Before my husband got to goal he was in a plateau for months. Eventually, he decided to start tracking what he ate and he got off the plateau really quick and got to goal and then lifetime. Anyway, he later said that he didn’t feel that bad about the plateau because it really could be called practice maintenance. And, he has a point.
So, over the past few months I’ve been doing a lot practicing of maintenance. Since September 27th, I’ve lost 1 pound. Unlike my husband, I tracked what I was eating during this time. I know that sometimes people don’t understand why they are in a plateau. They say they are doing everything right, but don’t lose weight. Sometimes, that is what happens. In some cases, the person has lost enough weight that they aren’t burning as many calories so if they keep eating the same and don’t increase activity they quit losing.
But, in my case, I can look back and see clearly why I was in a plateau (well, still am, I guess) and I know that wasn’t doing everything right.
I was doing some things right. And, that is why, I lost one pound over this time instead of gaining pounds. It was a combination of things.
No exercise – This was something that really started in the summer. After my leg injury I couldn’t exercise for awhile and then when I started back I had to do different things. I had a plan to do the recumbent bike a couple of days a week and go to the Y to do the elliptical on 2 days a week. And, I thought I might get a trainer there to work with me on strength training (I need a new routine due to my knee problem). But, my husband had rotator cuff surgery in July and wasn’t able to exercise and then, when he was released to do some exercise, his time was taken up with physical therapy. And, I didn’t like going to the Y by myself. Early on, I always planned to start exercising but I let stuff derail me. One time, when the weather got cool enough that we could walk aside, my husband wanted us to go for a short walk. I was going to do it but my heart rate monitor wasn’t syncing properly so we didn’t go. And, then I just didn’t get back to it. After a couple of months of not exercising, I no longer really thought about it any more. I have found that, for me, exercise has to be a routine that I do every day or two or I just get out of the habit and can stop it for months.
The lack of exercise meant I burned fewer calories, so my calorie deficit was less.
More food – I did track what I was eating, but I wasn’t as careful. I tended to track calories and didn’t really track points as closely. So, I wasn’t always as aware that I was eating more points than in the past. In October, I averaged 125 calories a day more than in September. In November, I averaged 57 more calories a day more than in September. I started pulling back in December although I was still about 80 calories a day over what I ate in September.
The combination of less exercise and more food meant that my average daily calorie deficit (per Fitbit) was halved in September and still smaller in October. I started doing better in December but the bottom line was that my calorie deficit during the last quarter of the year was half what it was the prior quarter.
Weighing Less – In the first quarter of the year I ate more than in the third quarter, but my calorie deficit was more. This was because I burned more calories. Part of that was that I was more active in the first quarter. But, part if it was that I weighed more at the start of the year so I burned more calories. Even had my activity stayed the same, I would have lost more slowly later in the year due to my having lost 28 pounds.
So the above is the basic explanation. I also changed a lot of habits. I didn’t really see that happening at the time, but I did a lot of things that made it more likely I would exercise less and eat more. Some of the things I started doing differently:
Stayed up later and slept less – Most of this was due to taking in more caffeine as I started drinking lots of Cherry Coke Zero again. This created lots of problems for me. I would not get to sleep until 4 or 5 in the morning and then would wake up exhausted. I didn’t want to exercise or move at all. And, I didn’t have the energy to think about food. It was like I was in a daze during the day.
I quit eating fruits and vegetables – Early in the year I made salads. I ate frozen vegetables. I ate fresh fruit. I didn’t do it enough, but I did it regularly. In the last quarter of the year, I quit even trying to do it. I tended to eat snacks that were higher calorie. They weren’t awful, necessarily, but it regularly added more calories to each day. Not to mention being less healthy to eat.
I got careless at restaurants – Early in the year I hardly ate Mexican food at all. Later in the year, we did it much more often. That is a type of food it is harder for me to eat lower calorie. Early in the year I avoided restaurants that were hard to eat at and I made good choices when I did eat out. Later in the year, I had more higher calorie meals. Early in the year, those meals were occasional. Later in the year, they were typical.
I didn’t plan out my points as carefully – Early in the year, I would have a rough mental plan each week of how I would spend my daily and weekly points during the week. I would usually plan to eat about half my weekly points. Later in the year, I didn’t plan this out in advance and was always ending the week having eaten all my weekly points or having gone over by a few points. Now, I’m a believer in eating weekly points and I can eat all of them when I’m being reasonably active and exercising a few times a week. But, when I’m not being active I don’t lose much if I consistently eat all of them or go over.
I didn’t manage time well – Early in the year I made losing weight and exercising a key priority each day. Later in the fall, I was doing other stuff that was fun that took up a lot of time and focusing on weight loss and exercise was much farther down the list of things that I was doing. Learning how to manage my time better is going to be key this year.
Anyway, I can see why I had the plateau. It wasn’t terrible. I found I was capable of maintaining. I also found out that I’m not happy with how much I can eat to maintain with when I don’t exercise. So, exercise is absolutely critical for my eating plan to be long term sustainable.
So far this week, I’ve been planning out my week, eating way more fruits/vegetables and being more careful at restaurants. This morning I had green tea instead of Cherry Coke Zero (I did have a Coke Zero at a restaurant, but that was my only soft drink all day and evening). I’m hoping that with the lower caffeine I will sleep better and will have more energy for exercise.