By Matt Luksic, Bellefonte YMCA - Wellness Director
For those of us who are obsessed with the number that appears when we step onto the scale, there may be a bigger underlying problem that is discouraging us from reaching our goals. When someone says their overall goal is “weight loss”, my immediate response is to modify this terminology to “fat loss”. The most common misconception that is experienced with people with this goal in mind is that if the number on the scale is not going down, they must not be progressing. When beginning a training program it is important to stay open minded, track results with more than just the scale, and expect challenges along the way. Many of these challenges can be referred to as, plateaus.
Here are the five most important keys for accepting and pushing past a “fat loss” plateau.
1. Keep Track of Your Daily Calorie Intake
Step 1: Establish and Understand the number of calories that you should be eating on daily basis in order to achieve healthy and consistent weight/fat loss.
Step 2: Implement your new eating plan by shopping for food items that are high in nutritional value, keep fatty and sugary foods out of plain sight (or don’t buy them at all), and don’t be afraid to treat yourself, in moderation of course.
Step 3: Allow your body to adapt to your new eating plan by budgeting about 2-3 weeks of an adjustment period. Do not starve your body. If your body is begging for nutrients, then give it something that is worthwhile and high in nutritional value.
Step 4: Stay on track. Just because you are planning a night out with friends (once the weekend rolls around) doesn’t mean it is time to scrap your nutrition plan.
Final Thoughts: Keep your eyes on the prize. Do not lose sight of why you started this process in the first place. Winners put forth the extra effort that it takes to make a difference.
2. Workout with Intensity that Matches Your Goal
Step 1: Establish and understand what you should be doing in the gym in order to achieve the specific results that you desire. Example: How many calories should you be burning in a workout? What range should your heart rate be in during the duration of your workout? Bottom line: Do your research.
Step 2: Once you’ve determined your exercise intensity and duration, be sure to understand that in order to lose fat, and ultimately lose weight, you need to create a “negative caloric balance”, or simply put, burn more calories than you consume. Make sure that your plan reflects this on a daily basis.
Step 3: Once your plan is in place and you have started to have success in your workouts it is all about the consistency. Do not create excuses for yourself about why you CAN’T make it to the gym. Do some soul searching and find a reason why you CAN.
Final Thoughts: It is extremely important to remember that once you miss a workout it only becomes easier to miss the one after that, and the one after that, etc.
3. Limit Stress Levels
Step 1: Dealing with plateaus can be extremely stressful and it may even make you question if what you are doing is even worth the effort. Understand that even minor changes that you make to your nutrition plan (ex: cutting out alcohol, and/or soda) and your workout regimen (ex: increasing your heart rate 10-15 beat/min) can make all of the difference.
Step 2: Use exercise as a tool for relieving stress that is created from other outlets, such as work, family life, personal insecurities, etc. You will feel much better about yourself after performing a workout despite having a long, stressful day.
Step 3: Take time to appreciate and experience the things that you love. Whether it’s watching a Penn State football game, or going on a shopping trip with friends in downtown Bellefonte, treating yourself to fun and enjoyable experiences is a must when it comes to appreciating your purpose for living a healthy, happy life.
Final Thoughts: Don’t back yourself into a corner. Don’t strip yourself of the simple pleasures that this life has to offer. Enjoy your life, but understand your purpose for a healthier lifestyle.
4. Stay Accountable: Track Results
Step 1: Without tracking results along the way, this journey will prove to be relatively unrewarding. Establishing a plan for consistent and regular results tracking is a must for providing the incentive that is required to have success with a fat loss goal. Get with a wellness professional and request a health assessment that includes girth measurements, weight measurements, and even movement scoring (if you are looking to move better for functional reasons). Once you have established a starting point, it is important to plan for regular assessments that will act as benchmarks to your overall progress.
Step 2: The majority of the time that you will spend during a training program will be spent by yourself, where there will be no one around to hold your hand and assure that you will stay on track. You need to be increasingly independent on this journey. It is key to continue to do research and look for new and innovative ways to keep things interesting within your program. Try new things, don’t be afraid to experiment (safely, of course), and do not let yourself become bored with what you are doing.
Final Thoughts: Don’t be afraid to use specific motivating factors to your advantage. If your motivation is to prove your friends and family wrong about being able to get into the best shape of your life, then use this as the fuel to your fire. Just picture the look on their faces when they see what you have accomplished.
5. Always Remember the “Big Picture”
Step 1: Before even starting this program it is important to set an overall goal. This is a long-term goal that is not attainable within days, weeks, or maybe even within months.
Step 2: Set a short-term goal for each week in order to establish consistent accountability within yourself.
Step 3: Stay true to your program. Expect there to be speed bumps along the way (it happens to everyone). Continue to go with what works for you. Once you reach that first plateau, you will know that it is time to make a positive change.
Final Thoughts: Once you’ve started, don’t look back. It is time to view each day, each week, and each month as an opportunity to prove to yourself that you can be better. Keep in mind that you are not the only one who cares about how long you are on this earth.
Matt Luksic BS, PES, GFS
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