When sticking with a plan, I generally see a few things that can cause individuals to hit a plateau:
1) Not keeping track of your body changes for yourself
2) Too much too soon and not setting appropriate and/or timely goals
3) Lack of sleep!
3) Not sticking to one plan (both with diet and workout program)
4) Over thinking things
5) Letting food control you
6) Not eating ENOUGH food or drinking enough water
7) Not having a POSITIVE ATTITUDE! Realizing these things take time.
They always say slow and steady wins the race. If you want to set yourself up for a lifetime of health and happiness, stick with it! Don't give up.
1) Not keeping track of your body changes for yourself
When I first started training with Cathy Savage Fitness, we were asked to 'check in' once a week. (I still do this now when I get close to a show) but when I first began on my journey to compete the check in's were completely new territory for me. I had never before taken a picture of myself and truly look at myself from that way. This was by far one of the biggest motivators for me to actually SEE my progress from the outside in each week. I kept a document with my pictures from each week over the course of 7 months (from September 2010 up until my first show in Spring 2011) I started seeing changes, and I could feel I was changing, but seeing it was unbelievable. Taking pictures or measurements of your body when you have serious physique changes in mind is SO key. I could care less about a number on a scale. I hardly ever weigh myself, nor did we ever have to weigh ourselves for show prep. What mattered to me was seeing those changes in my body. Looking back at the transformation, I have pictures of every single week-not that each week is important-but it did truly help me to see my body. It kept me motivated. When transforming your body, it is important to be in tune with your body. Know it inside and out-what fuels it, what effects it, how it feels, how to push it and knowing when to back off. Constantly seeing yourself from the outside can be a great motivator for you on those days you feel 'off' If you have pictures of your 'before' body that you want to get back to...post them in a place as a visual reminder of how bad you want to get back THERE. I had one client who was looking to get back to her 'pre baby weight' and she sent me a photo of herself in a bikini before her baby. She sent it to me to keep herself accountable. I could see and feel the fire in her voice when she would talk to me about it. VISUALIZE. It is a powerful tool.
I will say that if you are a person who uses the scale just as a basis. By all means, hop on, however I would weigh yourself only once a week and make sure it is at the same time, same outfit and same day each week. Stay consistent and fight the urge to step on everyday! It is JUST A NUMBER. It does not define you or your body.
Me August. 2010 (Before)
Me June 2011 (after)
2) Too much too soon and not setting appropriate and/or timely goals
Whenever setting goals, it is best to set small goals first. Sure, maybe you have a goal eventually to fit into those jeans that are 3 sizes too small, this, however should not be a goal that you have set in your head to achieve in a week or 2. It is just not realistic! You are setting yourself up for disappointment. Many people ask what is an appropriate 'time' to see changes, and the answer is that there is no ONE answer to this question. Every single person responds differently to training, diet and also consistency. There is no use comparing yourself to someone else who may be seeing quicker changes. You have a unique body with unique genetics. If you and your spouse are in a weight loss kick together, do NOT get frustrated because he or she is changing and you are not. Stay patient and stay with it. Just when you are ready to throw in the towel, I have an idea for you-DON'T. It can be the most frustrating thing at times, but keep in mind that progress does not happen in one straight line upwards. It can move like a roller coaster. Your body may take some time to adapt to the changes. Remember, that you don't want to be ALL out about diet. You do need to enjoy those 'cheat' meals 1-2 times a week. I wrote about the importance of this right here!
Small goals such as:
- Packing meals for the week
- Giving up alcohol for 2 weeks
- Making it to the gym 4x a week
- Strength training 3x a week
- Not ordering take out this week
- Making sure you have protein at every meal
- Completing 30 min of HIIT cardio without interruptions this week such as this pyramid HIIT workout
- Incorporating a new exercise into your routine this week
These are all examples of GREAT short term goals. The small goals will make it that much easier to reach those long term goals.
If 4-5 weeks go by and you have not seen ANY changes in your body-this is when you may want to take a closer look at training and/or diet to see what small changes need to take place in order to get on the right path! If you are looking for some of my favorite fat loss tips check it out here!
3) Lack of Sleep
Cortisol levels are lowest (and growth hormone levels are highest) in the deepest phase of sleep. Make sure you are getting between 7-8 hours of sleep each night! Try to get into a nightly routine to make it that much easier to get some shut eye. I love reading before bed, it makes me a bit sleepy and always ensures a perfect nights sleep! The human body needs good quality sleep for muscle recovery as well as increased exercise performance. Lack of sleep can also cause a whole day of spiraled events. You wake up tired, too tired to make a fat burning breakfast so you grab the easiest thing on the way to work; muffin and a latte. You get to work, hit the desk at 10am due to the sugar crash from your breakfast. Didn't have time or energy to pack lunch so again, grab the quickest thing you see. Chances are you are more irritable, fatigued and more likely to skip your planned workout. Sleep comes into play in SO many ways and WILL support your fat loss efforts. The key is consistency! Make it happen every single night! It is THAT important to your goals.
4) Over thinking Things
I have to admit that this one here, I was a victim of when I first started seeing changes in my physique. It is so easy to let thoughts of exercise/diet/training/food take over your entire life when you are on a path to weight or fat loss. This is especially true, if you are someone who was not used to making exercise and 'diet' a priority. It can legitimately take over your thoughts to the point where you start forgetting about 'real life' Family, friends, events, work can take a back seat. This is not a way to live and the most important thing here is to find that balance. Balance where you can still hit your goals, keep your priorities straight but also have your life. Spend time with your friends, family and loved ones and be your happy, go-lucky self. I know that when you are on a path to a healthier lifestyle, the time spent food prepping and exercising can seem like that is where you are spending the majority of your energy, but think about the mental aspect of this as well. You get home from the gym and all you think about is your next workout. You finish lunch and all you think about is your next meal. Take a step back and just 'be' This can take some time-I am not suggesting it is the easiest thing to do; but I am suggesting you try.
