lbs, changed my diet and started exercising, and dropped to 180lbs. I stayed that way until I moved, and changed my exercise habits again (increasing the amount of exercise I was doing regularly significantly), and dropped to a stable 163lbs.

Living in a different place gave me more opportunities to do things outside, and I took advantage of that to increase the amount of exercise I got.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 7:24 PM on November 17, 2011

What has worked for me in the past is a complete blitz. First method is doubling the workload for a week (and eating respectively more, to keep fuel for the working out) the idea is to fuck with your metabolism to lose weight. You might ramp up a little, but I'm talking multiple workouts (low-impact) per day. I made sure that 3000 yards in a swimming workout, or a five-mile run, or 20 on a bike was *possible* in any given session, and then proceeded to do each of those. Every goddamn day for two weeks. For reference, I'd swim before work, run at lunch - luckily there's a shower at work, and ride after I got home from work. I ate 4000 cal/day of very high quality stuff, with plenty of protein. This method got me from about 172 lb down to 163 in two weeks.

The other method is to just completely fuck off for a week. Eat pizza and drink beer. Bacon and eggs. Keep your water intake up so it *cough* moves, but basically give up for a week. You will gain back a couple pounds; that's ok.

Now: you already said you'd considered a shock to the system. Hooray! Recognizing that doing the same thing you've been doing isn't going to give you the same results, that's the fist step. Talking to a partner, or your friends, in advance and *telling them all about* what you plan to do FOR ONLY ONE WEEK or whatever, that's the key. Even if they don't say anything, if you're even remotely paranoid, you'll *assume* they're judging you if you don't go back to your routine. This is one of the few times paranoia is a boon.

When you go back to your routine, if you've gone the first route, you're gonna feel like a slacker only working out once a day. Enjoy the free time. If you've been a bum per the second method, you're gonna feel leaden and greasy the first day or two back on the routine. Embrace this like a penance.
posted by notsnot at 7:32 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Well, my latest attempt (since April) has been all about sustainability. I started at 246 pounds, eventually broke through 240, 230 and recently 225. I think with me it's about having no choice but to be in it for the long haul. I sit at my desk at work for 8.5 hours and commute for 2.5 hours every weekday. So how I keep making progress is by experimenting and sticking with things that work (switched from mashed potatoes for lunch to lima beans, more satisfying...have microwave oatmeal late in the day instead of protein bar, less calories and more satisfying...when my wife and I dine out I eat half of what's served me and take the other half home for the next night's dinner). The idea is to keep making small adjustments which add up over time. Lately the MyFitnessPal app on my phone has been telling me I've still got a couple hundred calories left to eat when I go to bed and so that's "banked".

I have also thrown money at it. I quit the gym and bought a good elliptical, dumbbells and dumbbell bench for my basement (after disassembling and giving away my tool bench). I have been working on different exercises on alternate days, and I recently managed to do 4 good push-ups! I know that sounds ridiculous, but I shared it with you to show that I keep telling myself I am in this for the long haul. That's where I get my sustainability from, is the core belief that my body will eventually adjust to less calories and more exercise. I also only weigh myself about once every week or two, based on that same core belief.
posted by forthright at 8:10 PM on November 17, 2011

I overcame my plateau with a yoga class that used weights. I think it was called fitness yoga or something. But it was an hour and a half once a week.

For my diet hacks, I avoided flavored beverages and sometimes ate a raw food diet on alternating days. I limited my fruit intake to half a cup per meal (it's still sugar...) I also find it helps to slow down and concentrate on the flavours (experiment with lots of interesting herbs and spices). I would eat my cheat meal, usually dessert, ridiculously slow. I also had one square of fine 80% chocolate every single day.
posted by it's a long way to south america at 8:38 PM on November 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

it's a long way to south america

All of you are superstars, I wish I could give gold stars like Jessamyn used to have, I'm over here cheering you all on.
posted by dancestoblue at 10:34 PM on November 17, 2011

I'm finding fitocracy has got me out of an exercise malaise. I'm susceptible to MMO/behavioural hooks, so it's a good fit for getting me to actually move my gym work along after 4-5 months of stagnation. There's even a MeFi group.
posted by rodgerd at 1:35 AM on November 18, 2011

I lost about 20 pounds last year in 4 months through watching what I ate (but not quite a diet) and lots of cardio (1 hour a day or so). I felt myself starting to plateau and decided to drop the cardio and switch to weight training three days a week.

Over the next few months, I stayed the same weight, but gained a lot of muscle and strength.

And I had a lot more free time on my hands.

And I started to feel guilty when I didn't eat because my body needed fuel to grow.
posted by benbenson at 6:54 AM on November 18, 2011

At one point I weighed around 205 lbs. Then I started to exercise and I got my weight down to around 175 lbs. I stayed that way for quite a few years until a got an injury which meant that I couldn't do much exercise for a while. My weight went up over 10lbs in a fairly short amount of time. I realised that whilst I'd started out with good intentions, over the years I had slouched a little with food discipline and I was using exercise to keep my weight down. So, I decided that I would count calories, every calorie. Now I'm down to around 158 lbs and have been for a while now.
posted by ob at 11:00 AM on November 18, 2011

You tend to plateau everytime you lose 10% of your body weight... I always just let it be for a while... I don't like to exercise very much and definitly HATE diminishing returns in that department.... Through my plateau I would weigh myself and go back into diet mode (for 1-3 days) if I gained a couple pounds. Then when I felt normal (maybe a month and a bit later) and had maintained that weight for a while- I shot to lose the next 10%... As far as keeping it off, I tend to stick to between 118-122, if I go any higher the weight is pretty easy to lose, and if I go any lower it comes back on really easily... So I tend to agree with people who talk about set-points... I've found it takes several months for your body to realise that its going to stay at that weight and until then its easy to gain back. Hope that helps.
posted by misspony at 11:03 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

First off, give yourself permission to have the weight loss take awhile. You see yourself every day so you're not going to notice the progress.

I dropped 30+ lbs and sit firmly at the lower end of my optimal BMI range. I've been holding steady on this for the past year. Consistent exercise has been important, but I think it's mostly been diet. I alternate between the Paleo Diet and the South Beach Diet. Paleo is more strict, but neither one feels like a huge sacrifice once you get used to the system. Based on your current weight, Paleo should give you a noticeable difference in the first few weeks. Of course, YMMV.

BTW, "not eating like an asshole" would be a great name for a dieting book.
posted by quadog at 4:17 PM on November 18, 2011

Weight watchers is what works for me, because as long as I am being totally honest in my tracking, I can go back and figure out what might have been going on. And even if I don't lose weight the app is so friendly and encouraging that I don't just throw the whole thing down in disgust and eat a cake. I'm on a bit of a plateau right now, due mainly to a high dose of lithium, but it is coming off ounce by ounce. Another thing I like about weight watchers is that yr daily goal is the same no matter how you are losing. I know on previous diets I'd get panincky if I didn't lose and i'd start cutting out more calories or adding weird extremes to my diet and exercise.
Good luck!
posted by Biblio at 10:33 PM on November 18, 2011

I'll second WeightWatchers as it's been what's working for me (I do the standard going-to-meetings thing).

For me, having a way to track everything I eat and all the activity I do is the difference maker; it gives me a tangible focus (rather than a vague 'I will lose so much weight in X amount of time' notion) and keeps me from going stir-crazy most of the time!

I also think everyone hits a wall at some point - I know I have recently. And it's hard to keep pushing through with no initial success, but it will come in the long run.
posted by macdara at 10:35 AM on November 19, 2011

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