Help I’ve Hit A Plateau!

dont give upAhh, the dreaded P-word. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, gain muscle or increase your fitness level, almost everyone has hit a plateau sometime or another. In fact, I’ve hit several plateaus during the last couple years. The most important thing to remember when trying to overcome a plateau is change. Your body can plateau for several reasons and this often requires a change in either your diet or fitness routine. In this blog, I share my own struggles with plateaus and provide insight on how myself and many patients have overcome challenges, both fitness and diet-related.

Are you eating too few calories? Or over-exercising?

Sometimes we can become over restrictive with our caloric intake. Yes, consuming fewer calories than those that are burned off can help you lose weight, but there is a point when consuming too few calories begins to sabotage your metabolism. Not eating enough nutrients can stress the body and cause it go into starvation/fat-storing mode. When your metabolism is compromised like this, it is very hard to lose weight and actually makes it fertile ground for gaining weight. Over-exercising can also cause this severe caloric deficit. Most research suggests that consuming less than 1200 calories per day can lead to alterations in metabolism and possible nutrient deficiencies.

Be honest with yourself.

With the stress of finishing grad school and planning a wedding, I had gained a few unwanted pounds. I couldn’t figure out where the extra weight was food-diarycoming from since I hadn’t really changed my diet…or so I thought. It took having a real honest look into my eating habits to realize I had been eating out more often and was enjoying chocolate a bit too frequently at the end of the day as a stress-reliever. Restaurant-prepared menu items and desserts/sweets are two common high-calorie culprits in our diets. A good way to identify trouble zones in your eating habits is to keep a food diary for one week. You will then be able to analyze what areas you need improvements in. (ex: eating out every day for lunch, too big of portions of late-night snacks, frequent consumption of free food at work).

Do you need a snack?

Many patients have told me that they do not snack between meals because they are trying to save calories. If you’re going too long between meals (> 6 hours) or having physical hunger pains 2 hours after having a meal, then you need to plan accordingly and prepare a healthy, protein-rich snack. Remember, those hunger pains are your body’s metabolism telling you to refuel. Try to stick with snacks that have some staying power. Greek yogurt, nuts, peanut butter, cottage cheese, hard-boiled eggs are all protein-packed snacks that can satisfy hunger and increase your energy level during that afternoon slump!

Does your workout need a makeover?

I can happily say that in my first year of marriage, I stayed the same weight. What helped me accomplish this was clean eating and regular exercise. During that year, I found that increasing my strength-training frequency and backing a bit off of the cardio helped me stay happy and healthy. I’ll admit, I like to work hard at the gym and lift heavy weights, but after a year of serious strength-training, my body fat % had only marginally changed and I didn’t see the definition I was hoping for. Then I took a huge leap. I joined my local Crossfit gym. In just a few short months, Crossfit has changed me in so many ways. My arms are more defined, my legs are stronger, I can do several unassisted pull-ups in a row and more! The transformation that I am most happy with is the fact that my back is no longer hurting. Crossfit has reminded me of the importance of daily stretching and taking care of my muscles and joints.

My husband and I at Crossfit.

My husband and I at Crossfit.

Am I recommending that you should start doing Crossfit? No, it’s not for everyone, but what I do encourage people to do is find a new way to constantly challenge themselves. This could be signing up for your first 5K or walking into your very first Zumba class. Find activities that you enjoy and recruit a buddy! Having a buddy-system can help you both hold each other accountable with your fitness and health goals. Wherever your fitness journey takes you make sure it is safe, fun and filled with new challenges!

 

National Nutrition Month

March is National Nutrition Month, an educational campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Each year, a theme is chosen to help promote good eating habits and increased physical activity patterns. This year’s theme is “Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day” and puts an emphasis on an individualized approach to dietary habits. We know that dietary habits are influenced by food preferences, cultural practices, environment, lifestyle and health concerns. Choosing the foods that best fit your individualized needs is this year’s focus.

In 2010, the USDA changed their nutrition education graphic from the MyPyramid to the new, colorful MyPlate. The MyPlate emphasizes filling ½ your plate with non-starchy vegetables and fruit, ¼ with lean proteins and ¼ with grains/starch with a dairy/calcium source on the side. This method focuses on increasing nutrient intake through better portion control of our different food groups.

Vegetables: Spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, broccoli, zucchini and the list goes on and on! There are many ways to enjoy vegetables. You can serve them raw in a salad, roasted in the oven or grilled. Remember, the flavors and texture of vegetables change depending on the way you prepare and season them.

Asparagus is a great vegetable to add to your plate.

Asparagus is a great vegetable to add to your plate.

Fruits: Apple slices, oranges, berries, melons and avocados are wonderful additions to any meal. You can add fruit to salads, or grill them for a fun, fruit kabob.

Proteins: There are many ways to add protein to your plates. Traditionally, we think of chicken, turkey, fish, pork and lean beef, but beans, nuts, seeds and tofu are great ways to add protein for meatless meals.

Grains/Starch: Aim for whole grains to fill ¼ of your plate such as: quinoa, barley, brown or wild rice, whole wheat pasta or whole grain bread. Remember, sweet potatoes, corn and peas are categorized as a starch when using the plate method.

This individualized approach to healthy living also applies to physical activity. Personally, the thought of getting on the elliptical or running on the treadmill makes me cringe, and I wouldn’t last a day on “The Biggest Loser” because I hate when people scream at me to workout harder. But, that’s okay! I have found that I love getting cardio by dancing in hip hop and Zumba® classes, and I also thoroughly enjoy strength training. The key to engaging in regular physical activity is to find the workouts that you enjoy doing!

Format: Choosing a mode of exercise that you love will help you stay motivated and stick to your goals. If you like working out in groups, look into group fitness classes (I know a pretty fantastic instructor too :)). If you love high intensity workouts and feeling like a beast, CrossFit may be the answer for you. Swimming, water aerobics or Aqua Zumba® can be less stressful on joints for individuals with joint pain or other health concerns.

Music: Another motivator that drives our workouts is music. One of the most intimate things that you can have at the tips of your eardrums is your own personalized, sweat-provoking playlist. Whether it’s cheesy ’80s (my personal favorite), classic rock or today’s pop-country hits, choose the songs that will get your heart-pumping and body moving!

A fun way to enjoy fruit.

A fun way to enjoy fruit.

Time: One barrier of physical activity for me is always finding the time to do it. Through many trial and error experiments, I have found that going to the gym directly after work is the best time for me. For others, working out before work or during their lunch break fits best in their schedule.

“Eat Right. Your Way, Every Day”

We all have our own unique needs specific to our gender, body types, age and physical activity level. Choosing the foods that supply your body with the nutrients right for you and engaging in physical activities that you enjoy are the two components to leading healthier lifestyles.