When you start turning down invites to parties, skip out on spending time with friends. This is when you need to re-evaluate the way you prioritize. When you are working out-this is the time to give your body all of the attention it needs. You are there in the moment. When you leave the gym all you need to do is think about how great you feel! That's IT. There is no need to let other thoughts take over 24 hours a day. You will subconsciously create unnecessary stress which can negatively effect those fat loss goals!
I am the type of person who can think about many things all at once and cause myself a great deal of stress. "What workout will I do tomorrow" "When will I get my chicken to cook" "When will I have time to download new music for my spinning class" "When will I get in my cardio" "When will I really get my 7-8 hours of sleep" These are all thoughts one can have, and my challenge to you is to STOP thinking about everything all at once and just focus one 'thing' My mom always told me "when you have a lot of doors open, go into one...do what needs to be done, and close it" This is a great analogy to say do not let everything pile up so you have many open ended tasks. Focus on one task. Do it and move on to the next. Life will be way more stressfull without so many doors open at once
5) Letting Food Control You.
Guys...it is just FOOD. I know this is easier said than done, but REALLY. How many times have I heard clients say "Ok so I was bored and the chips were there so I ate them" How do you let food control you?! For the most part we all have weak points when it comes to food. Some have a inclination toward chocolate, others toward peanut butter and some toward salty and crunchy. My suggestion would be to not keep them so open around the house. Of course-in moderation have what you want, but if you KNOW that once you start you can't stop-just make it easier for yourself and don't buy it for a little bit and see how it goes! Like I said, I know this is MUCH easier said and I could sit here and tell you "Oh just have some delicious tea and that craving will go away" but I know you don't want any damn tea and just want the piece of cake. The one thing I will say is to keep your goals at the forefront of your brain. You KNOW what you want, where You want your body to be and what needs to be done to get there. Now, if you still want that cake go for it, but I gaurentee you want to achieve your goals more!
6) Not Eating ENOUGH!
I have talked about this before and you can read all about it here. A very common issue I see especially when working with my female clients is is that they want to change their bodies-gain lean muscle and lose body fat but they are scared to eat! The truth is that it is IMPOSSIBLE for your muscles to grow and change if you aren't taking in enough calories. A restricted diet is great for losing muscle tissue, sure! But what happens is your body will go into starvation mode, holding onto fat and letting go of muscle. The body basically is going into shock mode, and keeps the fat on your body as close to the organs as possible for protection You need to be eating an adequate amount of PROTEIN. The the less protein you eat, the less of a chance you give your muscles to recover after a workout. A sufficient daily protein intake is the single most important dietary requirement for maintaining muscle.
Two most important times to be SURE you are eating adequately are before and after your workout. Before a workout you want to make sure you have some sort of complex carbohydrate (Think sweet potato, whole grain bagel, toast, english muffin, brown rice, quinoa, rolled oats) that take longer to digest but will provide you with long lasting energy. Complex carbs are your primary fuel source pre workout. Of course you must listen to your own body and you will KNOW what fuels your workout just be sure to eat SOMETHING. I pair a protein with a fat with a carb and I am good to go! Oats + Egg whites + some nut butter with a little fruit does well with me; as does sweet potato with some chicken and olive oil (if my workout is later in the day) If I am just doing some early morning cardio, I will have a rice cake with a smear of all natural almond butter. I will NEVER exercise on an empty stomach. I always need something in there and certainly more than just a rice cake with nut butter if I am weight training!
Post workout, you want to be sure to eat within 30-45 minutes when your glycogen levels are depleated. Your body is now in a catabolic state and it is extremely important for muscle growth and recovery to fuel the body so you do not breakdown muscle tissue. Post workout, this is the time where a higher GI carb would fair well as well as protein. Some carb choices could be white potato, 1 english muffin, 1/2 C white rice, 2 T honey on a banana. You want to pair the carb with a protein such as Greek Yogurt, Cottage cheese, chicken or whey protein. I also something throw in some higher GI fruits such as pineapple, banana or mango that have anti-inflammatory benefits as well to aid in muscle recovery. ******** If you are JUST doing a cardio workout, the carb choices are not as important, just be sure to eat something afterwards.
7) POSITIVE ATTIDUDE
BY far the most important bullet point in this entire post is this one right here. Positivity. Nothing can be accomplished if you do not have your head in the right space. Positive energy is contagious and can truly change any situation. The journey to a healthier lifestyle can take time and there will be good days and bad. If you do not have fun along the way, looking at the glass half full and seeing all of the amazing oppourtunities that will arise-it will be a harder road thats for sure! We all CHOOSE to think in certain ways. We wake up everyday with a choice; is today going to be a good day or a bad day? It is an oppourtunity to get one step closer to your goal. If throughout the day you find that negative thoughts are floating around, write down how you are feeling and why you think it is you are feeling this way? Make it a point to try to get it out and away. Surround yourself with positive people and get rid of toxic people; those who bring you down. They are a waste of energy and space. YOU define YOUR ATTITUDE.
Have you ever hit a plateau? How do you adjust to get right back up?