No matter what you do in life at some point you’ll experience a plateau, which can then lead to feeling like you’re in a rut, which then results in frustration as you finally start looking for help to get out of that rut and plateau. It’s inevitable, you can’t just experience highs and success for your entire journey nor can you only climb or only fall, there has to be a time of…well..of being in a plateau.
It’s usually met with frustration and disappointment, often people don’t make it past this and give up thinking they can’t do any better. Complete utter bull! Instead of giving up, channel that frustration and disappointment into figuring out how to get off that plateau. What are you doing or not doing that is keeping you in this state of being stuck so to speak? This is why it’s important to journal and/or track. You can now look back on what you’re doing and see how you can improve. Another reason I like Fitbook is I track my workouts along with my food – however tracking food on paper is tricky as I am far less likely to keep track of macro-nutrients via paper.
Ok so on to Macro-nutrients
This is when things get a little scary er tricky er interesting? Macro-nutrients take those calories and break them down into how many carbs you are eating, fats, sugars and protein. It’s a good thing to take inventory of for a while because this is where you can see that all calories are NOT created equal. You can easily stay within 1600 calories and not have the body or energy you want because you are eating too much sugar, not enough protein, too much fat and the wrong carbs. And in the Standard American Diet (SAD) that’s typically the case. Most of us eat a lot of sugar, a little protein, a bunch of saturated fats and all kinds of breads. A better plan is a good amount of protein, vegetable fats like avocados, nuts and olive oils, carbs and sugars are much better in the form of fruits and veges instead of cakes and bread. So here is where you now have the opportunity to evaluate what you are doing and not doing.
I hit my plateau in March – for a month and a half I was stuck not only on the scale but I was stuck as far as my energy levels, my hunger levels etc. I would eat and still be hungry and the weight didn’t seem to be budging much. So I talked to a friend that is a nutritionist and spoke to a trainer – between the two of them I got the advice I needed. (I basically asked for help!!) Eat more veggies – a lot more – add more strength training and taper off the grains through the day. Strength training for me is not a problem, I have always loved it and find it a fun challenge, but adding in more veges and tapering down on grains was definitely more of a challenge. Through some research and advice I also decided to start watching my sugar and fat intake. I was tracking food in MyFitness Pal and saw that most days I was going way over their recommended amount. Remember prior to this I wasn’t too concerned about all this, I was just learning and embracing eating real food, but now I was stuck.
By the way if you were wondering why you can’t get rid of that middle – this is it – too much sugar, processed foods, not enough veges and fiber. I changed all this and fairly quickly started loosing off the middle – FINALLY!
So I started watching my macro-nutrients, which was a little hard at first because when I was really careful about fat I realized I wasn’t getting enough calories. So I upped my protein foods and veges and fruit and that helped a lot. If you increase fruit and veges I warn you – you’ll see that sugar number increase big time, especially fruit like bananas and apples, but I decided not to worry about that despite the recent witch hunt on fruits that I personally feel will fizzle in a year or so, plus it was balanced with quite a bit of protein and other foods. I’ve heard of people consuming almost all fruit in the summer months, once again all or nothing isn’t a helpful mentality!
But basically to get off that plateau I had to know where I was at so that I could figure out how to improve. I did this for about two months and saw fantastic results, I wasn’t hungry all the time, I had more energy and my body was responding the way I wanted it to. Two months was a good amount of time to CHANGE my daily life so that the changes were now a part of me and were habits. After about two and half months I decided to stop entering food in MyfitnessPal and just keep up with it in FitBook – so I haven’t been tracking calories and macro-nutrients for the past month. I tried it for a week and everything seemed fine, no changes in energy or hunger levels, then two weeks and things kept progressing well so I felt confident that the changes I had made were indeed now a part of ME.
That’s the thing with diets, we plunge in, make all these changes over night, then feel like we are suffering and so we quit and think ‘well I can just do it on my own’ – and then we fail. So for me it was bit by bit, inch by inch, practice and more practice.
This pretty much wraps up the last phase and where I am to date in food and all that. Right now it’s working for me. When I hit a plateau again I’ll have to reevaluate my life once more, probably go back to tracking for a bit, just taking stock of who I am and what I’m doing as it’s not always food, sometimes it’s stress, exercise, sleep etc. But this is life, we always have to take stock and change, humans have to change, it’s what keeps us going.
So to push past the plateau I…
1. Reduced my fat and sugar intake to be a little below the recommended amounts that MyFitnessPal established (are they 100% accurate, doubt it but it’s a good start and guide)
2. Tapered down on grains – what that means is I usually have a grain for breakfast – half english muffin (sprouted wheat) or oats, MAYBE some for lunch but if I do it’s half of what I had at breakfast, then no grains at dinner. That last part isn’t always 100%, there are times I’ll have something like a corn tortilla, but if I do I try to limit the amount and have a lot of veges with it.
3. Eat a veg at each meal, even breakfast. Bell peppers and cucumber go great with cottage cheese and eggs, spinach too! It’s not as hard as it sounds.
4. Increase fiber intake, I definitely had to track this one, lots of fruit and veg help tremendously. So does things like adding ground flax seed in smoothies
5. Increase protein – especially since I do some kind of strength training 4-5 days a week. cottage cheese, eggs, fish, chicken and protein shakes are great for this. I limit cheese, that was something I had to slowly get to because I used to worship cheese, but after tracking I saw that it increased my fat intake more than I wanted it to, so it was a trade off. Now I don’t even miss it and when I have it a small amount really is fine.
6. Sugar mostly comes in the form of fruit and veg – there are times and exceptions, but overall this is the case. I grew into this one too as sugar is in everything and I had to do a lot of tapering off when I baked and researching what not to buy because it was unnecessarily in certain foods.
7. Strength training, this has always been a joy to me but I found a new joy in it recently, I’ll share more on this later.